Issue 59-60

DOWNRIVER

He has lived in Spain since 1990. He is the owner and manager of the Cultural Society Arthostal in Barcelona. He is the author of five books: Why There Is No God (1981), Devil's Nail (1985), Tales for Children who Don't Want To Eat (1989), Diary of a Butterfly (2008) and The House of the Hanged (2009).

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

AMOROMETER

The letter arrived in a handmade envelope sealed with red wax. Flipping through the bills and junk mail, Aya saw her name penned in perfectly shaped characters, tore open the seal, and read:

Dear Kawaguchi-sama,

I feel I must bypass the convention of commenting on the weather as I begin this letter because a more pressing matter is probably concerning you, that of my identity and purpose. I write in the spirit of greatest hope, and am aiming to reach the Ms Aya Kawaguchi who was a student of Keio University in 1969. If this is not she, please ignore this letter.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

FREE BULGARIA?

"We don’t need a workers' revolution. What we need is a players' uprising," says entrepreneur Steve Keil in his 18-minute TED Bulgaria presentation, which has been watched on YouTube by more than 34,000 people. In a convincing way he explains to a bewildered public how essential play and fun are for things to start working in Bulgaria.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ALBERT KAHN'S BULGARIA

An exhibition of early 20th Century photography, The Archives of the Planet, has been the talk of the town throughout the summer. The exhibition, curated by noted Bulgarian photographer Ivo Hadzhimishev and organised by the French Embassy and the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, was on display at the National Art Gallery in Sofia, and is scheduled to travel to Sozopol, Varna, Dobrich, Veliko Tarnovo, Elena, Plovdiv and Stara Zagora.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ORPHEUS TOMB?

Orpheus's harp was so captivating and his songs were so beautiful that there wasn't a single creature on earth that was not enchanted by his gift. Wild beasts, rocks and stones, and even the gods stood becharmed.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

BULGARIA'S LIGHTHOUSES

In ancient times, making for a light on the west coast of the Black Sea during a storm was not always a good idea. The tribes living on the shore often made a huge pyre to con distressed seamen into what they would think was a friendly harbour. Turning their ship towards it, they would discover that they had been lured onto a dangerous reef, or would run aground. The plan of the so-called land pirates was simple ‒ mislead the sailors, "help" the ship to sink, and then collect the goods that the waves would wash ashore.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

SOFIA'S THEATRE DISTRICT

In the early evening the streets of central Sofia are alive with crowds. People wait for their dates, groups of friends meet and part, and the buzz of conversations from restaurants and bars fills the air. When it is warm enough you can see beerdrinking teenagers in the parks and on the benches of the pedestrian zone of Vitosha Boulevard.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

BUYING PROPERTY IN BULGARIA

I’m reading “The English Neighbour” at the moment, a book about an Englishman who moves to a quiet Bulgarian village. Many people had recommended it to me.

It’s very amusing, and I’m learning slang words that I would never come across in my formal lessons. It's well worth reading, or watching when it comes out on Bulgarian National Television in September.

My heart fell, however, when the Englishman in question got into a property dispute. Sadly this is an all too familiar occurrence. I receive at least one letter on property issues every week, and sometimes several.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

NO PHOTOGRAPHY!!!

For a country that is spending hundreds of thousands of euros trying to create an image of itself as a tourist destination where a rich ancient history combines with modern, high-tech sports facilities, all amply seasoned with plenty of shopska salata, Bulgaria can be surprisingly restrictive when it comes to one of the main pastimes of tourists: taking pictures.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

GETTING A JOB

According to the National Employment Agency, Bulgaria's official unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. Eurostat, however, has produced different data, stating that in June 2011 the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent, compared to 10 percent a year earlier. This is a particularly worrying situation for the summer as, due to seasonal jobs at Black Sea resorts, unemployment usually goes down.

The only country where the number of jobless is rising faster than in Bulgaria is Greece.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

BORDERS STILL WIDE SHUT

There is a map of Europe on the Wikipedia page of the Schengen Agreement. On this map, some of the countries are highlighted in blue, others are in green. When you look at the legend, you see that the blue marks the current Schengen Area and the green its future members, Bulgaria and Romania.

The two countries' Schengen future seems certain, but what remains unclear is when it will become reality.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

GUČA!

"Tra-ta-ta-ta! Tra-ta-tata!" The trumpet solo sweeps over the river valley shrouded in morning mist, bounces off the nearby mountain slopes, and rebounds over the sleeping town. The sound wakes up some of the people in the houses and tents. They start to stir. "What's the time, mate?" "It's seven o'clock; too early." People pull the blankets over their heads, returning to sleep. For some minutes, the early-rising trumpeter proceeds with his morning concert, then tucks away his instrument and goes God knows where.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

CULTURED MINISTER

Despite some failed, and not very persistent, attempts by intellectuals, Bulgaria remains the only former Warsaw Pact country not to have a museum dedicated to its recent past. In fact, it would be safe to say that Bulgaria remains the only former East bloc country where Communism is still debated and any outspoken criticism of it, especially if it involves the Russians, may be looked down upon and discouraged.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

POLICE DEPT, INC

What in most European societies would have blown up into a major scandal, possibly causing the resignation of the whole government, is being played down in Bulgaria, or overshadowed by other scandals, real or imaginary, that Bulgarians are increasingly becoming inured to. At stake is the whole idea that the impartial enforcement of the law and the independence of the judiciary is central to democracy, but those responsible take little action, while ordinary Bulgarians do not seem to care.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

OF MICE AND SUPERMEN

Political jokes, or vitsove, were thought to have disappeared with the demise of orthodox Communism in the 1990s when the repressive regime that made them the only outlet for public frustration slowly changed. But in recent years, especially after the ascend of Boyko Borisov first as mayor of Sofia and then as prime minister, the habit of telling jokes in a hush-hush manner at parties or in the street has gained a new momentum. Here is a selection.

Boyko Borisov caught a cold – and did not let it go until it owned up everything.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment