Issue 166

CAUSE WITHOUT REBELS

Things in Bulgaria are rarely what they seem to be, but of course there are exceptions. Look at Boyko Borisov's government and his most loyal GERB-ers. Look at the pictures of the prime minister sleeping across his bed, wads of 500-euro bills in his bedside drawer and a gun positioned by his head.

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CRACKING THE AHMED DOGAN CODE

For the past 30 years there has been one unavoidable factor in Bulgarian politics: Ahmed Dogan and his DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms. To understand why many Bulgarians of various political inclinations protest against Ahmed Dogan one needs to know the background of his party and of the man himself.

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MADARA HORSEMAN

Bulgaria as a country, if not a state, has been around for a while. Established in 681, it was an offshoot of the few viable Barbarian lands and federations that popped up in Europe, wreaked havoc and disintegrated in the tumultuous times between the end of Antiquity and the start of the Middle Ages. In the centuries that followed, Bulgaria experienced both periods of triumph and moments of despair, and it ceased to exist as a political entity for 700 years under Byzantine and Ottoman domination.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST*

Bulgaria's courts have been given the chance to write legal history as former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is suing Yordan Tsonev, the MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, over Tsonev's referral to him as a mutra.

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WHAT IS A MUTRA?

Mutra is one of those short and easy-to-pronounce Bulgarian words that is also relatively easy to translate. Mutra, or mutri in the plural, is also a social, cultural and legal concept that is impossible to define in the brief space of a magazine article.

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RHODOPE: WONDROUS BRIDGES

Dragons are imaginary creatures and geological processes are real, but the Wondrous Bridges in the Rhodope make believing in imaginary creatures easier.

The nature phenomenon is at the end of a potholed road that twists and turns for 16 kms west of Road 86, the main route that connects Smolyan in the Rhodope with the wider world. The area's peaks are dark green with firs and the deep valleys are white with streams, a picturesque cover of karst core, the result of millions of years of volcanic and tectonic activity.

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THE SHAPES WE TWIST INTO

I've been to Bulgaria twice, separated by a gap of three years, though it feels like I've actually been to two different Bulgarias. This difference is on my mind as I think of how my home country, America, has changed in about the same timeframe. I feel like I've lived in two different Americas lately, and think back to Bulgaria looking for words to pinpoint this sensation.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

We do not cling to power like monkeys to a palm.

Valeri Simeonov, Chairman of junior government partner National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria

Now we have days without a single stolen car reported to the police.

Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev

Without contacts in high offices in Bulgaria you are doomed.

Entrepreneur Plamen Bobokov

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BULGARIA'S DONKEYS

When was the last time you saw a donkey when travelling in rural Bulgaria? For many, Bulgarians included, this is a pointless question. The sight of a grey or brown donkey quietly grazing or pulling a cart is taken for granted in this nation's countryside, both as a charming relic of the past and as a sign that many people in EU-member Bulgaria are still too poor and/or too old to afford farm machinery or cars.

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MISSION QUALITY HEALTHCARE

Just like happy families from the famous Tolstoy definition, well managed medical facilities are alike. In them, organisation of each process is optimised to perfection. The medical staff is calm and enjoys management's support and opportunities to grow professionally. The ambiance is pleasant. The healthcare and its results are the best possible, irregardless of whether a state, a municipality or a privately-owned medical facility is concerned.

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CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH WILD ANIMALS

The lockdown of the previous months made it crystal-clear for us how important active connection with nature is for our psychological wellbeing and physical health. While we kept to our homes we suddenly realised that we crave close contact with the wild forest, its clean air and tranquility.

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