Issue 24

THE PIANIST

She is a traveller at heart who crosses borders with her mind open to a variety of styles. Belina Kostadinova was born in Burgas and gave her first concert at the age of seven. She won the Svetoslav Obretenov Award in 1981 and the Dimitar Nenov Award for Young Virtuosos the following year. In 1983 she received an international award in Salerno, Italy. Belina graduated from the Music Academy in Sofia, where her teacher was Masha Krasteva. Later she studied under Rudolf Buchbinder in Switzerland and graduated from the Basel Music Academy in 1993.

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MY OWN CHOICE: CHRIS NOLAN

I believe professional chefs like myself have a different eye to your average punter when we go to a place to eat. We watch the hygiene levels, the presentation, the value for money and, crucially, the service, to judge if this is a safe place to go to. Having trained in one of the top training colleges in England, and having worked in top hotels and restaurants in Dublin, one thing I can say about restaurants in Bulgaria is that standards can slip, as service levels and particularly presentation are often poor.

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ATOM HEART BULGARIA

When Chernobyl melted down in 1986 I was a thousand kilometres away, in Bulgaria. I was spending some of my happiest childhood moments at my grandparents' house. In step with the Communist and pro-USSR policy of the time, my mum, dad and sister were away on a trip to Kiev, now called Kyiv. Like all "ordinary" Bulgarians, we had no idea what was going on.

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KREMLIN BEAR

While the world was remembering both the erection of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia - and as Vagabond was going to press - the West's "idyllic relationship" with Russia came to an abrupt end: Russia attacked Georgia. Most of the West was outraged - Bulgaria offered to "broker" an agreement. Russia with its gas and oil in 2008 is not the Russia with the hyperinflation of the 1990s.

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