FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO BULGARIA FLORENCE ROBINE

FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO BULGARIA FLORENCE ROBINE

Wed, 10/27/2021 - 13:06

On Bulgarian music, literature and taking rakiya as an aperitif

Florence Robine
French Ambassador to Bulgaria Florence Robine

Florence Robine, the French ambassador to Bulgaria, has spent about two years in the country as most of the time her schedule and activities have been impeded by the varying and changing Covid-19 restrictions. Still, none of those managed to dampen the inquisitiveness of someone with a background in education. Mme Robine has used all opportunities she has had to explore all aspects of Bulgaria: from classical music to travelling in the mountains, to reading Bulgarian literature in translation to visiting the galleries in Sofia.

Before she became ambassador to Bulgaria, Florence Robine was first a teacher of chemistry and physics, and then held various positions in the French educational system. Bulgaria is her first appointment as an ambassador, and she has found this country quite surprising.

I must admit I had no idea about Bulgaria before I came here. Everything was surprising. Thankfully, it was a good surprise. Of course there are remnants from the old times, but Sofia is an attractive city and Bulgarian nature outside the capital is amazing... the Black Sea, the mountains.

Also, I have discovered the rich history of Bulgaria. There is the amazing cultural heritage of these buildings, churches and monasteries that wait to be discovered. I must also mention the ancient Thracian heritage. It was a wonderful surprise for me.

Surely there must have been negative surprises as well.

In fact, yes: the sidewalks in Sofia. At the beginning I was afraid to step on them. Now I think I have learned how to navigate.

Tell me about your travels in Bulgaria.

I use every opportunity I get to explore. I have been to the main cities – Plovdiv, Burgas, Varna, Stara Zagora. I have visited smaller towns like Haskovo and Harmanli. I have been to Melnik. I visit both in my capacity as ambassador and as a questioning tourist. Obviously, I rarely miss the chance to visit a school or university.

Historically, the Bulgarian educational system was modelled on the French. Do you have any observations of how education in this country is developing at the moment?

I am impressed by the quality of educators, but I realise there are some difficulties in recruiting new teachers. This is not only in Bulgaria, in Western Europe there are similar issues as well. Youth is the future and everyone has to build the new society on young people. This means everyone should be involved with improving the educational system. An important step is to boost the training opportunities for teachers. Now with Covid-19 the first and most important goal is how to maintain the standard of education and enable young people to go to school. Everyone must be committed to this objective.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?

I am great fan of opera. For me it was a great pleasure to discover the Sofia Opera, which is excellent. I go there every chance I get.

Walking in nature is another favourite pastime.

I also read a lot. It was interesting to read some Bulgarian literature. Before I came here I had no idea about this country's literary wealth, which of course I partake of in translation. I would like to mention Georgi Gospodinov, whose writing I like. Not quite well-known in France, unfortunately.

In Sofia, we have organised a book club for female ambassadors. We read and discuss what we can get in translation. It is so important for understanding Bulgarian mentality and culture.

Can you name three locations in Sofia and in Bulgaria that you like particularly?

I love the parks: the Doctors' Garden and the Borisova Garden. Once a week I like to walk on Vitosha Boulevard. I would like to mention the Synthesis gallery of photography. I hold it very dear to my heart. It is an amazing place offering artists to get together and for the public to see wonderful exhibitions.

Some places outside Sofia are very well known to Bulgarians but not so much to foreigners. One of them is Balchik on the Black Sea coast. It is a fascinating town. The Rhodope Mountains will never cease to amaze. I recently spent some time there: Perperikon, the Dospat Reservoir. I have a particular liking for the village of Gela. Unfortunately, I could not experience the bagpipes, but that's on my bucket list. Arbanasi near Veliko Tarnovo stuns with is churches.

I do not think the future of tourism in Bulgaria is mass tourism. Because of Covid-19 and so on, the future should be more incentive-oriented, more ecological. It should be targeted to nature and heritage. Bulgaria has so much to offer.

Suppose you have friends from France visiting you in Sofia. What three things would you advise them to do?

First of all they should visit all the churches – first and foremost, the Boyana Church. It is very impressive and speaks a lot about the history of Bulgaria.

Second, I love street art, and in Sofia you can see a lot of amazing graffiti.

I like the markets in Sofia. Of course the Women's' Market, but also the other ones like the Central Food Stalls, Tsentralni Hali. In front of the Ministry of Agriculture there is sometimes a farmers market where you can find great stuff directly from the producers.

And what would you warn them against doing?

Don't be surprised when you are offered rakiya as a starter for lunch. And please don't refuse it. Always say yes. French people love a good drink, but is is so surprising to have rakiya as an aperitif. Everyone who's visited has been amazed.

Also, when you talk with Bulgarians, please – never say the Bulgarian language uses the Russian alphabet. This is a no-no. Bulgarians are very proud that the original Cyrillic alphabet was developed here. 

Issue 181

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

Petar Torneff, Director of Accenture Technology Center in Bulgaria
PETAR TORNEFF: EXPLORING THE METAVERSE
How will technology develop and how will it affect the way we live and do business? This is a tough question that has engaged the brightest minds of our time.

Vladimir Dokov EGT
VLADIMIR DOKOV: CHANGING THE GAME
Euro Games Technology (EGT) is an example of the concept that everything is possible when the right goals are set, and innovation goes together with strategic management and a winner’s mindset.

higia hospitals tsvetelina spiridonova
TSVETELINA SPIRIDONOVA, MD, PHD: IN THE NAME OF THE PATIENT
When Tsvetelina Spiridonova, MD, PhD, took over Higia Hospital in early 2019, she had big shoes to fill.

Silvia-Veselinova-Idea-Building
SILVIA VESELINOVA: ENERGY TO MOVE AHEAD
Silvia Veselinova welcomes us to the new offices of Idea Buildings where she is surrounded by smiling colleagues and a multitude of tulips.

Giuseppina Zarra
ITALIAN AMBASSADOR GIUSEPPINA ZARRA
Giuseppina Zarra is no novice to the Balkans. She is one of the rare breed of diplomats who have made a comeback to Sofia after her initial spell here in the 1990s.

dr nely djurkova art dent clinic
DR NELI DJURKOVA: THE SECRET OF A BEAUTIFUL SMILE
When beautiful and healthy smile is concerned, Dr Neli Djurkova is one of the best specialists around to ask for advice and help.

KPMG-ITS-1.jpg
SVETOSLAV SPASOV: SUCCESSFUL TEAMS STAND BEHIND SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES
Bulgarian IT industry is the most rapidly developing sector of the local economy. What are the challenges that it faces? What is the climate in which it operates? What changes did it experience in the past 10 years?

Iliyana Tarnina DTC Commerzbank Sofia
ILIYANA TARNINA: BULGARIAN TEAMS DEVELOP THE BANKING OF TOMORROW
Increased digitalisation, customised approach, improved data security: banking, which has been a part of civilisation for centuries, is transforming before our own eyes. And a team in Bulgaria has a significant role to play in this change.

Miglena Temelkova
PROF MIGLENA TEMELKOVA, PHD: FUTURE IS INTERDISCIPLINARY
When we arrived at the University of Telecommunications and Posts (UTP) in Sofia, we were aware that we were up for an interesting meeting. For two years now Bulgaria's oldest professional university has been managed by a young and energetic professional.

ssarm_2.jpg
SSARM: LATEST GENERATION SYSTEM INTEGRATION
The role that high technologies, AI and their capabilities to make living, travel and business easier, more effective and safer, in our lives is expanding.

Reneta Tsonkova
RENETA TSONKOVA AND THE HEART OF DIAMONDS
You need an appointment to enter the elegantly splendid Renée De Clair, a boutique for diamond jewellery and a gemological laboratory on Sofia's Rakovski Boulevard – and this is just the first sign that you are up for an experience without parallel in Bulga

Milena Videnova, CEO of AXPO Bulgaria
AXPO BULGARIA: THE ENERGY TO LEAD AND SUCCEED
Energy: the more our civilisation evolves, the more it needs it to sustain itself. With human-induced climate change already happening, clever renewable power is the only solution to save our planet and ourselves.