Bulgarian art

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WHO WAS GEO MILEV?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 14:15
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IF BULGAR KHANS WERE SCI-FI CHARACTERS...

Japanese tourists just love the Founders of Bulgaria monument in Shumen, the woman in the ticket office says. The Japanese, the lady continues, are smitten. They stare and stare, and only when they get over their initial shock, do they take out their cameras. The lady at the city council-run ticket office was equally bewildered by the reaction of the Japanese until one day a guide explained.

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:59
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COMMUNISM'S FLYING SAUCER

Bulgaria has yet to produce an architectural site capable of generating a high-degree wow-factor, with the likely exception of Sofia's NDK, Shumen's Founders of the Bulgarian State monument and the urbanisation solutions seen at Sunny Beach. Yet, the country does have a strong contender for world fame in a new, but growing field of interest: abandoned, ghoulish, straight-out-of-a-dystopian-movie-set constructions visited by folks interested in off-off-off-the-beaten-track tourism and captivated by anything from extraterrestrials to Goths, Communists and urban decay.

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 12:48
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FALLEN MESSERSCHMITT

There is hardly a visitor to Sofia who has not crossed the vast square in front of the National Palace of Culture, or NDK, and not gasped at the sight of this strange structure that looks as if coming straight out of an urban nightmare piece of sci-fi.

Rising 35 metres from the ground, the tall thing curls somehow at an angle in the air, ending up looking somewhat like a wing. Ghostly human-like figures crawl and pose on its granite surface, where holes gape, revealing the rusting skeleton of steel.

Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:41
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