Famous Bulgarians

VANGA GOES GLOBAL

As 2015 was drawing to a close and the unravelling conflict in the Middle East (the ISIS, the refugees, the airstrikes, Russia, Turkey, the EU, etc, etc) spiralled deeper into a state that can best be described with expletives, the name of a Bulgarian suddenly hit the international news.

It was Vanga, the blind clairvoyant who died on 11 August 1996.

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PECULIARITIES OF VRATSA

In Bulgaria, there is only one museum besides the archaeology and national history ones in Sofia where you can see a great Thracian treasure in its (almost) full ancient glory. No, this museum is not in Varna, nor in Plovdiv or Stara Zagora.

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IN LEVSKI'S FOOTSTEPS

Vasil Ivanov Kunchev aka Vasil Levski (1837-1873), is probably Bulgaria's greatest national hero: a dedicated revolutionary who created a clandestine network of secret cells to foment rebellion and free Bulgarian lands from the Ottomans. He never saw the fulfilment of his ideal, as he was caught, tried and executed before an uprising broke out, and his followers never managed to resurrect the organisation he had meticulously set up.

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DAN KOLOFF

To be a wrestler in modern-day Bulgaria is a somewhat controversial profession. Memories of the early 1990s, when former wrestlers, or bortsi, became the thugs, or mutri of the then fledgling Bulgarian mafia, are still fresh.

Yet, at the centre of the mountain village of Sennik, near Sevlievo, a statue of a man with trunk-like legs and wide chest stands as proof that a wrestler can deservedly be also a national hero.

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BRIDGE AT BYALA

Every day thousands of people pass by one of Bulgaria's most remarkable old bridges which spans the Yantra River near Byala, in the region of Ruse. Few, however, pay any attention to the elegant 19th Century structure. The bridge is close to the main road to Ruse and Bucharest, but the new bridge over the Yantra there is so awkward that it has witnessed many sometimes lethal accidents. Extreme caution is recommended, so most drivers never pay any attention to the surroundings.

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WHO WAS VASIL LEVSKI?

Assert that you agree with, like, respect, adore and pray to Vasil Levski (1837-1873), Bulgaria's greatest national hero, and you are likely to get away with almost anything. Levski's portrait hangs in classrooms and factories, in police stations and, sometimes, even in private houses. Levski regards us from postage stamps and T-shirts. There is hardly a town or village in Bulgaria that does not have at least one street named after him.

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DIMITROV FALLEN

It is the autumn of 1898. A pastor climbs with heavy footsteps down from the pulpit. A minute earlier his sermon had been interrupted. Girls are sobbing and crying, distressed by the sardonic laughter and loud voice of a young man. The pastor throws out the drunken troublemaker who continues ranting and raving in the street.

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THE DAY OF THE LION

On 19 February every year many Bulgarians gather in central Sofia, in the square encircled by the Serdika Hotel, the Foreign Art Gallery and the Faculty of Journalism. If you happen to be in the area you will probably be confronted by strict security as President Parvanov will be in attendance, standing before a line of elite troops and laying wreaths at a small monument in the middle of the square.

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