Issue 47-48

KOVATCHEVTSI

Timeout is declared in the heated football match that is being played on the village square in Kovachevtsi. The children of the two teams sit on the steps of a monument of a man with unruly hair and a stilted pose, and start deliberating when the ice-cream is to be eaten – now or after the final whistle. Do they know who the man on the monument is? "Georgi Dimitrov," the smallest of the boys answers. His team mates nod their heads in confirmation.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

SOFIA'S TEMPLES PART 4

Religion is part of everyday life in the capital city of Bulgaria – and part of the city landscape. Sometimes it stands apart in the impressive bodies of cathedrals or tall minarets. Other times it blends in with the surroundings in an inconspicuous gray building, with small notices inviting passers-by to come in and listen to an Evangelist sermon or get some White Brotherhood literature. Diversity is just below the surface in a complex mix of cultural and ethnic influences. To get to know Sofia's temples is to dip into the millennia-old history of Bulgarian lands.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

SPLIT IN SPLIT

Nero's Domus Aurea, Louis XIV's Versailles, Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle, the Balchik Palace of the Romanian Queen Marie ‒ the world is full of palaces built on the whims of eccentric rulers. None of them, however, comes close to that of Roman Emperor Diocletian (285–305 AD), in Split, Croatia.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

TOBACCO ROADS

Being overpowered by the heady aroma of tobacco while travelling through the Rhodope is as easy as buying contraband cigarettes in downtown Sofia. Pull over near a field. Step out of your car and face the endless rows of tall stalks undulating in the soft breeze. Can you feel it? They give off an intense odour that crowds out the usual aromas of thyme, yellowing grass and parched soil.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WHAT I HAVE LEARNT... AFTER FIVE YEARS IN BULGARIA

"How about a fresh before we go to the fitness?" sounds like perfectly good English.

I find myself saying "I really love the nature here."

Hiking in the mountains must be the secret of health and longevity ‒ we sometimes feel we're the youngest (and slowest) people on the trail, as octogenarians power past us.

It is possible to eat tomato and cucumber for breakfast.

It is also possible to spend three or four hours over a meal and it is OK not to order the whole meal in one go. Unless you like having chips with your starter.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

PROUD TO BE DIFFERENT?

The attitude of Bulgarians to the gay pride parades of recent years curiously resembles their sentiments towards the Orthodox Church: it is obviously wrong, yet presidents, prime ministers and many ordinary citizens vie to be seen kissing the hand of some octogenarian bishop because it does their "patriotic" image good.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ADAM MICKIEWICZ IN BURGAS

What's in a word? A poet, especially a grand 19th Century man of letters, should know best; but he would be turning in his grave if he knew he had been hailed as a political activist for what, during his whole life, he considered his arch-enemy.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

SUMMER DILEMMA

Bulgarians use the expression "to carry two watermelons under the armpit," which roughly translates us "running after two hares." But when you see the enthusiasm with which Bulgarians consume watermelons in the summer, you might easily think that carrying two watermelons under the armpit is the norm. Tarator still keeps its reputation as the best way of dealing with the summer heat, but watermelons come a very close second.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

FOR CAVERS AND MAD PEOPLE ONLY

When you see Karlukovo, near Lukovit, for the first time, you'd be hard put to believe that you are in the part of Bulgaria richest in karst rocks. The settlement lies among low, monotonous hills and there's nothing – not even a signpost pointing to a tourist sight to indicate that underneath this modest landscape lies a labyrinth of caves. It is the result of thousands of years of action by wind and water, which carved the pliable karst rock and formed caves, magical shapes and whirlpools.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ARCHAEOLOGY NOW

Ten years have passed since the day on which I began my studies in archaeology at Sofia University. In this decade the subject has undergone significant changes. Back then literature in foreign languages in the university library, and also in the National Library, was scarce. The students would ferret out information, burrowing in dusty catalogues in much the same way as their predecessors used to do in the time of the legendary Professor Bogdan Filov (1883– 1945). The small number of computers ran the MS DOS operating system.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

SENSE OF FAILURE

Despite protestations by the current government that the economic crisis ended in April, the business community thinks otherwise: the worst is yet to come. Recent price hikes for heating and natural gas imported from Russia (as much as 25 percent in the case of the latter), coupled with the refusal of those in power to pay debts owed to private businesses (in some cases in the region of millions of leva) presage a harsh autumn and an even harsher winter. Many businesses are going under only because they were naive enough to be working for the state of Bulgaria.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

CHILDHOOD LETTERS, An excerpt

There's a folder at home that I rarely touch.

I'm afraid to. The folder holds part of my childhood letters. Collected by my mother. Although there are letters to my father there, too. When my parents burned up in a plane crash a quarter-century ago, I was twelve. I don't say "only" twelve, because even twelve years turned out to be enough to experience what I experienced.

The letters were written before that age, obviously.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

DANCING COPS

The latest gem is an ode to the Bulgarian... police, endorsed by Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said by pollsters to be outdoing even Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in the popularity polls.

The song was written by Toncho Rusev, the 78-year-old pop composer, with text by 77-year-old Evtim Evtimov. The song is performed by Veselin Marinov, known to many as "Sweating Veso," a Bulgarian crooner whose style can best be described as "soft chalga."

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WE'VE GOT MAIL

I am always elated when I see the new issue of Vagabond at the Onda located across the road from the Russian church. Since my arrival in Sofia two years ago, much of what I have learned about Bulgaria has come from your well written and interesting articles. I thank you for being a part of the English language community here in Bulgaria.

Michael Branch, USA

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment