VAGABOND FEATURES

vanga monument

RUSSIA BRINGS ON... VANGA

The future does not look bright according to Vanga, the notorious blind clairvoyant who died in 1996 but is still being a darling of tabloids internationally, especially in Russia. In 2022, virtual reality will take over, famine will ravage India and earthquakes, tsunamis and floods will hit Asia and Australia. Water shortages in megapolises will incur political upheaval while a virus released by the melting Siberian permafrost will start a new pandemic. Aliens will arrive on an asteroid.

What about the war in Ukraine?

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 13:01
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The 23rd infantry battalion of Shipka positioned north of Bitola, Macedonia, during the Great War

FINDING ANTIP KOEV OBUSHTAROV

In early 2021 veteran Kazanlak-based photographer Alexander Ivanov went to the Shipka community culture house called Svetlina, founded in 1861, to inspect "some negatives" that had been gathering the dust in cardboard boxes. The boxes were donated to the culture house in 1995. Previously, they had been stashed at the Chirpanliev House in Shipka in the course of 26 years.

What Alexander Ivanov discovered in those boxes changed his life – and the story of what little there is to 20th century Bulgarian photography.

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 15:06
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soviet army monument sofia ukraine

MONUMENTAL WOES

One of the attractions of the Bulgarian capital, the 1950s monument to the Red Army, may fascinate visitors wanting to take in a remnant of the Cold War, but many locals consider it contentious. Recently Traycho Traykov, who was an economy minister for Boyko Borisov and is now mayor of the Sofia borough of Sredets, voiced his determination to have the monument "disassembled" and some of its many effigies of Russian soldiers and welcoming Bulgarians placed in a museum.

Fri, 03/25/2022 - 09:00
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Monument to Hristo Botev in his native Kalofer

WHO WAS HRISTO BOTEV?

Every 2 June, at exactly noon, the civil defence systems all over Bulgaria are switched on. The sirens wail for a minute. A minute when many people stop whatever they are doing and stand still.

The sirens are the noisiest part of the commemorative events for the death of Hristo Botev (1848-1876), arguably the greatest poet Bulgaria ever produced. He died, along with many of his fellow revolutionaries, in a battle with the Ottoman forces, while trying to start an uprising in Bulgaria's northwest.

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:06
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st george day bulgaria

DAY OF ST GEORGE BULGARIAN STYLE

Bulgarians celebrate St George's Day, or Gergyovden, with enormous enthusiasm, both officially and in private. A bank holiday dedicated to valour, the Bulgarian аrmy and shepherds, 6 May is when some priests bless military banners while others in churches and monasteries consecrate lambs to be slaughtered and eaten communally. The army stages a parade in central Sofia and Bulgarian families gather to feast on lamb and celebrate the name-day of the ubiquitous Georgis and Gerganas among their ranks, all named after St George.

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:52
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Shopska salad is the ultimate rakiya companion

HOW TO ENJOY RAKIYA

The easiest way for a foreigner to raise a Bulgarian brow concerns a sacrosanct pillar of national identity: rakiya, the spirit that Bulgarians drink at weddings, funerals, for lunch, at protracted dinners; because they are sad or joyful, and sometimes because they do not have anything better to do. Inexperienced foreigners tend to make three types of faux pas when they try rakiya for the first time. Some declare after a sip that they would rather have a glass of wine.

Thu, 12/31/2020 - 11:55
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SOFIA'S PARTY HOUSE

"Where is the parliament?" A couple of months ago anyone asking this question in Sofia would have been pointed to a butter-yellow neoclassical building at one end of the Yellow Brick Road. Imaginatively, it resembles the Paris Opera House and has the Belgian national motto, "Unity Makes Strength," above its main façade, looking onto the statue of a 19th century Russian tsar on horseback. This was the place where Bulgarian MPs used to gather to do whatever they were supposed to do.

Fri, 10/30/2020 - 11:48
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Magdalina Stancheva.jpg

WHO WAS MAGDALINA STANCHEVA?

Walking around Central Sofia is like walking nowhere else, notwithstanding the incredibly uneven pavements. A mixture of buildings in a range of time periods and styles define the Bulgarian capital: Roman fortifications and early-Christian buildings rub walls with medieval churches, former Ottoman mosques and fine fin-de-siècle residential houses. Over these loom monstrous buildings in the Stalinist Baroque style and soulless glass-and-concrete concoctions built after the 1990s.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 08:45
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SCHOLARS AND RADICALS

When a Bulgarian TV crew came to our village in northeastern Bulgaria to shoot a beer advert they wanted British people in the film, so we appeared as ourselves. The image they portrayed in the 30-second clip is cosy and crafty, and shows the British incomers playing a natural part in village life. I am happy to say that this image is true, as all of us have been warmly welcomed here since day one.

Mon, 12/23/2019 - 09:48
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Lt John Dudley Crouchley, 1944.jpg

LONG ROAD HOME FOR LT CROUCHLEY

During most of the Second World War, Bulgaria and the United States were enemies. In 1943-1944 Allied aircrafts bombed major Bulgarian cities. The Bulgarian air forces shot some of these down, and their crews were sent to a designated POW camp near Shumen, in northeastern Bulgaria. In September 1944, when it was already clear that Nazi Germany and its Bulgarians allies would lose the war, then Bulgarian government ordered the closure of the POW camp.

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 09:51
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WHAT'S YOUR AUNT TO YOUR NEPHEW ANYWAY?

Happy families may be alike, unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, but in Bulgaria all these come with a twist: a plethora of hard-to-pronounce names for every maternal and paternal aunt, uncle and in-law that can possibly exist.

Ask any Bulgarian how their recent family gathering went and the answer will probably sound something like this: "A disaster. My Badzhanak got into an argument with my Tashta, my Strinka showed up with her annoying Vuyna, then my Shurey got completely tanked and my sister was really upset."

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 09:22
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french soldiers monument svishtov.jpg

FRANCE IN BULGARIA

Sofia is awash with English signs and logos, but here and there a French name pops up: a central street is called Léandre le Gay, schools are named Alphonse de Lamartine and Victor Hugo, a metro station is known as Frédéric Joliot-Curie. On noticing this, you may be reminded of the words of the late Bulgarian president Zhelyu Zhelev who famously stated that Bulgarians were Francophones. His remarks hold some truth: before English took over as the lingua franca, mastering French was obligatory for the local elite and those who aspired to join it.

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 10:26
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buzludzha.jpg

WHAT TO DO WITH BULGARIA'S FLYING SAUCER?

During the past 20 years Bulgaria has gained notoriety with an unusual tourist attraction. No, it is not the Kazanlak roses, not the mushrooming "medieval" fortresses being erected from scratch with EU money. It is a former Communist "house-monument," perched on a mountain within the Balkan range, that is inevitably in the top three of the various Strange Tourist Attractions sites on the Internet.

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:42
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stambolov monument.jpg

WHO WAS STEFAN STAMBOLOV?

Bulgaria's news cycle nowadays consists largely of real and imaginary scandals that grab the public attention for a while before being buried under a heap of new scandals. In July, however, a small event squeezed through the cracks and made some short-lived noise.

The tomb of politician Stefan Stambolov (1856-1895) in the Sofia Central Cemetery was vandalised. Its bronze bust was stolen and the pediment was damaged.

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 13:07
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koprivshtitsa rebelion bridge.jpg

BRIDGES OF FREEDOM

History sometimes moves in mysterious ways, as indicated by the story of the role two bridges played in two revolutions, a century and an ocean apart.

Most of the tourists visiting Koprivshtitsa, a town of beautiful traditional houses in the Sredna Gora mountains, pause at a certain bridge. Small and humpbacked, it does not look that important.

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 12:35
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