Issue 67

SUNSET HUNTERS

The hotel guests the English writer Dame Rebecca West described in her 1941 classic Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, were of two kinds: they had seemed as though they had been on a honeymoon, or had been making up for the one they had never had.

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GEORGI LOZANOV

Arguably Bulgaria's most prominent intellectual, Georgi Lozanov – a philosopher, professor of mass communications in several universities and the current chief of the Electronic Media Council – has always been an outspoken critic of the system, any system. Some compare him to Noam Chomsky – but with a strong dash of the Wildean penchant for bons mots – no matter whether he is talking about the legacy of Communism, organised crime, the games played in the Bulgarian media or the best restaurants in Sofia. But Georgi Lozanov is a lot more than the Chomsky-Wilde cliché.

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DIVERSE BULGARIA

Exploring the monotonous streets of Bulgarian towns where the overwhelming majority of people are obviously Bulgarian, it may be hard to believe that multiculturalism existed in the Bulgarian lands a long time before the very term was coined in the West. Situated on what used to be a busy crossroads between Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean, Bulgaria attracted settlers, traders and invaders for centuries if not millennia.

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ALEKSANDROVO TOMB

The archaeologists who were finishing off the excavation of two small Thracian burial mounds on the spot where the future Trakiya Motorway would bypass the village of Aleksandrovo, near Haskovo, felt that day was different from the very beginning. 17 December 2000 was the last day of the excavations and brought the first bright sun after a long and depressing series of mists so thick that visibility was often less than 10 metres.

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ABRACADABRA

David and his father lived alone in a small wooden house in the middle of the woods, which David had decided must be at the very edge of the world. Their home was tucked so far into the mountains that as of yet, after seventeen whole years of life and hundreds of dogged expeditions, the boy had not managed to reach any other inhabited place, nor had he seen another person besides his father.

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BOZHENTSI

The recent craze to escape the crowds has led thousands of tourists and holiday home hunters to the traditional mountain settlements in Bulgaria. Be it the Rhodope, the Stara Planina or the Strandzha, everywhere you can find once deserted houses which have been more or less well renovated and turned into lodgings or private villas. The craze has saved almost dead villages, like Leshten and Kosovo in the Rhodope, but has also killed the erstwhile pastoral atmosphere of places like Arbanasi near Veliko Tarnovo or Delchevo near Gotse Delchev.

In this crowd, Bozhentsi stands out.

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NIKOPOLIS AD ISTRUM

In 106 AD, Emperor Trajan (98-117) was returning from his victorious campaign against the Dacians in what is today Romania. These bellicose tribes had finally been conquered and tamed. Their capital Sarmizegetusa was put under sword and fire, and the defeated King Decebalus (87-106) had killed himself to avoid capture. Trajan had finished what his predecessors ‒ and he himself, in an earlier campaign in 101-102 ‒ had failed to achieve.

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OUT IN THE VILLAGES

Britons buying in rural Bulgaria came here to acquire property and land at rock bottom prices. Considering the language and cultural differences, the time constraints and the plentiful enterprises established primarily to separate them from their money, the vast majority seem to have ended up with more or less exactly what they had hoped for. Whether they were aware of it at the time of purchase or not, they were also committing financially, emotionally and physically to their new, declining rural communities.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

We don't cut only ribbons, we cut cables as well.

Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for Regional Development, on removing illegal cabling in Burgas

The Bulgarian soldiers speak foreign languages, the Bulgarian soldiers fly drones, the Bulgarian soldiers get involved in intelligence, the Bulgarian soldiers are strong in the field because they know the Afghans better than the Americans do. This is a precious bit of information.

President Rosen Plevneliev during a visit to Kabul

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NO MORE DIRTY LINEN, FOREIGNERS

Bulgarian daily 24 Hours reported that the ban was announced on 19 April on the occasion of a news conference with the visiting Moldovan prime minister. Hacks were told they were not allowed to ask questions as the "conference" was meant for "statements" only. 24 Hours went on to say that Prime MInister Boyko Borisov had threatened to impose the measure as early as the end of 2011 when some Bulgarian reporters dared ask questions during the visit of US Secret Service chief Mark Sullivan.

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BULGARIA'S MEDIACRACY

Ever wondered who Bulgaria's biggest advertiser in the media is? No, it's not companies with traditionally hefty publicity budgets such as British Airways, Rolex watches, Volkswagen cars or LUKoil. It is... the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture.

Data published by Kapital weekly reveals that in 2009 and 2010 the ministry spent on advertising respectively 930,000 and 750,000 leva excluding VAT. In 2011 the figure rose to 1.8 million leva. In 2012 the Agriculture Ministry plans to spend 4 million leva of EU funds on advertising in the local media.

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