BULGARIA SOCIETY https://vagabond.bg/index.php/ en ANGRY SOFIANITES https://vagabond.bg/index.php/angry-sofianites-343 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">ANGRY SOFIANITES</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:31</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>39 things that drive people of Sofia crazy</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/angry-sofianites.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/angry-sofianites.jpg" width="1000" height="709" alt="angry-sofianites.jpg" title="Not even the central Aleksandr Nevskiy square is spared the ubiquitous potholes" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>From job opportunities to entertainment options: living in Sofia, Bulgaria's largest city, has its perks. It also has its downsides. This is why Sofianites are an angry lot, eagerly expressing their frustration at queues, while driving and especially on social media. What specifically drives these people crazy? Like in every big city traffic, infrastructure, pollution and overpopulation play their roles. But like unhappy families, each angry city is angry in its own way. Here is a long, but by no means exhaustive list of the things that force locals off their rockers.</p> <h4>Slowly moving people on sidewalks</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>Trying to overtake someone slugging their way on Sofia's proverbially narrow sidewalks is a pain in the neck, especially when you are in a hurry. The elderly and the youngsters holding hands are the usual culprits. Move, people! Staying active is health!</p> <h4>Inconsiderate pedestrians in general</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>They push themselves to be in the first line at the crosswalk. When the red for pedestrians finally turns green, they are too busy looking at their phones to notice, obstructing less pushy pedestrians to cross. Arrrgghhh!</p> <h4>Cafés and restaurants taking precious sidewalk space</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>We know, we know. They pay the city council and all is legal. But we, pedestrians of all sizes and ages, have not yet learned to fly. Please, leave us some space!</p> <h4>Sidewalks in general</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Sofia's sidewalks are not just bad. They are hideous. A monstrosity that frustrates people, turns them into zombies with eyes fixed in front of their feet, prevents the disabled from ever leaving their homes and forces young mothers with baby prams to develop a Navy seal set of physical and psychological skills for strength, orientation and stamina. Sofia's sidewalks are uneven, broken and splash you with mud and water in wet weather. They have sent countless people to Pirogov, Sofia's emergency hospital.</p> <p>Moskovska Street, where the Sofia City Council is situated, is one of the few places where sidewalks are fine. Which has lead us to suspect that members of the Sofia City Council get out of their cars only to go to work and to do shopping in the malls. Shame on you!</p> <h4>Dog owners who do not clean after their pets</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>No need to explain. The city is studded with evidence of their presence. Bastards.</p> <p><strong>Potholes</strong></p> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Streets in Sofia are only marginally better than sidewalks. Potholes can be seen everywhere, from the centre of the capital to outskirts, creating daily nuisance to thousands of drivers.</p> <h4>Uncleaned snow and ice</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Sofia has (or used to have) snowy winters. In spite of this fact of life, the city council, the institutions, and ordinary citizens are always caught by surprise when it snows. The city council is notoriously slow to get the streets cleaned up. Institutions put out warnings "Beware of icicles!" and forget about them. Citizens grumble, but do not clean the sidewalks in front of their own homes. Oh, the community spirit! Heartwarming, isn't it?</p> <p><strong>Cars parked in gardens</strong></p> <h4>Anger rating: ****/*****</h4> <p>Sofia suffers from a severe lack of car parks and the city council does not care. But people who park in gardens, turning green areas into a moonscape of caked mud are hogs. Full stop.</p> <h4>Parking habits in general</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Cars parked on sidewalks, street corners and crosswalks are a daily occurrence. The worst offenders are delivery vans who stop wherever they want, with the emergency lights on, for "just a second." Mostly, they are oblivious to the frustration of other motorists and the danger they create to pedestrians. Traffic police, for their part, are oblivious for delivery vans' behaviour. Sofia indeed is a city living in perfect harmony!</p> <p><img alt="Sofia car towers, lovingly referred to by Sofianites as &quot;spiders,&quot; are perhaps the fastest running &quot;service&quot; in the municipality " data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/issue164/angry-sofa/sofia.jpg" /></p> <h4>Honking while in a traffic jam</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Being stuck in congestion is hardly a relaxing experience. Having a honker in the crowd makes it only worse.</p> <h4>Honking while the "jam" includes only two cars</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>The second a car stops in a narrow street, to let a child go to school or an elderly person to climb down, at least one of the cars behind will honk. It hardly helps anyone to move faster but it increases the stress level of everyone involved and of collateral victims such as the inhabitants of nearby houses.</p> <h4>Cyclists on sidewalks, pedestrian areas, in the oncoming traffic</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Sofia has no sufficient bicycle infrastructure. Consequently, scores of cyclists have an easy excuse to bike on spaces that are not for them, like sidewalks and pedestrian areas, or to break the road code, by driving into the oncoming traffic, risking their own and others' lives in the process.</p> <h4>Home repairs</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Thousands of Sofianites wake up at 7 am on Sundays not because they want to exercise or have dogs to walk, but because their neighbours have decided this is the best time to start breaking the old tiles in their bathrooms. If they do not do this in the early morning, they will usually choose the afternoon, when Bulgarians, especially elderly ones, have their siesta.</p> <h4>City council repair works and infrastructure projects</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>When the Sofia City Council announces they will start repairing and remodelling a street, a square or something else, the collective frustration of Sofianites skyrockets. Previous experience manifests that any infrastructure activity initiated by the city council and paid with community cash will lag for months after the officially announced deadlines, will cost more than expected, the result will be an aesthetic compromise and last but not least its quality will be such that it will need a repair, and a repair of the repair, within days after the smiling mayor has cut the ribbon.</p> <h4>Overflowing garbage bins</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>From time to time international news report on overflowing bins of garbage in Italy, the result of mafia flexing its muscles to the state. In Sofia we have it permanently. But do not get us wrong. We <em>do not say</em> that Sofia rubbish collectors are a mafia!</p> <p><img alt="Not separated rubbish" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/issue164/angry-sofa/sofia-3.jpg" /></p> <h4>Overflowing recycling bins</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Bulgaria ranks rock bottom in the EU in waste recycling. In Sofia, those still eager to do it often have to walk for blocks before finding recycling bins. And when they reach those exotic creatures, they usually find them full to the brink. Then, these conscientious citizens face the dilemma: should they walk to the next recycling bin and pray it would be empty, or should they say "sod it," and throw the waste they have separated so carefully in the first garbage container they see.</p> <h4>Uncontrolled construction</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>"It grows, but it does not age," says Sofia's motto. It says nothing about beauty, and it shows. In the past 20 years ugly new construction has sprung everywhere in the city, without any regard of the rules of urban planning and respect for previous infrastructure. Residents of affected neighbourhoods protest against turning former gardens into new blocks of apartments and skyscrapers, but no official seems to care. The one who did was thrown in jail on rather suspicious corruption charges.</p> <h4><strong>Destroying old buildings</strong></h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Sofia is proud with its old history. And yet each year beautiful old houses and public buildings of historical and/or architectural value disappear. In their place monstrosities rise, defacing Sofia forever.</p> <p><img alt="Listed buildings running to seed" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/issue164/angry-sofa/sofia-4.jpg" /></p> <h4>The woman who feeds pigeons on Vitosha Boulevard</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> */*****</p> <p>She probably makes decent profit from this and she probably needs the money left by passers-by. But the sidewalk is now white from the birds' guano and walking on it is hardly nice.</p> <h4>Tourists and influencers who photograph the woman who feeds pigeons on Vitosha Boulevard</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> **/*****</p> <p>You think you're edgy. You think you're wake. You think you've witnessed something rare and life affirming, and you want to share it with the world. You are idiots. Move on and keep your phone in your pocket.</p> <h4>Air conditioners on façades</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>They dot private and public buildings, including historical ones, all over the city. But they are not only ugly. In summer, they drip water over passers-by. In winter, that water freezes, creating dangerous spots of black ice on the sidewalk. Consequently, scores of people with broken limbs get rushed into Pirogov.</p> <h4>Talking on speakerphone in the street</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>Why would you have a speaker or a video call while walking in the street? Why do you think others crave to hear both sides of your very important conversation? If you are afraid of touching your face with your phone because of Covid-19, use your goddamn earphones!</p> <h4>Loud laughter</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> **/*****</p> <p>We understand you are having wonderful time in that restaurant or just in the street. The joke was great, we got it. But your laughter reverberates in the concrete canyon of Sofia's blocks. For the sake of collective sanity, keep the volume down.</p> <h4>Parents letting their children run amok at restaurants</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>You went to that restaurant to enjoy some good company and, hopefully, good food in a nice setting. And you did, before this family entered and their sweet, little angels turned the whole venue into a fun fair. To make things worse, while you angrily chew your steak, your fingers clenching your glass to breaking point, the little devils' parents are busy looking at their phones, oblivious to the commotion they have created.</p> <h4>Noisy bikers</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating: </strong>*****/*****</p> <p>Your rumbling bike is powerful enough to activate car alarms just passing by and you seem to be proud of it, especially when you do it at 2 am. But please try to understand. Besides you and your pal, your noisy Kawasaki impresses no one. The noise you make only shows us that you are trying to repress a childhood trauma. If you had problems with your father, seek psychological help and leave the rest of us to sleep.</p> <h4>Electric scooters all over the place</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>This is hardly unique for Sofia. But we live in a cosmopolitan city and we share some cosmopolitan grudges!</p> <p><img alt="Electric scooters all over central Sofia" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/issue164/angry-sofa/sofia-2.jpg" /></p> <h4>Loud house parties</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Sofia is a tightly knit city. Spaces between apartment blocks are tiny and walls in blocks of apartments are thin. Noise is everywhere, often one can hear what soap opera their neighbours are watching. But when there is a party, noise pollution reaches fist-bumping, pillow-gnawing, 112-calling level of anger.</p> <h4>Lack of social distancing</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Staying away from other people is, sadly, the new normal (thank you, but no thank you Covid-19). Still, some people apparently have not heard the news yet. They talk with friends in the middle of the sidewalk, leaving you no space to pass, they breath in your neck while shopping, they cough next to you without even pretending to cover their mouth (I experienced all these in the span of 30 minutes). Stop it! We do not want to spend the rest of our lives in lockdown because you do not respect others' personal space.</p> <h4>Buying a ticket in a bus</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ***/*****</p> <p>There was no ticket kiosk at the bus stop, so you approach the driver to purchase a ticket from them. Too bad: there are no tickets available. Your only option is to sit anxiously in the bus and to pray that a group of the notoriously predatory controllers will not appear, catching you empty-ticket-handed.</p> <h4>Expensive cocktails and no change</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating: ****/*****</strong></p> <p>The closest you have to daylight robbery in Sofia. The mojito in the hyped bar was spectacularly bad and on top of it, when you gave the waiter a 20-leva note instead of change you received a not very polite nod and the sight of their back disappearing into the crowd.</p> <h4>Lack of places in kindergartens</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Sofia consistently has one of the highest birth rates in Bulgaria. The city council is yet to open enough kindergartens. Instead, it has created a Byzantine system of application for available places that each year frustrates thousands of parents and is a breeding ground for corruption.</p> <h4>The red light wave</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Large cities all over the world have green light waves to facilitate traffic. Sofia has a red wave. Enough said.</p> <h4>Stink bugs</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> **/*****</p> <p>About five years ago, life in Sofia became harder. Out of the blue, stink bugs boomed. And boomed. And continue to boom. Now, these droning flyers are everywhere in the warm months: in your house, your plants and even the laundry you put out to dry in the open. And if you crush them, they stink like hell. Ugh!</p> <h4>Central heating bills</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>They say everything is transparent, but we do not believe it is: Toplofikatsiya, the company that runs the central heating in Sofia, is notorious for the outrageous bills it sends to its customers. This spring, for example, thousands of people received significantly higher "preliminary bills" in spite of the fact that in the same period energy prices in Bulgaria went down. The company claims all will be fine when real consumption gets compared to the forecasted one. We, customers, can only hope this will be true.</p> <h4>Hot water maintenance</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Every summer, Toplofikatsiya stops the hot water for weeks because of what it calls preventive maintenance. Staying calm when your options are heating water with a kettle or taking a cold shower is hardly possible. Even if you have chosen the cold shower option.</p> <h4>Blocking the city when Levski and Tseseka have a match</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>Bulgaria's largest football teams and sworn enemies, Levski and Tseseka, both experience financial troubles and the quality of their game is such that few people go to the stadium. However, the aggressiveness of their fans is reason enough for the police to block traffic in Sofia's centre when the two teams play at Vasil Levski National Stadium. Consequently, what fans of Levski and Tseseka call the eternal derby, becomes an eternal nuisance for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Sofianites.</p> <h4>Property prices</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> ****/*****</p> <p>This May, a former mayor of Haskovo put some properties for sale. One of those was a two-storey house in central Haskovo, with a garden and three covered parking spaces. The asking price was 150,000 euros. The same money will buy you a not very spacious one-bedroom apartment in central Sofia. Without a parking space.</p> <h4>Air pollution</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Sofia is blessed with a mountain, the Vitosha, and yet every winter the capital's air becomes hard to breath and visible to the naked eye, with the tell-tale yellowish tint of smog. Why is this so? Explanations, hypotheses and conspiracy theories abound. Pedestrians, cyclists and owners of new cars blame old cars. Owners of old cars blame poor Sofianites burning all sort of trash to heat their homes. Everyone blames the city council for not doing anything meaningful. The city council blames Sofia's topography – as the city is at the bottom of a plain, winter inversion prevents fresh air from coming in. As a result, pollution continues, and anger levels rise as predictably as the change of seasons.</p> <h4>Local elections results</h4> <p><strong>Anger rating:</strong> *****/*****</p> <p>Come every election, Sofianites swear they will throw out the incompetent and corrupt politicians responsible for the city's bad infrastructure and selective application of laws and regulations. They swear they will elect new guys who will take proper care of streets, sidewalks, construction, urban environment and planning, green living, and who will make everyone abide the rules and regulations. However, come election time, Sofianites elect the same incompetent and corrupt politicians again. Stockholm syndrome? What Stockholm syndrome? </p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-164" hreflang="en">Issue 164</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/273" hreflang="en">Sofia</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=343&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="rxfUpedN6J2nPYpaFZqvsgYHy5jDbfTedHdHTQjpfU8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 02 Jun 2020 15:31:09 +0000 DimanaT 343 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/angry-sofianites-343#comments IN THE EYE OF THE STORM https://vagabond.bg/index.php/in-the-eye-of-the-storm <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">IN THE EYE OF THE STORM</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Mike Diliën*</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/1" lang="" about="/index.php/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">floyd</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:37</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Racism, poverty mark Covid-19 blocked Sofia</h3></div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>"Dimitrina?" I have not heard from her for more than a month, which is unusual.</p> <p>"Почина."</p> <p>"Po-chi-na?" I type the word phonetically in an online translation tool. "What?"</p> <p>"Почина. Me, Dimitrina sister. Bye."</p> <p>I met Dimitrina on 19 October 2018. She had fallen asleep standing up against the wall of Second Hospital in Sofia, on the corner of Slivnitsa and Hristo Botev Boulevards. A woman with bright fuchsia sneakers the sort teenage girls wear and two blood-red scars on her nose.</p> <p>Twenty-eight-year-old Dimitrina had a good command of English. Her one-year-old daughter, Vaska, was in the hospital. Dimitrina used to work in Sweden, but when Vaska's health deteriorated, her family called her back to Sofia. However, in Bulgaria her distinct Roma features made it next to impossible to find a job.</p> <p>I called Dimitrina the following day. Dimitrina said the doctors had decided to put Vaska in hospital. We did not meet: she was living in Orlandovtsi, a poor, ghetto-like neighbourhood, and it would take her too long to come to central Sofia. There was nobody to look after the baby. After the umpteenth fight, her partner had left her because of all the trouble with the child.</p> <p>When we met again a couple of months later, a boy, Assim, was with her. Both mother and son looked smart. They were going to the hospital to visit Vaska.</p> <p>"He's small for his age," Dimitrina said about the ten year-old, "but he is so sweet." Assim adored his mother. I asked whether he went to school. "Of course he does," Dimitrina said. "Every day. School is the most important thing in life." Assim was eyeing my bike, so I offered him to ride it. He whispered to his mother he did not want to.</p> <p>Assim and Vaska had different fathers. Neither of them looked after their children and Dimitrina's mother did not help, either.</p> <p>In March 2019, after city authorities demolished some illegal houses in Orlandovtsi, Dimitrina and Assim moved to a shelter house. Dimitrina would often called me from there; the noises of a yelling TV and of children playing invariably in the background. She sounded happy.</p> <p>Vaska was still in the hospital. Dimitrina was worried: "She's alone in a room. She has lost a lot of weight. The doctors say they don't know what is wrong with her." Dimitrina gave all the money she had to the staff so they would give Vaska the care she needed.</p> <p>Dimitrina dreamt of living in London. "There are jobs, so many jobs." In London she could give her children a future. "A proper education. A proper hospital." But as Dimitrina did not have an address, she was unable to obtain a passport. Besides, passports cost money.</p> <p>Despite her dire situation, Dimitrina had to leave the shelter by the end of May. She moved in with her mother, Albena, who lived in a council home. Albena sweeps the streets, a part of city initiative aimed to provide jobs to the Roma. She starts work at 6 am and finishes at 3 pm.</p> <p>In the autumn of 2019, as Dimitrina was recovering from illness, her mother had kicked her out of the council home. After a short stay with her brother, she was kicked out again. "They always take my money and when it is gone, they kick me out. And money goes out quickly."</p> <p>She and Assim had moved to Lyulin, Sofia's largest neighbourhood of prefabricated blocks. When we met, the Bulgarian summer had burnt their skin dark-brown. They carried a rucksack, a handbag and a duffle bag, where all their belongings were packed. Assim had to give up the bike I bought him. Dimitrina kept her personal belongings, mainly documents and photographs, in a small silver box. When I gave her 80 leva, she said she would carry too much money. "At night I keep this box under my pillow. So many times I have been stolen from."</p> <p>Dimitrina hid her swollen eyes behind a pair of sunglasses. Assim did not utter a single word as he was submerged in a game on his smartphone. Both were shivering and looked like they had a cold: they had spent the night in a friend's rundown place. All night, it had rained inside.</p> <p>The following day, the three of us had lunch at the KFC restaurant on Lion's Bridge.</p> <p>Dimitrina said a prayer, but Assim attacked the fries and seemed embarrassed by her when her prayer took too long.</p> <p>A group of children was at the table beside ours. They were Roma, like Dimitrina and Assim, but looked middle-class. Their parents probably owned stands at the nearby market. The girls stared at Dimitrina, appearing bemused.</p> <p>As Dimitrina kept on harping, I wondered whether she was near a nervous breakdown. Did people actually treat her badly because of her ramblings?</p> <p>As soon as we finished eating, Dimitrina told Assim to clean his chair and swept the table clean. Then she wrapped up the leftovers for next day's breakfast.</p> <p>On the following day, I met Dimitrina at a bench at Lion's Bridge. We agreed that on Monday morning I would accompany her to the housing office. While we were saying our goodbye, she, for some reason, started ripping the cords from her tracksuit bottoms.</p> <p>She did not appear on the Monday morning, and she did not pick her phone.</p> <p>During the months that followed, Dimitrina and Assim were still living rough, but she was vague on their whereabouts. I helped them to have a nice Christmas but I never found out whether they actually celebrated.</p> <p>On 25 February 2020, Dimitrina called me from the hospital. I was at work, in Brussels, so I said I would call her back. "But I am in the hospital!" Her voice expressed her astonishment about my indifference. I repeated that I would call her back.</p> <p>I did not.</p> <p>"Почина." After Dimitrina's sister hanged down the phone, I contacted a translator. I was Dimitrina's foreign friend, the only person she could practice her English with and someone who could help her realise her dream. But I had let her down instead.</p> <p>The translator called her mother, Albena, to ask about Dimitrina's last days and what I could do for Assim and Vaska. Albena told the translator that Dimitrina died of stomach cancer, at her place, as the doctors had decided that she would not survive transportation.</p> <p>Dimitrina Varbanova died on 15 March, two days after Bulgaria declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. The official cause of death was bronchopneumonia. She was not tested for Covid-19. However, her brother died of Covid-19, two days later.</p> <p>Dimitrina has been buried in the cemetery of Dolna Banya village, east of Sofia. Albena did not organise a funeral service in church. She had to borrow money for Dimitrina's modest grave.</p> <p>Assim and Vaska are now with their grandmother.</p> <p><em>*Mike Diliën, who has lectured and done research in Spain, Italy and Argentina, works for Belgian national health insurance</em></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-163" hreflang="en">Issue 163</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/260" hreflang="en">coronavirus</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=90&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Z_yHJS-A08pqolBJ8P8g1q2q0F4YAGdCAEM_42I46bU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 30 Apr 2020 05:37:48 +0000 floyd 90 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/in-the-eye-of-the-storm#comments ARRIVAL CITY https://vagabond.bg/index.php/arrival-city <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">ARRIVAL CITY</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/1" lang="" about="/index.php/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">floyd</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 10/30/2019 - 13:58</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Hristo Botev neighbourhood risks becoming ghetto next to Sofia Airport</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-05/197604616a676bee4526981ed9585350_XL.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-05/197604616a676bee4526981ed9585350_XL.jpg" width="900" height="600" alt="197604616a676bee4526981ed9585350_XL.jpg" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>As an airplane is swooping over a field beside Sofia Airport, two horses and a donkey do not look up, but keep grazing among the rubbish. Shacks made of bricks, corrugated iron and wood encroach upon the field. Heavy lorries with international logos rush by the shacks on the road from the airport and its business park.</p> <p>This is an everyday scene from Hristo Botev, a neighbourhood bearing the name of the great Bulgarian 19th century poet and revolutionary.</p> <p>The neighbourhood was initially a village, which was incorporated in Sofia's Slatina district in 1945. Under Communism, the place was transformed. Along the leafy main street housing blocks were built, together with schools and a kindergarten. There were also detached houses with leafy gardens.</p> <p>Today Hristo Botev neighbourhood is a shadow of its former self. Walls, fences and dogs protect the houses. There is no park and the only dedicated playgrounds are in the two schools. All other open spaces in Hristo Botev are dirty squares serving as parking lots.</p> <p>The neighbourhood is a perpetual building site. In almost every street, grey cement dust blows up each time a vehicle passes. Cars have to slow down and carefully zigzag between potholes. The further the streets are from the main road, the narrower they become. Finally, they become nameless. In the centre of the neighbourhood, the statue of Hristo Botev stands lost in between the supermarket and the bus stop.</p> <p><img alt="Hristo Botev neighbourhood, Sofia" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V157/hristo_botev/P1000432.jpg" title="Hristo Botev neighbourhood, Sofia" width="100%" /></p> <p>Recent construction does not fit any urban plan, ignoring building or safety regulations. Like islands in an ocean, the old and often well-maintained houses with manicured gardens now stand in between half-finished buildings and attached houses. Electricity meters hang atop of high pillars, locked in boxes and secured by an alarm system – a measure to prevent people from stealing electricity.</p> <p>Walking the streets reveal scenes that seem more befitting a developing state: boys play football on a vast concrete place behind a factory, weeds popping through the cracks. An elderly woman, all dressed in black, is carrying an axe to chop firewood. Broken furniture piles up against the wall of a school next to a council estate.</p> <p>Hristo Botev neighbourhood started its transformation after the collapse of Communism. As collective farms were dismantled and Bulgaria began restructuring its planned economy to a free market one, thousands of people, many of them Roma, from the countryside became redundant. They started to flock to Sofia, and many of them settled in the city's outskirts in shacks they built illegally.</p> <p>Hristo Botev was one of the neighbourhoods affected by the change. Between 1990 and 2013, its population more than quadrupled. The newcomers were mainly Roma, who started to outnumber the local, ageing, ethnic Bulgarian population.</p> <p><img alt="Hristo Botev neighbourhood, Sofia" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V157/hristo_botev/P1000441.jpg" title="Hristo Botev neighbourhood, Sofia" width="100%" /></p> <p>For a long time, Hristo Botev enjoyed the reputation of a neighbourhood where Roma and non-Roma lived side by side. In 2011, however, riot police had to control armed residents who took to the streets. The killing of an ethnic Bulgarian near Plovdiv had sparked outrage throughout the entire country and in Hristo Botev the false rumour that rightwing extremists would have entered the neighbourhood had begun to circulate.</p> <p>The local authorities have a sketched record in dealing with housing shortages for newcomers. In 2003, using EU funding, the municipality built a council estate of 11 blocks of apartments, and settled there people from several slums. Today large Roma families inhabit the flats, but as they can only rent and not buy the properties, they do not maintain them. Significantly, many of the people in the neighbourhood are so poor that even if they could buy the property they live in, they would hardly manage to maintain it.</p> <p>Two years after the blocks were constructed, the authorities tried another approach in dealing with illegal settlement: they demolished at least 24 shacks, leaving about 150 people without homes.</p> <p>About two thirds of the adults in Hristo Botev are unemployed, and most of the rest try to find jobs in Europe or take low-paid jobs in Sofia. The neighbourhood does not offer employment opportunities and the local factories that provided jobs during Communism are long gone. The number of taxis parked in the streets points to another way for local men to make ends meet. There is no unemployment office in the neighbourhood.</p> <p><img alt="Hristo Botev neighbourhood, Sofia" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V157/hristo_botev/P1000839_2.jpg" title="Hristo Botev neighbourhood, Sofia" width="100%" /></p> <p>Surprisingly, in the neighbourhood there are signs of wealth. Mansions clearly designed to show off their owner's wealth can be seen on the dilapidating streets. Like in Naples and Bogota, many of them are unfinished, signalling an overnight twist in the fortune of the family business.</p> <p>Walking and living in Sofia's central and southern parts creates the impression that Bulgaria's capital is nice, pleasant, thriving and increasingly affluent. However, while well-heeled citizens flock to the south, the city's northern parts reveal a different picture. There, the poor dominate and the level of segregation is increasing. It is even visible in the infrastructure. Hristo Botev, which is an administrative part of Sofia, is now as isolated as it were still a village. Its residents are cut off from the city by airport, railway and motorway infrastructure that grants other people access to the capital.</p> <p>Next time you arrive in Sofia tell your cab driver to go through the Hristo Botev neighbourhood rather than the elevated highway into Central Sofia and you will be in for a very different picture of Bulgaria's capital.</p> <p> </p> <p><em>*Mike Diliën, who has lectured and done research in Spain, Italy and Argentina, works for Belgian national health insurance</em></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-157" hreflang="en">Issue 157</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=91&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="YwgHS-LCDb_Q9b7iBwPzs1DFMKlXOZP2gM97Z2nh3X8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 30 Oct 2019 11:58:10 +0000 floyd 91 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/arrival-city#comments AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION CELEBRATES BULGARIAN SUPERHEROES https://vagabond.bg/index.php/america-bulgaria-foundation-celebrates-bulgarian-superheroes-306 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION CELEBRATES BULGARIAN SUPERHEROES</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Yuliyan Hristov</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:19</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Over 500 representatives of the Bulgarian NGO sector, entrepreneurs and diplomats attended the annual meeting of the America for Bulgaria Foundation with its grantees in Sofia, on 30 January.</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/nancy-schiller.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/nancy-schiller.jpg" width="800" height="600" alt="nancy-schiller.jpg" title="Nancy Schiller, Director of ABF, opens the event" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Everyday Superheroes was the main theme of the event, celebrating the efforts and the energy of ordinary Bulgarians who work in spite of the difficulties and the hardships to make Bulgaria a better place. The event was opened by the ABF's CEO, Nancy Schiller, and the American Ambassador to Bulgaria, Eric Rubin.</p> <p>The America for Bulgaria Foundation is the largest NGO in Bulgaria. Established 10 years ago, it has donated millions of dollars to local non-profits, institutions, initiatives and companies improving this country's education, business climate and culture, care for and promotion of cultural heritage, media freedoms and judicial reform.</p> <p>The ABF used the 2019 meeting to introduce its restructured set of priorities. Taking into consideration the changes that Bulgaria has underwent since 2009, the ABF will now concentrate its efforts on the creation of businesses enabling environment and a level play field, developing and retaining of human capital, support for independent media and for vibrant communities. The ABF aims to contribute to making Bulgaria a place where democracy and the rule of law enable citizens to unleash their potential, where the economy and new ideas thrive, where education is modern and efficient, and culture and community life are vibrant.</p> <p><img alt="Eric Rubin" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V149/abf/7G7A2212_copy.jpg" title="Eric Rubin" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>American Ambassador Eric Rubin's opening speech</em></p> <p> </p> <p>The event was not all work and no fun. A number of ABF grantees took the stage, sharing their achievements and plans. These included a principal at a Shumen school applying the latest educational methods, a woman who returned from the United States to open a village bakery and the organiser of puppet theatre performances introducing art to children from some of the most isolated communities in the Rhodope mountains. All of them showed that with energy, optimism and the right kind of help, success in Bulgaria is possible. </p> <p><img alt="Catrin Cooper" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V149/abf/7G7A3327_copy.jpg" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Catrin Cooper" width="60%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Catrin Cooper from GlobalGiving explains the power of crowdfunding</em></p> <p> </p> <p><img alt="America for Bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V149/abf/7G7A3279_copy.jpg" title="America for Bulgaria FOUNDATION CELEBRATES BULGARIAN SUPERHEROES" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Participants demonstrate the power of vibrant communities</em></p> <p> </p> <p><img alt="America for Bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V149/abf/7G7A4041_copy.jpg" title="America for Bulgaria" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>ABF's team answers questions from the audience about the foundation's restructured priorities</em></p> <p> </p> <p><img alt="Desislava Taliokova" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V149/abf/7G7A4219_copy.jpg" title="Desislava Taliokova" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Executive Director Desislava Taliokova sums up the ABF annual meeting</em></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-149" hreflang="en">Issue 149</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=306&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="K5E4Hna5ayZs3nKXKQEj--3GJC7CKuB0cHqh5w_Q_FY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 25 Feb 2019 15:19:25 +0000 DimanaT 306 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/america-bulgaria-foundation-celebrates-bulgarian-superheroes-306#comments TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND DANCE https://vagabond.bg/index.php/traditional-music-and-dance-307 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND DANCE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 07/05/2018 - 11:36</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>An excerpt from <em>Shadow Journey: A Guide to Elizabeth Kostova's Bulgaria and Eastern Europe</em></h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/traditional-bulgarian-dance.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/traditional-bulgarian-dance.jpg" width="800" height="524" alt="traditional-bulgarian-dance.jpg" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>As you hold this book in your hands, a Bulgarian song travels in outer space. The song in question is "Izlel e Delyu Haidutin," a traditional Rhodope tune sung by Valya Balkanska. It was put on the Golden Record of Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts by Carl Sagan, in 1977, in his attempt to acquaint extraterrestrial civilisations with the Earth's culture. Bulgaria's folk music is incredibly varied and, with its compound metres and irregular times, may sound unusual to Western ears. Some of it, like Valya Balkanska's master opus, is slow and heavy. Other times it is joyous and lively, and can be danced in a variety of group dances. Traditional instruments include drums, bagpipes, flutes and a kind of primitive violin called<em> Gadulka</em>, but clarinets, accordions and even double bass are also used.</p> <p>Several episodes in Elizabeth Kostova's <em>The Historian</em> feature folk music. In Chapter 58, Professor Stoichev's guests go along on an improvised song and a dance. In Chapter 69, a sinister – and entirely fictitious – folk song brings Paul and Helen to Dracula's den. During the celebrations on St Petko's Day, a fictional church saint, the villagers dance and sing.</p> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"> <img alt="Folk singers in the village of Gela, in the Rhodope Mountains" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V141/music_and_dance/070810-9485.jpg" title="Folk singers in the village of Gela, in the Rhodope Mountains" width="100%" /></span></div> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"><em>Folk singers in the village of Gela, in the Rhodope Mountains</em></span></div> <div> </div> <p>In spite of the multitude of folk music on TV channels and radio stations, ordinary Bulgarians would rarely listen to traditional folk music. Both they and their foreign visitors are usually exposed to heavily modernised and commercialised versions, usually at folksy restaurants. Bulgarian pupils do get taught the basic <em>Horo</em> dance steps at school, which is useful in the long run as dancing the <em>Horo</em> is de rigueur later in life at graduation ceremonies, weddings, political events and so on. One of the first things Bulgarians do on New Year's is go into step for the <em>Danube Horo</em>, a catchy brass band tune (which is not a folk song in the original sense as it was composed by a known author, Diko Iliev).</p> <p>In contrast to the touristy restaurants, folk festivals are a good way to discover some genuine Bulgarian music. One of them is the festival at Koprivshtitsa, which is held every five years. Another is the Rozhen fest in the Rhodope Mountains, near Smolyan. The bagpipers' competition in Gela, also in the Rhodope, gets increasingly frequented by… Irish and Scottish bagpipers who perform their craft and wonder how Bulgarians can use sheepskin rather than goatskin pipes. Even Sir Pelham Greenville Wodehouse wrote about the Bulgarian bagpipes in his <em>Thank You, Jeeves</em> (1934) as if he had emerged straight out of a bagpipers' do at Gela: "Be Bulgarian, Jeeves!" – referring to a certain Elia Gospodinof who apparently played the bagpipes for 24 hours without a stop. Jeeves responded: "No, sir. I fear I cannot recede from my position."</p> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"> <img alt="Bagpipes in the village of Gela, in the Rhodope Mountains" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V141/music_and_dance/04082012-8152.jpg" title="Bagpipes in the village of Gela, in the Rhodope Mountains" width="100%" /></span></div> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"><em>Bagpipes in the village of Gela, in the Rhodope Mountains</em></span></div> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">The first time Bulgarian folk music reached Western audiences in earnest was in 1975 when a Swiss producer, Marcel Cellier, released the album <em>Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares</em>. It became an instant hit in what at the time was the inchoate ethnic music fad. Canadian film director Denys Arcand would later use bits of the <em>Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices</em> in his film <em>Jesus of Montreal</em> (1989).</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">More recently a group of elderly women from the village of Bistritsa have made a name for themselves as the Bistritsa Grandmas Band. In contrast to<em> Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares</em>, the Bistritsa Grandmas's tunes are unrefined and even uncouth: absolutely mesmerising.</span> <div> </div> <div><br /> <span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"><strong>CHALGA</strong></span><br /> <span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"><img alt="Chalga performers leave little to the imagination" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V141/music_and_dance/_2.jpg" title="Chalga performers leave little to the imagination" width="100%" /></span> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"> <em>Chalga performers leave little to the imagination</em></span></div> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">You may not hear much of Bistritsa Grandmas, at least not unless you specifically seek to, but you will likely be bombarded with <em>Chalga</em>, a relatively new cultural phenomenon that has its roots in Balkan folk music but that propagates tunes, visions and values entirely at loggerheads with the 19th and early-20th century tradition.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;"><em>Chalga</em> emerged in Bulgaria in the sunset days of Communism, usually on pirated music cassettes of Serbian pop folk music, or <em>Turbofolk</em> as it is known west of the border. It became an instant hit, probably because it was unabashedly sexy and vulgar, in sharp contrast to the demure folk and pop the Communist government sponsored.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">To understand how this happened you must look into the troubled history of Bulgarian music in Communist times and immediately after. For 45 years, Communism kept a tight lid on every aspect of social life, including music. When Bulgaria was invaded by the Soviet Army in 1944, the local Communist apparatchiks were quick to denounce any Western influence Bulgaria had enjoyed, jazz being but one example, and to promote its own folklore, often imbued with nationalist or "New Life" undertones.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">This resulted in such gems as "Mladata traktoristka", or "Young Girl Tractor Driver," and "folk" songs extolling the virtues of collectivised farming. Coca-Cola drinking Elvis Presley was considered evil, and Beatles songs, notably "Back in the USSR", were banned. There were instances of young people getting sacked from their jobs or even being sent to labour camps for reportedly listening to Western radio stations broadcasting "decadent" music.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">As late as the 1980s, the Communist Party's omniscience led to such extremes as issuing decrees ordering state-owned radios to broadcast a certain percentage of Bulgarian songs and a certain percentage of Soviet songs, allocating the remaining 20 percent to "songs of other nations." Similar regulations were in force in restaurants, where bands played Soviet music as part of the dinner entertainment to demonstrate the "eternal friendship" between the Bulgarian and the Soviet peoples.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">To the musicians of those times, the party straitjacket meant one thing: conform or quit.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">In the mid-1980s, however, things started to change. At that time, neighbouring Yugoslavia, considered by the Bulgarian political establishment to be a renegade Western state, but looked up to by many Bulgarians as a democratic and prosperous paradise, already had its own Turbofolk. Lepa Brena in those years was more popular, as far as the Bulgarians were concerned, than Slobodan Milošević. It was not only Yugoslavia, however. In Greece, <em>Skyladiko</em>, a fusion of gaudy pop and traditional Greek rhythms and melodies, was becoming immensely popular. In Turkey, the progenitors of Tarkan were emerging. Bulgarian State Radio, of course, did not broadcast any of these, but millions of Bulgarians managed to listen to the new-wave music on pirated tapes.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">The current form of Bulgarian <em>Chalga</em> emerged in the wake of the 1989 collapse of Communism. At first, it was seen as liberation by the masses, who suddenly realised there was no one to tell them not to listen to Serbian or Greek music. Soon, the home-grown type of pop folk emerged, and before too long it would develop into a million-dollar entertainment industry. Many intellectuals would cry out that it propagated nothing more than the new "culture" of corruption, easy money, indiscriminate sex, and mutri, or local thugs, driving fast cars. However many "ordinary" people became so enthralled by the new freedom that they embraced <em>Chalga</em> as their alternative to officialdom. In the past, music was didactic and prescriptive: it reflected some imaginary reality where love and virtue were the mainstays. In contrast, it is argued, <em>Chalga</em> mirrors real life, depicting real people with their problems and aspirations.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">One example of lyrics from the 1990s comes from a piece called "Honduras": "I arrive at Burgas Quay, here come my goods from Honduras. Bravo to the customs! Bravo to the police! The heat, the heat in Sofia!"</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">If you want to explore the dimensions of the Bulgarian <em>Chalga</em> phenomenon, an effort that may easily become one of the highlights of your stay in this country, do ask your Bulgarian friends to take you to a <em>chalga</em> disco. And do ask them to translate the lyrics for you!</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">By the 2010s <em>Chalga</em> had evolved from a musical genre to a fully fledges system of thought and attitude to life. You will hear many Bulgarians referring to <em>Chalga</em>lisation: <em>Chalga</em> girls, <em>Chalga</em> books, <em>Chalga</em> historians, <em>Chalga</em> archaeologists and, yes, <em>Chalga</em> politics.</span> <div> </div> <div><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif;">One of the current superstars of Bulgarian <em>Chalga</em> is Azis, again illustrating the schizophrenia of post-Communism as he embodies the three big no-no's for most Bulgarians: he is rich, he is a Gypsy and he is gay. </span></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div> </div> <div> </div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-141" hreflang="en">Issue 141</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/227" hreflang="en">Bulgarian traditions</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/284" hreflang="en">Bulgarian music</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=307&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Y6C6rDUbh7mZFTki19bcRrQvXBOTp4GKIlLz3lsgWJc"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 05 Jul 2018 08:36:23 +0000 DimanaT 307 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/traditional-music-and-dance-307#comments WHEN A ROSE IS NOT EXACTLY A ROSE https://vagabond.bg/index.php/when-rose-not-exactly-rose-308 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHEN A ROSE IS NOT EXACTLY A ROSE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 06/04/2018 - 14:17</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Grim reality of Bulgarian rose pickers at loggerheads with picture postcard images</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/rose%20picking%20bulgaria.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/rose%20picking%20bulgaria.jpg" width="800" height="533" alt="rose picking bulgaria.jpg" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Attar-bearing roses and beautiful girls in traditional attire picking them dominate the images that Bulgaria uses to sell itself to both Bulgarian and international tourists. The rose is on this country's tourist logo, and is all over souvenirs and promotional materials, from postcards and videos to rose-scented soaps.</p> <p>This trend started even before there was an independent Bulgaria. In 1870, the Austro-Hungarian archaeologist, geographer and ethnographer Felix Kanitz, who travelled extensively in these lands, made a charming engraving of Bulgarian peasants with baskets of hand-picked roses. After the Bulgarian state was restored, in 1878, roses slowly crept into the popular consciousness, although not always in a complimentary way. Created at that time, one of Bulgaria's best-known fictional characters, Bay Ganyo – the closest you can get to the stock Bulgarian, was an uncouth but cunning rose oil merchant. Under Communism, where industrial workers were the heroes of the day, roses and beautiful young female pickers in traditional peasant costumes remained used and overused symbols of Bulgarian identity and uniqueness, found everywhere from souvenirs to boxes of Turkish Delight, on the 50 leva note issued in 1951, and in a significant number of promotional photos about Bulgaria.</p> <p>Today, Bulgaria's rose fever is as high as ever. Rose oil is a lucrative business: this country is an important producer feeding the perfumery industry of France. Roses are also an easy promotional opportunity for municipalities in the so-called Valley of Roses, the thin strip of land between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountains where, due to its rare combination of specific soils and climate, the plant grows abundantly. This year, for example, the Rose Festival in Kazanlak lasted for 28 days in May and June. The most popular part of its activities were rose picking ceremonies in the villages and a beauty pageant.</p> <p><img alt="Bulgarian rose" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V140/roses/200517-6053.jpg" title="Bulgarian rose" width="100%" />The oil-bearing rose and the industry it is a part of, however, have a side that tourists are mostly unaware of.</p> <p>The Kazanlak rose, which is the main variety of oil-bearing rose in Bulgaria, is a descendant of the species Rosa Damascena. The Ottoman Turks introduced it to Bulgarians lands from the Near East at the beginning of the 18th century. The history of rose oil production in Bulgaria is a rare example of the combination of favourable conditions, a viable market and enterprising people. In the 18th and 19th centuries, European society became addicted to perfumes. The Bulgarians merchants from the area of the Valley of Roses responded to the increased demand with an increased supply of rose oil, the basic ingredient in many perfumes. By the mid-19th century they were already among the wealthiest of Bulgarians.</p> <p>They had another stroke of luck at the end of that century, when Bulgaria's independence from the Ottoman Empire had unfortunate consequences for the country's Revival Period bourgeoisie. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the towns in the Stara Planina mountains and in the valleys south of them had become rich through sheep farming and the weaving of woollen braid, which they sold to the Ottoman army. With liberation, they lost this lucrative market and the import of cheap manufactured goods from the West was the final nail in their coffin.</p> <p>Only the production of rose oil remained unaffected by the changes. Today Bulgaria is among the world's largest producers of attar of roses, along with Turkey and France. In 2014, Bulgarian rose oil became a protected geographical indication.</p> <p>Years have gone by but the image of the rose picker has remained the same. Just as in Kanitz's time, during the Rose Festival you will see fields full of young beauties in traditional costumes nimbly picking the flowers in the bright sun. Everything gives the impression that this occupation ought to be included in the world's 10 Best Jobs list, but real-life rose picking has nothing to do with this idealised picture.</p> <p>The rose is a delicate plant. Its essential oils begin to evaporate when the sun is hot and for this reason, rose pickers – the real ones and not those from the postcards – are in the fields at five in the morning. The bushes are wet with dew, the thorns pierce even the strongest clothes and your feet get stuck in the cold mud. No rose picker is clad in traditional costume – they all wear their oldest clothes.</p> <p><img alt="Bulgarian rose" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V140/roses/200517-6106.jpg" title="Bulgarian rose" width="100%" /></p> <p>As in Kanitz's time, roses are picked by hand, but instead of picturesque baskets, they are stuffed into ordinary large, and much more convenient, plastic bags. Those toiling among the flowering bushes are mainly Gypsies.</p> <p>They live in small, third-world-like houses in several villages around the area and one neighbourhood of Kazanlak. Most of them are generally unemployed but for the month of May, when they are collected in buses and made to work, usually for a pittance. Rose picking is one of the few ways to earn something. Their daily wage depends on the amount they pick. In 2017, the wages were around 1.2 leva per kilogram of picked petals. Between 2,000 and 3,000 tonnes of rose petals are needed for the production of a single kilogram of rose oil, and good sales are not always guaranteed. While prices peaked in 2016, at 9,000 euros for a kilogram of rose oil, the following year they plummeted. The reason? The 2016 boom had led to overproduction and unsold stocks, which severely affected the market in 2017. The trend continued in 2018 with buying prices hitting rock bottom. Producers organised protests, uprooting plants and covering roads with discarded rose petals. They wanted a guaranteed lower buying price and ban on cheap imports from Turkey. The government promised to provide subsidies.</p> <p><img alt="Bulgarian rose" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V140/roses/200517-6677.jpg" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Bulgarian rose" width="70%" /></p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-140" hreflang="en">Issue 140</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=308&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Par00chuEhm196iJ7CUEJtHG0NPg66dgUgSGqp66YHs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 04 Jun 2018 11:17:56 +0000 DimanaT 308 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/when-rose-not-exactly-rose-308#comments DECIPHERING BISHOP'S BASILICA OF PHILIPPOPOLIS https://vagabond.bg/index.php/deciphering-bishops-basilica-philippopolis-309 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">DECIPHERING BISHOP&#039;S BASILICA OF PHILIPPOPOLIS</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 06/04/2018 - 14:14</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Even the most fascinating archaeological site is nothing more than an accumulation of stones if its history and contexts remain unknown.</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/bishops-basilica-of-philippopolis.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/bishops-basilica-of-philippopolis.jpg" width="800" height="542" alt="bishops-basilica-of-philippopolis.jpg" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>This May, for two days, historians, archaeologists, restorers and experts in other fields shared their findings and ideas about the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis at a scientific conference in Plovdiv.</p> <p>The basilica in central Plovdiv is Bulgaria's largest Late Antiquity church. It was constructed over the remains of a pagan building and was in use between the 4th and the 6th centuries. The basilica's most memorable feature are its mosaic floors that cover more than 2,000 sq.m and feature more than 100 birds and intricate geometrical designs. In the 10th-13th centuries a large necropolis appeared over the remains of the basilica. It had a richly painted cemetery church. In the mid-19th century, the Plovdiv's Catholic St Ludwig Cathedral was built nearby.</p> <p>The site was discovered in the early 1980s, but remained untended for more than 20 years. In 2015-2017, the basilica was thoroughly researched and excavated, and its mosaics and other decorative elements were conserved and restored. The works were initiated and sponsored by the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the Plovdiv Municipality and the Ministry of Culture. In 2019, when Plovdiv will become the European Capital of Culture, the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis will open as a major site to the general public.</p> <p>The basilica’s fascinating marvellous mosaics, together with the nearby Small Basilica and an ancient mansion, both of which also have mosaic floors, were already approved on the UNESCO Tentative List. This is a significant step towards entering the organisation's famed World Heritage List.</p> <p>The Plovdiv conference was a crucial part in understanding not only what the Bishop's Basilica was but also what was its role in society. It is a rare example for Bulgarian science where specialists of different fields engage in interdisciplinary approach, adding important context.</p> <p>The basilica was built in the first decades after Christianity was legalised, in 313. It was grand and richly decorated with marble, reusing parts from the older pagan building and custom-made decorations. Murals covered some of its walls and richly embroidered curtains probably added glitter to the interior. The mosaic floors show influences by Constantinople art and craft tradition and, to a lesser extent, by the West. Most probably they were made by artisans from a local atelier, or ateliers. Two to four teams of artisans worked together on some parts of the floors.</p> <p>The birds on the mosaics are of particular interest. An ornithology analysis of the 74 individual birds in the second layer in the central nave recognised both native species, like the guinea-fowl, the ring-necked pheasant and hens, and exotic animals like the Indian peafowl and the Alexandrine parakeet. Several theories explain this abundance. In early Christianity birds symbolised human souls seeking Christ, so they became a popular decorative motif. Birds, together with many others symbols, were used by generations of artisans spread via codexes of standardised images. The various clients would choose of them just like we buy stuff on Amazon today. In the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis, however, birds are depicted in a variety of poses, reflecting the species actual behaviour. The guinea-fowls comb themselves. The chukar partridge spreads its wings. The parrots "talk" to each other. Here is a possible explanation: the Philippopolis artisans had seen these birds in real life. It is possible that all those birds were the actual possession of someone in the city. Bird trade, including of exotic species, was huge in Roman times, as these were valued for both entertainment and food.</p> <p><img alt="bishop's basilica of philipoppolis" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V140/bishops_basilica/100717-5011.jpg" title="bishop's basilica of philipoppolis" width="100%" /></p> <p>The archaeological analysis of the mediaeval layer of the site contributed to rewriting the established history of Plovdiv at the time. As the common line of thought goes, at the beginning of the 6th century the city, and the empire, was unable to protect itself from the never-ending Barbarian invasions. So people left their old houses in the plain and sought safety in the fortified hills. They abandoned the Bishop's Basilica and the area around it altogether.</p> <p>Research, however, found traces of continuous presence in the basilica's ruins, in the 7th-10th centuries. Locals did not have the means to restore their church but still didn't move out altogether.</p> <p>The analysis of 179 skeletons excavated from the site in 2016-2017 alone (the total exceeds 250) provides a snapshot picture of Plovdiv society between the end of the 10th and the 13th centuries. These people lived mostly peacefully. They lived slightly longer, were slightly taller, were generally healthier and enjoyed better healthcare than other communities in these lands. Several skeletons have signs of practices targeted to preventing the dead from rising as vampires. Some had their knees or ankles tied. The left foot of a young woman was cut off postmortem and was placed above the body of a child buried together with her.</p> <p>A lot of questions about the Bishop's Basilica remain unanswered, bringing heat and excitement to the scientific debate. What was the pagan building below it? Did the basilica have two floors? How big was the atrium that spread along its western façade? How did it look? Was there a water fountain in it? If yes, how was it connected to the city's waterworks? Was the basilica built by Constantine the Great himself, the man who legalised Christianity and moved the capital to the shores of the Bosporus? Or was it a later emperor? Was the mosaic inscription by church's donor broken deliberately in order to obliterate his name for eternity?</p> <p>These are just a sample. Unanswered questions are one of the best parts of science as they trigger debate and the flow of ideas. The conference findings will soon be published in a book, making available the information to both professionals and the general public in and outside Bulgaria.</p> <p><img alt="bishop's basilica of philipoppolis" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V140/bishops_basilica/100717-5008.jpg" title="bishop's basilica of philipoppolis" width="100%" /></p> <p> </p> <p><img alt="bishop's basilica of philipoppolis" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V140/bishops_basilica/100717-5005.jpg" title="bishop's basilica of philipoppolis" width="100%" /></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-140" hreflang="en">Issue 140</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/276" hreflang="en">Plovdiv</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/232" hreflang="en">Roman heritage</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=309&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Tpr-YMefBW4gFYvepDVc2U-Sy1sZdra8aGO_f4FRvQU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 04 Jun 2018 11:14:37 +0000 DimanaT 309 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/deciphering-bishops-basilica-philippopolis-309#comments VERY SUPERSTITIOUS https://vagabond.bg/index.php/very-superstitious-310 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">VERY SUPERSTITIOUS</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 05/04/2018 - 13:20</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Clairvoyants and red thread: a short guide to Bulgarians' irrational beliefs (politics excluded)</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/evil-eye.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/evil-eye.jpg" width="800" height="518" alt="evil-eye.jpg" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Once you start paying attention to Bulgarians, you will observe some inexplicable actions. Dozens of men and women wear red thread around their wrists. An old woman cuddles a baby, and then spits at it. Another woman panics at the thought of putting her bag on the floor. On TV, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wears a red thread around his wrist, and says that he never clips his nails, shaves or lends money… on a Monday. A book of self-proclaimed Bulgarian traditional magic for health, good luck, love and so on is a bestseller.</p> <p>In 21st century Bulgaria, old superstitions thrive, mixed with beliefs in the supernatural, the extraterrestrial and everything mysterious or conspiratorial.</p> <p>A recent poll has put this reality into a statistical perspective.</p> <p>According to the poll, 14 percent of Bulgarians believe that extraterrestrials live among us, 75 percent believe that Vanga, the blind clairvoyant, had the powers of a prophet and 75 percent believe that there are people with supernatural abilities. Sixty-four percent think that there are people who can foresee the future, and 53 percent believe that there are people who can heal illness by performing miracles. Forty-five percent of those interviewed believe in magic. Forty percent think the world is ruled by a secret society and 66 percent are certain that Big Pharma creates new diseases in order to sell medicines. Seventy-three percent touch wood against bad luck, 12 percent throw salt for good luck, and 35 percent wear a red thread to ward off the evil eye.</p> <p>One might ask, after reading this, are not (the majority of) Bulgarians traditional Eastern Orthodox Christians? Well, yes and no. While this nation adopted Christianity as early as 864 and considers it a pillar of its national identity, in reality superstition never disappeared from everyday life. It even survived Communism, a regime that was deliberately atheistic and materialistic. Under Communism, superstition filled the gap left after official religious life was restricted. In the turbulent post-1989 times it provided Bulgarians with a safety net of belief in a  world of many choices, one they had not been used to. With Bulgaria opening up to the broader world foreign superstitions arrived, such as the belief in extraterrestrials trying to contact the Bulgarians via some self-proclaimed psychic based, say, in Novi Pazar.<br /> <br /> <strong>Traditional superstitions</strong></p> <p>Guarding oneself against the evil eye is a superstition as old as the first humans living in what is now Bulgaria. Archaeological record shows that, as peoples and gods changed, the belief in magical objects, amulets and practices providing protection from evil stood their ground. It remains so, as is evident by the abundance of red threads around Bulgarian wrists (do not confuse them with the Martenitsa, which is a spring thing) and blue beads hanging in homes and cars, on necklaces and bracelets. Sometimes these are dipped in holy water, for extra protection. It is not as strange as it might seem: churches and monasteries often sell their own good-luck charms, only these are adorned with icons.</p> <p>Wearing an amulet is not the only way for one to avoid the evil eye in Bulgaria. Spitting at someone you find adorable, usually a baby or a toddler, is believed to do the same job, as does touching wood when you want to prevent something bad from happening.</p> <p>Even with all these protective measures, however, the power of the evil eye remains strong, often provoked by the envy or bad aura of a blue-eyed person. When someone falls a victim to such a jinx, they should wash their eyes with holy water or with water that was filtered through a broom. Brooms are big in Bulgarian superstition. It is believed that if you sweep at someone's feet that person will never marry, and that if you sit on a broom, you will get a boil on your bum.</p> <p>Why Bulgarians believe that putting your bag on the floor will render you penniless remains a mystery.<br /> <br /> <strong>Magicians, healers and clairvoyants</strong></p> <p>Magicians, clairvoyants and healers have always had their place in Bulgarian society. They were so prominent in the 19th century that their activities were strongly condemned and portrayed as the work of the Devil in church frescoes.</p> <p>As the above mentioned poll shows, however, this church-initiated propaganda did not work. Moreover, in the 1980s, while still under Communism, the belief in healers and clairvoyants took on a modern twist. Believe it or not, it was then that Soviet psychics who claimed to have the power to heal from a distance appeared on Bulgarian TV screens. When Communism collapsed, hordes of local healers and psychics appeared, most often on local cable networks, claiming to "help" anyone who was desperate enough to call the very expensive premium line.</p> <p>A particular type of healer is the <em>Hodzha</em>, a person who claims to be a Muslim cleric and who is believed to be able to predict the future, break particularly strong jinxes and black magic, and heal.<br /> <br /> <strong>Vanga</strong></p> <p>Vanga, the blind woman from Petrich (1911-1996), is the capo of clairvoyants in Bulgaria, a point of reference for anyone claiming some supernatural powers (if we had been given a buck every time a psychic was proclaimed the "New Vanga" we would have been able to take early retirement). People started to flock to Vanga for advice and to communicate with their dead relatives as early as the Second World War. Vanga's fame only grew under Communism, when she was appointed as a paid clairvoyant by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and was consulted by the party elite, including Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. After 1989, her fame skyrocketed, spread by the now free media, and so did the queues of people seeking her help. When she died, thousands of people, the then president included, attended her funeral.</p> <p>Ever since, the cult of Vanga and the belief that she could predict the future, speak with the dead and heal using natural ingredients, has only grown, helped by never-ending new prophesies attributed to her by people who claim to have been close to her. Vanga's international fame is particularly big in Russia, probably because she – or people who claim to be close to her – consistently predicted that Russia would rule the world. In the past couple of years, however, Western tabloids have taken a fancy to Baba Vanga, too, particularly during events like the war in Syria.</p> <p>The fact that Vanga had long predicted that the Third World War will start in Syria is indeed chilling. We can only hope that she was wrong about Russia.<br /> <br /> <strong>Extraterrestrials and conspiracies</strong></p> <p>At the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, helped by new technology and more contact with tin hats across the world, Bulgarians adopted a number of imported beliefs and superstitions. Telepathic contact with extraterrestrials was all the rage in the 1990s, exemplified by an event that unfolded in 1995. In that summer, some psychics claimed that they had been contacted by an alien race. The extraterrestrials, led by none lesser than their president, were eager to come and "save" Bulgaria. They would arrive, the psychics claimed, at Ruse Airport. On the scheduled date, 11 September 1995, thousands of Bulgarians gathered at the airport, with many more watching live on TV. Hours passed, and the crowd grew restless, but the spacecraft did not materialise. It was all the Bulgarians' fault, the psychics claimed, before being rescued from the angry crowd. The aliens were disappointed that the Bulgarian head-of-state was not there to meet them.</p> <p>In the 2000s, Bulgarians beliefs switched to internationally popular myths about Big Pharma conspiracies, Russian conspiracies, American conspiracies, Jews, reptiles, Flat Earth theories, and the anti-vax movement.</p> <p>You do not need to be concerned by this globalisation of superstition, however. Bulgarians will only allow their red threads to be removed from their cold, dead hands.</p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-139" hreflang="en">Issue 139</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=310&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="MpTjJmsqT33l95fy_QwC7O77eNFif0Bz6JEdAHBm7ag"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 04 May 2018 10:20:49 +0000 DimanaT 310 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/very-superstitious-310#comments FOR A COUPLE OF LIONS' HIDES https://vagabond.bg/index.php/couple-lions-hides-707 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">FOR A COUPLE OF LIONS&#039; HIDES</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 03/06/2018 - 15:12</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Prime Minister saves cubs from zoo</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Under GERB, Bulgaria's public has become accustomed to scandals of various magnitude that come and go about every second day, sometimes several times a day. Outrageous statements often generated by fake news make headlines for a few hours and electrify the public's attention only to be overshadowed by the next scandal that may be even more outrageous than the previous one. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov likes to put his hand (or his foot, as the situation warrants) in everything from police investigations to football and natural as well as man-made disasters, and the result is usually seen by many as callous at best and horrendous at worst. These scandals often question the existence of a genuine civil society in the Bulgaria outside of Facebook that is ready to act if the interest of the public so demands.</p> <p>What has been going on in recent weeks with the ado generated by the failure to approve the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence can easily outshine all of the previous year, but few "scandals" have been odder than Boyko Borisov's involvement with… two lion cubs.</p> <p>Two lion cubs? In the autumn of 2017 a lioness in the Razgrad city zoo gave birth to three cubs. One of them died as a result of substandard care and lack of proper conditions. The other two scrambled to survive.</p> <p>The Razgrad City Council, acting following pressure from citizens, decided to send Masoud and Terez to Sofia. In Sofia, a couple of NGOs, Four Paws and Wild Animals, took over and cared for the cubs for months.</p> <p>The plight of the duo grabbed the attention of the nation in an unprecedented outpour of sympathy and even cash donations. Yet Masoud and Terez were still at risk as this country lacks the equipment and expertise to handle baby wildlife. So, the two cubs would be sent to the Netherlands. Upon reaching maturity, they would be reintroduced to a lions' shelter in South Africa.</p> <p>However, the Razgrad City Council got other ideas. Its councillors approved a plan to donate Masoud and Terez to the zoo in… Pazardzhik – despite the fact that it too lacked the facilities to handle young lions. Razgrad's decision was backed by Environment Minister Neno Dimov. The usual media frenzy ensued, but with an unexpected twist. A major newspaper ran a surreal headline, "Green Octopus Steals Bulgarian Lions," as the "octopus" being viewed was the environmentalist movement collectively. A TV channel accused the environmentalists and animal welfare activists of trying to deprive Pazardzhik children from a pair of cute little lions. Social network trolls were activated. They suggested the wildlife welfare NGOs had a sinister plan to sell Masoud and Terez for "millions" of dollars to South Africa where the two, which belonged to Bulgaria and Bulgaria alone, would be hunted down by Western tourists.</p> <p>The NGOs responded by organising a rally and requesting Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to intervene personally. Following his unfailing propensity for spotting a chance to boost his own popularity, Borisov agreed. A few days later, Masoud and Terez landed in the Netherlands in spite of a previous refusal by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency to issue travel permits for the two lions.</p> <p>The lion cubs episode exemplifies two things. Neither of them is particularly complementary to Bulgaria, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency.</p> <p>A significant number of people rose up in arms to defend the lions, but their civic valour and manifested compassion was hardly a triumph for the Bulgarian civil society. Masoud and Terez garnered greater public support than far more pressing matters such as the fight against corruption, the low standard of living, the sorry state of the Bulgarian media under GERB, the insufficient funding for cancer medication and the inability or unwillingness of the current rulers to implement judicial reforms. Thus, the plight of the two lions only illuminated the deep division lines breaking Bulgarian society in 2018.</p> <p>And then there was Boyko Borisov's intervention. As it was actively sought by the protesters, it signalled another truism. In modern Bulgaria, the rule of law and the division of powers don't really matter. In order to get anything done in this country, you have to obtain the blessing of none lesser than the prime minister personally. If he senses a profit for himself or a chance to boost his standing, he will gladly comply.</p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-137" hreflang="en">Issue 137</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/261" hreflang="en">Boyko Borisov</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=707&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="F1LcSRP-G64_r9mOSoaR0OTcAFXG_NGUOAK6QiUINJE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 06 Mar 2018 13:12:52 +0000 DimanaT 707 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/couple-lions-hides-707#comments REMEMBERING 11/11/18 https://vagabond.bg/index.php/remembering-11-11-18-752 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">REMEMBERING 11/11/18</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:39</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Bulgaria's foreign community commemorates end of Great War in military cemeteries</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2020-06/military%20cemetery%20sofia.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/military%20cemetery%20sofia.jpg" width="800" height="533" alt="military cemetery sofia.jpg" loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month: 99 years ago, the moment when the Great War ended was perhaps chosen to be easy to remember. Back then, both the victors and the defeated wanted to ensure that the horrors of the conflict which had brought war on an industrial scale would never be forgotten or repeated.</p> <p>History has proved these hopes to be misplaced. Thirty-one years after 1918 began a war so devastating that it stripped the previous conflict of its macabre exclusivity. What had been called the Great War became just the First World War.</p> <p>However, the tradition of marking the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month has taken root. Veterans Day, Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day are all marked by the countries involved in that conflict, underlining the eternal message of the pointless carnage that took millions of lives.</p> <p>Bulgaria, which suffered heavily in the war and was on the losing side, also marks the event, although with less pomp. When Bulgarians think about the First World War, they think mostly of the humiliating Treaty of Neuilly that, on 27 November 1919, stripped their country of significant territories and imposed on it heavy reparations and limitations.</p> <p>Fighting either with or against the Bulgarians, a number of foreign nationals died in this country and were buried here.</p> <p>In commemoration of them the international community, led by the British Embassy, gathers in a remembrance ceremony on 11 November in the Sofia Central Cemetery. There, in neighbouring plots, are the remains of 170 British and Irish soldiers, 45 Germans, 199 Italians, 257 French, 464 Romanians, and 531 Serbians (the number includes those who died fighting Bulgaria in the 1912-1913 Balkan wars). Although there are other military cemeteries in Bulgaria, such as those in Plovdiv and Ruse, the one in Sofia is the largest and most impressive.</p> <p>The ceremony is attended by members of the diplomatic community and ordinary citizens, united in their desire to never forget or repeat the horrors of war, just as their predecessors did in 1918.</p> <p><img alt="military cemetery sofia" src="/images/stories/V133/27112010-3595.jpg" title="military cemetery sofia" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Sofia Central Cemetery has a British, German, French and Italian military sections</em></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-133" hreflang="en">Issue 133</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/forum/society" hreflang="en">BULGARIA SOCIETY</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=752&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="jLGJsok8hrJAvFV1ffMliGAMgRLoGGxxJkKzif1X-Sw"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 31 Oct 2017 12:39:22 +0000 DimanaT 752 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/index.php/remembering-11-11-18-752#comments