Issue 32

WAR AND RUBBISH

On an April night, as some seasonal rain was falling over the city, vehicles bearing "National Crisis Headquarters" signs were washing the streets. On the following night, these same streets were washed again, this time by vehicles that did not belong to those national crisis headquarters.

This happened in a city where, as a rule, the streets are washed only on the eve of important events such as a NATO summit or a visit by Vladimir Putin.

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BUY PROPERTY IN BULGARIA SAFELY

Buying real estate in Bulgaria can be a rewarding experience, and you can end up with a great house if you go about it sensibly. Unlike the UK Bulgaria doesn´t do buyer´s surveys. The Bulgarian way may be more laborious, but it usually works in the end.

Property laws used to change frequently but, since joining the EU, the Bulgarian system is beginning to conform with that of other member states.

You are obliged by Bulgarian law to have a notary deed, signed by everyone involved in the transaction, to legally own or build property.

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BRING BACK THE BEEB TO BULGARIA

Over 2,000 people*, both expats and Bulgarians, have joined the Facebook campaign to restart the BBC World Service broadcasts on FM in the Sofia area. Sofia is among the few European capital cities apart from Moscow where the BBC World Service is not available on FM.

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LOVE IT OR HATE IT

If chalga and art were members of the same family, they would be distant cousins that don't get on well and hardly speak to each other. Significantly, relations became strained not when chalga first appeared but when it became a lucrative industry.

There is not a single pop or rock singer in Bulgaria who can rival the big chalga stars in terms of concert proceeds, CD sales, fees and advertising contracts. The tension surfaced officially in the 1990s, when Communist-era pop icon Vasil Naydenov led a doomed assault on pop folk.

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BUYERS' MARKET

In less than a day, the village of Brest, near Pleven, achieved notoriety throughout Bulgaria. In March, shortly before a local by-election, the owner of a small shoe factory gathered a dozen of his workers and gave each 50 leva. The meeting was attended by a man who apparently should not have been there: the mayoral candidate from GERB, or Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria.

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THE CHALGA WAY OF LIFE

The elderly woman smiles at the blonde girl standing in the small park with her grandmother. "What's your name?" she asks. "Ivana," the child answers. "Oh, like the singer?" the old woman asks without a trace of irony in her voice. "Yes! I want to be like her when I grow up," the girl replies as proudly as any Italian teenager named Luciano would, when talking about the opera singing lessons he is taking. "She is very good. She sings in the children's choir," her proud grandmother boasts.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF BULGARIAN CHALGA MUSIC

For 45 years the Communist state kept the lid very tight on every aspect of social life, including music. When Bulgaria was invaded by the Soviets in 1944, the local Communist apparatchiks were quick to denounce any Western influence Bulgaria had enjoyed, jazz being but one example, and to promote its own folklore, often imbued with nationalist or "New Life" undertones.

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FIRST-AID ROOM FOR WILD PATIENTS

The operating table has been disinfected and polished to a shine before the next patient is laid upon it. Dr Sashka Vitanova and her assistant prepare medicine, syringes, and bandages. The assistant holds down the patient, as his claws and sharp beak might be dangerous.

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DYANA DAFOVA

Bulgaria, singer songwriter Dyana Dafova is well known for her music – an inimitable blend of Bulgarian folklore and tunes from around the world that has a uniquely modern sound. But the true recognition of her talent comes from abroad: in 1998 Dyana Dafova watched the launch of the space shuttle Columbia at Cape Canaveral. On board was her "Ahadyah", a song from her Sounds of the Earth album, recorded in the Netherlands.

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A TALE OF SEVEN CASTLES

When Jonathan Harker entered the forests of Transylvania, where the castle of Count Dracula stands, he noticed that the people there spoke German. "I found my smattering of German very useful here. Indeed, I couldn't have got on without it." At the end of the 19th Century, when Irishman Bram Stoker wrote his famous novel, this would have been no surprise.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

The real problem is hyperbolising topics such as corruption: the most cases of corruption were revealed in Dupnitsa, so the general opinion is that they have the most corruption there.

Minister of Regional Development Asen Gagauzov

What are you photographing, you thickheads?

Footballer and former Bulgarian national team coach Hristo Stoytchkov to reporters

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SAVE POOR BOB, IF YOU PLEASE

Did Eisenhower want his highways empty? A man takes a camera, a shoebox of cassette tapes, and goes. Goes. Tom Waits on the radio, bleeds into Kansas by the time the bumper crosses the state line and stops, bone-dry-out-of-gas, stuck in the middle, in two places at once.

Every rusted-through by-the-hour motel has a story. Dozens of sordid affairs and goings on. Two brothers share a room in Alabama and get run out of town by an extremist with a shotgun and a Bible in the back of the pick-up, rain-soaked from where he left it out in a hurricane in October of '65.

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WE'VE GOT MAIL

I find that there is nothing more infuriating than an American who feels that he can criticise (this, of course, is from a representative of the nation that induced the international credit squeeze!) on a country that he wishes to renew a residential card for (not sure if he refers to the United States or Bulgaria as the location of residence is not mentioned).

Hopefully, by the time renewal is necessary, the Civil Service will have installed computers, then bureaucracy will be rampant and many applications for renewals will be lost somewhere in outer space!

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FAITH AND ROSES

You can almost feel the sap rising in the grass, flowers and foliage in the meadow. Spring is at its height and summer is just around the corner. The crust of the spit-roasted lamb is brown. The fat dripping onto the flames returns to the air as aromatic smoke, which mixes with the hubbub produced by the crowd who have gathered in the open to celebrate 6 May in the same way as their ancestors did – with songs, dancing and roast lamb.

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