Issue 91

BEWARE OF FALLING SUBJECTS

In London, they urge you to look to the right before crossing the street and to mind the gap (between the train and the platform). In Germany they love bans, especially strict ones.

In Communist Bulgaria public signs amalgamated the idea of urging people to do things deemed safe for them and to ban them from other things that are dangerous or unhealthy. To put it in another way, they taught people how to live and behave.

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THE APPLES

She felt fresh. She even felt confident. She'd had a small energy bar. It was more like a small wafer actually, covered with a thick layer of chocolate. The chocolate was hard and when she took a bite it broke into pieces, scattering on the ground. Better off. Fewer calories, still enough energy. She had a cigarette, too. Smoking after having chocolate sucks. The taste is vile. She had a piece of gum to fix the taste, forgot about it and presented herself to the commission as she was, gum in mouth.

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GALLIPOLI: MEMORIES OF A BATTLE

When wondering where to spent their summer vacation, few people consider Gallipoli. The peninsula that mirrors the European side of the Dardanelles Straits is rugged and lacks the resorts and ancient ruins, the green slopes and turquoise waters which the eastern Mediterranean is famous for.

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WHAT IS BOZA?

Foreigners in Bulgaria love Shopska salad and banitsa, and many are filled with strong emotions at the smell of tripe soup with lots of garlic and chilli peppers. But if there is an item of the local cuisine which arouses unanimous suspicious among Westerners, it is boza.

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HORROR ISLAND

If there was a competition for the most surreal road sign in Bulgaria, Belene would be a top contender. The standard signposts in the centre of this 8,300-strong town on the Danube list the following places of interest. First is "Municipality," the building of the City Council. Then comes the Bus Station. And then – hold your breath – you can choose to go to either the Nuclear Power Plant or the Prison.

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ST GEORGE'S DAY IN POMORIE

Small, insignificant, yet packed with tourists in summer but empty in winter, Pomorie changes completely on 6 May. Then, the townsfolk flock to St George's Monastery, on the outskirts of town, to celebrate the feast of its patron saint.

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DEMOSTHENIS STOIDIS

Not entirely without justification, I should add, having in mind the somewhat eccentric methods of creative accounting that in consequence brought the Greek economy to its knees. But from a Bulgarian standpoint, Greece looks quite different from it does from London, Brussels and Berlin.

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WHY DO BULGARIANS LOVE RUSSIA?

I recently zapped through the channels on my old analogue TV set and came across a programme that caught my eye. It was a documentary about the Allied bombings of Sofia. Footage of what central Sofia looks like at the moment were interspersed with archival material showing bombed-out top floors of interwar condos, destruction of tram lines on Dondukov Boulevard and the general chaos associated with a war air raid. Not sweet at all. Then elderly ladies and gentlemen were interviewed on or off camera.

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PROHIBITION RETURNS TO BG

Election rules and regulations change each time citizens are supposed to go the ballots, invariably to suit the preferences of whoever happens to be in power. "Buying" of votes – meaning giving cash to people to cast their vote for a particular political party – proliferates. Election fraud is rife. No one is brought to justice over alleged wrongdoing. To put it in another way, things go wrong oftener than they go right – which partly explains why Bulgarians typically vote with their feet: less than half of those eligible to vote actually do vote in national elections.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

Bulgaria again has to become a People's Republic.

Journalist-turned-politician Nikolay Barekov

My years of observation of Bulgarian 'scenarios,' 'plans' and 'brilliant schemes' show that what stands behind all of this is sheer stupidity and laziness.

Sociologist Kolyo Kolev

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THE GOSPELS, ACCORDING TO BOYKO

It has been difficult to translate Borisov's statements as a proper translation requires both making sense of what the former prime minister has to say and putting it into proper language, so this time we are rendering what Borisov's ruminationsverbatim.

"Because I am a believer, todays is the Sunday of St Thomas, a very important day, do you know what the Sunday of St Thomas means? You say you know, but you don't. Incredulous Thomas doubted that Christ would rise, he said he couldn't rise, but today he conceded that Christ had indeed risen.

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TOP 10 TECHNIQUES TO INFURIATE YOUR BULGARIAN FRIENDS

Try making tea to a Briton without boiling the water properly, then leave the tea bag in the cup for way too long. Watch him or her in the eye and say "with all due respect, this is the right way to make tea."

The French are also pretty easy to annoy, especially if you tell them the guillotine, that ultimate symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity, had already existed in Yorkshire. Danes are difficult because they are generally rational to the point of nonchalance, but do ask someone you dislike what is his salary after tax.

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BULGARIAN 'HOSPITALITY'

Rozovo, which translates as either "Village of Roses" or "Pink Village," is just a few kilometres southeast of Kazanlak. The Syrians, who had been granted refugee status in Bulgaria, had paid a property agent to find rented accommodation for them. They had spent some time in the refugee camp in Harmanli.

The villagers were "stressed," according to media reports, the moment the Syrians arrived in their village. They started rallying on the following day, and they organised a petition to get the refugees expelled. Over 500 of the village's 1,000 inhabitants signed to it.

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