Bulgarian art

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THE BATHING

Sculptor Pavel Koychev, a household name for anyone interested in Bulgarian art in the past 50 years, marked his 82nd birthday with inviting a select group of individuals to attend the inauguration of an idiosyncratic installation by the village of Osikovitsa just off the Hemus Motorway, at the end of May. The "sculptures" – foldouts depicting famous works of art through the centuries – were planted, using an elaborate mechanism involving ropes and weights, inside a lake behind the wall of a service station.

Mon, 06/28/2021 - 15:38
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Do I dare to change? Bloke's best known piece of art

SEARCHING FOR BLOKE

Splendid saints, bosomy beauties in "traditional" costumes, saccharine angels: in the past decade, large scale wall paintings on concrete apartment blocks, business and public buildings in Sofia have flourished. The unveiling of the largest ones, particularly when Boyko Borisov's Sofia Municipality is involved, attracts media attention and results in an avalanche of posts, photos and shares.

Thu, 12/31/2020 - 12:37
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FROM GHOST TO LOUVRE

Whenever the Louvre is mentioned, most people think of tourists elbowing their way for a selfie with the Mona Lisa, the once controversial glass pyramid and the protagonist of a thriller searching for (spoiler alert) Jesus Christ's bloodline. In 2017, the number of Louvres in the world doubled with the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, an UAE-French partnership with ambitious architecture and an even more ambitious, multimillion-dollar programme for purchasing and loaning items of art.

Thu, 12/31/2020 - 12:01
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WHO WAS GEO MILEV?

Poet who lost an eye in the Great War, changed Bulgarian literature - and was assassinated for his beliefs

For most foreigners, their only contact with Bulgaria's poets are the monuments of the 19th-century revolutionary Hristo Botev that have been erected all over the country, and Sofia's most beloved sculpture, the Slaveykovs, father and son, in the eponymous square.

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 07:39
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GRAFFITI VILLAGE

Until three years ago, the chance traveller passing through the village of Staro Zhelezare, in Central Bulgaria, would hardly find anything of notice here, bar the hard-to-pronounce name and the crumbling remains of one of Bulgaria's two prehistoric rock circles. Located near Hisarya, with its mineral water springs and Roman heritage, and Starosel, with its dilapidated Thracian tombs, Staro Zhelezare looked like an ordinary village in the Thracian Plain. Its sun-bleached streets, lined with low houses and lush gardens, were mostly empty.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 13:34
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THE IRISHMAN WHO DANCED THE HORO

It is an image that stays in the mind. In a brightly-lit, austere tavern, a pair of men in traditional Bulgarian costume dance, surrounded by onlookers. Rachenitsa is a horo popular all over Bulgaria and is usually danced by one or two men, not holding hands, but on their own. Famous for its difficulty and the stamina required, in the olden times it was used as a competition between rival parties.

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 15:32
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FLIGHT OVER BULGARIA

Through the 1970s and 1980s Alexander Ivanov was one of this country's most innovative photographers. He was the mastermind of the association of photographers in his native Kazanlak, and his experiments in colour photography at the time brought him prestigious national and international photography awards.

Since 1988 Alexander Ivanov has been a freelance photographer based in Kazanlak.

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 15:12
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HELL IS NO JOKE

The architecture? The silver-haloed icons of the Virgin Mary? The elaborate carvings of the icon doors? These may all be astonishing, but have you noticed the river of fire, on the outside western wall of most of the churches, flowing towards the gaping mouth of a dragon-like monster? Have you bent to see in detail the devils in the flames? Have you wondered what were the crimes of the sinners they torture?

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 13:32
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PAVEL KOYCHEV'S ART BY THE HIGHWAY

This time, the hidden gem of Bulgaria is modern art.

The signs for the Originals Art Gallery lead you to a larger-than-life, white shepherd with a bright yellow cloak, leading his flock to the still waters of a small creek. The Vodna pasha, or Water Grazing, installation by Bulgarian sculptor Pavel Koychev is a mesmerising reflection on contentment and the connection with nature and appeared here first for a short time in 2009.

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 13:14
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IVANOVO ROCK CHURCHES

No, this encounter of past and present is not taking place in faraway Cappadocia of worldwide renown for its odd rock chapels, but here in Bulgaria. About 20 kms from Ruse, the bends of the Rusenski Lom River embrace about a dozen churches and monastic cells hewn into the rock. In the 12th-14th centuries they composed one monastic complex. Today, they are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:39
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THE BULGARIANS*

Later on, unless you go on to become a member of a nationalist party, you don't feel any particular need to remind yourself of "I am a Bulgarian." Such a statement, despite its straightforwardness, could invoke a measure of uncertainty, like the invisible steps on the front cover of this book. It is not because you could be something else than a Bulgarian, but because the affirmation presupposes a previous agreement between yourself and your compatriots about what it is that makes you Bulgarian and what makes Bulgarians a community.

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 14:33
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VALLEY OF THRACIAN KINGS

By the turn of the 21st century, however, another name popped up and has stuck in the public's mind, evoking images of hidden treasures and untold mysteries – the Valley of the Thracian Kings. The term was coined by Dr Georgi Kitov, the archaeologist who worked in the area in the 1990s and 2000s and made some of the most fascinating discoveries there, obviously as a parallel with the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 14:11
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BACHKOVO MONASTERY

Its mediaeval ossuary preserves the only mural portrait of a Bulgarian king. The last patriarch before Bulgaria fell under the Ottomans, Evtimiy of Tarnovo, is believed to have been exiled and to have died there. The fortress-like complex is one of the finest architectural creations of the Bulgarian national revival period, and some of the frescoes are by Zahariy Zograf, the most prominent Bulgarian artist of the 19th Century.

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 12:32
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BULGARIA'S ODD SCULPTURES

Strange proportions, unusual materials and extravagant designs: quirky sculptures can be found all over the world, and Bulgaria is no exception. In addition to the monumental angular creations of Socialist Realism and the sometimes traditional statues of historical figures, a number of other statues exist in the country, attracting the attention, the ridicule or the fury of passers-by. Many of these somewhat ridiculous monuments, however, were produced with very serious aims in mind. Some of them commemorate a prominent figure, a historical event, or a local curiosity.

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 15:07
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WHAT IS SAMOKOV?

Lined with advertisements for winter sports and down-at-heel sellers of local potatoes, the road to Samokov, about 70 km from Sofia, does not promise much excitement in the town itself, but Samokov is a surprise. The town is much more than the producer of famous potatoes, a gateway to the Borovets ski resort or the starting point for a number of treks in the Rila mountains.

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 14:14
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PONDERING OVER MEANING OF LIFE AT TROYAN MONASTERY

It is not an opinion, but a fact: the Stara Planina around Troyan is one of the most beautiful parts of the mountain range. Covered with thick forest, the slopes tower above you. Cold rivers flow past quiet villages and hamlets, and the hair-raising road to the Beklemeto Pass winds up, and up, and up, until you reach a bald summit at the height of 1,595m, adorned with a menacing monument called the Arch of Freedom.

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 11:18
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DECYPHERING RILA MONASTERY

Black-and-white striped arches, technicolor murals of saints and sinners and high mountain peaks filling the horizon: a visit to Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria's most memorable experiences, and not only because of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This place unites stunning landscapes, spirituality, formidable art and architecture, and some interesting stories. It is hardly a surprise that both Bulgarian King Boris III and Irish journalist James Bourchier wished to be buried here, in 1943 and 1920 respectively.

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 14:22
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BEST VILLAGE CHURCHES IN BULGARIA

Some are centuries old, with mediaeval murals and strong stone walls untouched by time. Others are the result of the revival of the Bulgarian national consciousness in villages that were once lively but are now inhabited mainly by tourists. Many are at village centres while others are remote from any inhabited place, the sole remnant of some long forgotten monastery, or a village submerged by some dam.

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 13:06
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CHURCHES OF ARBANASI

Comfortably spread out on a narrow plateau overlooking the dramatic landscape of Veliko Tarnovo, the traditional village of Arbanasi is something of a conundrum. It is an architectural heritage site, yet it is filled with mansions and hotels in dubious "traditional" style, all built in the past 15 years.

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 14:15
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