Issue 5

THE JUNKYARD OF HISTORY

If you enter Bulgaria from Turkey through the border checkpoint at Lesovo the first thing you'll be greeted by after passport control will be some tanks lurking on both sides of the new, EU-sponsored road.

Don't panic. They've never fired on anyone, thankfully, except for drills. You can even stop to inspect them if you like. No one will halt you, which will lead you to surmise that the decrepit pieces of machinery have been abandoned, save for the clusters of snakes that have made them their homes.

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BEST SKI RUNS

Winter sports facilities in Bulgaria are enjoying a lot of investment interest. About half a billion euros has been put into hotels and holiday villages in Bansko alone. The Super Borovets project is expected to attract between 150 and 200 million euros by 2009 and there is increasing interest from investors. This is all to the benefit of ski enthusiasts, because Bulgaria now boasts magnificent runs and facilities at prices that are still much more competitive than in the Alpine resorts.

Mount Vitosha

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ST VALENTINE VERSUS ST TRIFON ZAREZAN

You may not particularly like Bulgarian streets because of their narrow pavements, missing flagstones and parked cars, but you will probably not notice these shortcomings on 14 February. Shops and pubs are decorated with hearts and pink balloons, women are more beautiful than usual and young people are kissing on every corner.

And then you encounter a group of Bulgarians who are obviously slightly tipsy. The mixed company loudly praises Trifon Zarezan. Several yards further you come across a baffling scene.

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BULGARIAN CARNIVAL

"Is there no carnival in Bulgaria?" you may ask yourself on 17 February while watching TV reports about the start of the carnival season in Venice, Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. The answer to your question will come on the following day, the first Sunday before Lent. In Bulgaria it is called Sirni Zagovezni and is the last day Christians are allowed to eat meat before the 40-day period of fasting. On this day, in a gesture long-forgotten in our everyday lives, people ask forgiveness from their relatives and friends for any wrong they may have done by kissing their hand.

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