America for Bulgaria Foundation

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NANCY SCHILLER: PHILANTHROPY IN ACTION

Since her arrival four years ago Nancy Schiller has become a well-known personality through Bulgaria. Seen in tiny villages in northern Bulgaria and at major archaeological sites like the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis, from her offices in central Sofia to locations with difficult-to-pronounce names that aspire to have US-style marching bands Nancy Schiller has skilfully managed one of the largest and most important non-governmental organisations in this country.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 09:43
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SATIRE, MUSIC & TAIL-LESS CATS

Bulgaria is hardly on the list of the world's most famous carnival destinations such as Rio, Venice and New Orleans, and even less famous local ones such as the carnivals in Greece. Its distinctive kukeri, or mummers, dances are not always performed at the beginning of Lent, when carnivals are generally held.

A city in the Stara Planina mountains fills the gap: Gabrovo, a place famed for the locals' quirky sense of humour and telltale frugality.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 09:00
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WHO WERE CYRIL AND METHODIUS?

The image of two men, one young and sporting a dark beard and the other older and white-bearded, with books and parchments in their hands, are to be found all over Bulgaria. There are countless statues and posters, church murals and icons. Their images multiply on 24 May, when long processions of students crowd the central streets of every city carrying posters, usually decorated with flowers.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:50
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FLOWER TURNS BULGARIA RED

Travelling around the countryside in Bulgaria is a true joy in late spring and early summer, when the days are long, the sun is bright, and lush greenery brings life to the empty villages and abandoned industrial ruins that still define the local landscape outside the big cities. One particular flower makes travelling even more of a joy, as here, there and everywhere, in the fields and around ruined buildings and beside roads and railway tracks bloom blindingly red, and sometimes orange and white, wild poppies.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:41
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EASTER IN RILA MONASTERY

The chatter of the small group of people at the gate of Rila Monastery in the cold spring evening is of the sort you can hear anywhere and anytime: hellos, how-do-you-dos, smalltalk, but neither the place, nor the people nor the occasion are ordinary. Monks in habits, practicing Eastern Orthodox Christians and a couple of clueless foreign tourists are gathered at the gate of Bulgaria's most revered monastery and most visited UNESCO-site long after business hours to wait for a car to arrive.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 10:25
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RHODOPE'S 'SACRED TRIANGLE'

Triangles fascinate the imagination. Throughout history, the geometric shape defined by Euclides as three points that do not lie on the same line has been laden with religious and spiritual symbolism. It has also been connected to topography, such as the Egyptians pyramids, the so-called ley lines, and the Bermuda triangle, supposedly marking energy vortices.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 10:22
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FASCINATION OF OLD AIRPLANES

You do not need to be particularly interested in old aircraft to enjoy the Burgas Aviation Museum, but visiting it could lead to a new interest in your life. Established in 1998 as a part of Burgas Airport, in 2017 the exhibition was revamped to appeal to the modern visitor.

The collection is a good introduction to the nuts-and-bolts of aviation, and features nine aircraft that were in service during the time of Communism, when the country relied heavily on Soviet planes.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 10:18
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TRAVELLING TO BULGARIA'S EXTREMES

In the past two centuries, geography, politics and moments of national triumph and tragedy have defined the borders of Bulgaria. The current territory of the Bulgarian nation appeared after the Berlin Congress in 1879, stretched and contracted during and after several wars in 1885-1886, 1912-1913 and 1915-1918, and peacefully set into its current shape in 1940.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 10:11
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YAMBOL'S MUMMERS

Situated in the plains in southeastern Bulgaria Yambol is generally off any tourist map. Few Bulgarians would visit unless they have grandparents or friends living in one of the most depressed post-Communist cities in the country. Except for a weekend in late February/early May when the town host Kukerlandia, when a major festival of mummers attracts national and, increasingly, international interest and participation.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 10:00
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BULGARIA'S STREET CATS

Seeing your car surrounded by a crowd of people, peering inside it and crouching down to look underneath it, is rarely a good sign, even in a small place like Malko Tarnovo, the only town in the Bulgarian part of the Strandzha mountains. But this was what greeted the Vagabond team this summer, on leaving a 30-minute meeting.

"You have a cat in the car!," the crowd said with indignation, because the day was hot and the windows were up.

"No, we do not!," we protested and that was the truth. None of us owned a cat.

Mon, 12/23/2019 - 09:57
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RAIDERS OF TREASURE MOUND

Large and small, isolated or in groups, you will see mounds all over Bulgaria: atop rolling hills and amid farming fields, by old village graveyards and motorways, even on the outskirts of Sofia. The ancient Thracians who lived in the Bulgarian lands between the 1st millennium BC and the 6th century AD created most of them. They buried their dead there, interring noblemen and women with expensive personal possessions. In many cases the tombs were very impressive, such as those in Kazanlak, Aleksandrovo and Sboryanovo.

Mon, 12/23/2019 - 09:43
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FORTIFIED BULGARIA, PART 2

Such examples are the fortification structures excavated at a salt-producing town near Provadiya and a fortified settlement now in Ticha Dam, near Shumen, both belonging to the 5th millennium BC. Archaeologists interpret these two sites as early evidence for a stratified society whose wealth and resources attracted incursions and invasions.

Discovering new fortifications sounds great, but most of the fortresses in the Bulgarian lands are in a condition that can excite only an archaeologist. Few have survived in a state fit for Instagrammable photos.

Mon, 12/23/2019 - 09:21
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FACING CHRISTMAS IN YAMBOL

In the dull winter light of 25 December, the grey streets of Kargona neighbourhood in Yambol look drab as usual. This is a suburb of low houses and sidewalks blocked by parked car, bare trees, dust and cheap stores, a defining feature of much of Bulgaria outside hipster cafes and flashy shopping malls in the big cities. Yet, come Christmas, Kargona is like nowhere else in Bulgaria. There are scores of people who would rather celebrate in the streets than stay at home and watch TV, overeat, engage in family arguments or try to mitigate generations-old feuds.

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 15:43
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FORTIFIED BULGARIA, PART 1

Why there are no old forts and fortresses in Bulgaria on the scale of Romania, Greece, Italy or the Western Balkans is a controversial issue. The sort of answers you will be getting will depend on who does the talking. Some will assert the "Turks" destroyed everything when they ruled over these territories in the 14-19th centuries. Others will, more level-headedly, point out that when the Ottomans were in control the Bulgarians lands were no longer a border zone and consequently forts and fortresses were no longer needed for defence purposes.

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 15:23
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10 OUT OF 100

One of the most enduring tourism movements that several generations of inquisitive Bulgarian travellers have fond memories of is called 100 National Tourism Sites. It started all the way back in 1966 and, with significant modifications, continues to this day. Essentially, travellers are encouraged to visit selected attractions throughout Bulgaria and have their membership booklets stamped. In the past, whoever got 50 stamps was awarded a bronze badge.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 14:04
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