Issue 126

5 CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PRE- AND POST-ELECTION BULGARIA

The result is known: Boyko Borisov won the 26 March snap election which he himself had called in late in 2016, causing a political crisis, prolonged and acrimonious public debate, and increased expenditure for taxpayers. His party, GERB, garnered over 33 percent of the vote, thus becoming the largest party in parliament. Second is Borisov’s "arch enemy," the BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party.

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SPOT THE DIFFERENCES?

Borisov, whose candidate, Tsetska Tsacheva lost bitterly to Ret Gen Rumen Radev in the presidential election last year thus prompting her boss to resign and invoke a snap election, appears stern as ever, wearing a general's uniform and posing in front of the Bulgarian national flag. Before taking up politics Borisov was in the protection business, then became this country's top policeman.

Some skeptics immediately drew visual comparisons to Gen Augusto Pinochet, the Latin American dictator who ruled Chile with an iron fist  during the 1970s and 1980s.

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BORDER: A JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF EUROPE

Kapka Kassabova was born and raised in Bulgaria, spent her late teens and twenties in New Zealand and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. She started writing poetry as a schoolgirl, but turned to fiction and non-fiction many years ago – in English, her adopted language. Her narrative non-fiction books, including Street Without a Name and Twelve Minutes of Love, as well as novels such as Villa Pacifica have earned her an international reputation as being one of the freshest literary voices of her generation.

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FLOWER POWER: WHY PALM SUNDAY IS ONE OF BULGARIA'S MOST POPULAR FEASTS

Welcome to Tsvetnitsa, or Flower Day, one of Bulgaria's most beloved times of the year.

Tsvetnitsa – or Vrabnitsa, Willow Day, – is the local name for Palm Sunday, the feast celebrating Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. Early in the morning, priests all over Bulgaria bless branches of willow – a regional substitute for the palm branches laid on the streets of Jerusalem in the New Testament story. Then they distribute them to churchgoers throughout the day; it is believed that having at least one branch of blessed willow at home will protect the household from all evil.

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FOR WHOM THE FIREWORKS BLAZE

Midnight was approaching, but for the moment it seemed that Easter would never come. On the top of the hill, in front of the church whose silhouette is known to every tourist in this country, a priest was well into a long and tedious sermon on faith, the importance of unification, and a bit of current (meaning 2016) politics, and he showed no signs of being near the end.

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SOFIA'S HIDDEN FLEA MARKET

Once they were the haunt of those who did not have enough disposable income to buy new stuff. They also attracted collectors, fringe cultures, and optimists believing that they would find a lost Rembrandt among all the knick-knacks. With the advent of cheap, disposable fashion (thanks, China), mass travel and mass hipsterisation, however, those with little cash moved to the malls, and the joy of finding some vintage clothing, or a 1960s piece of furniture that would look great in the living room went mainstream.

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MOUNTAIN OF TOWERS

Their song was strange, three different voices weaved into a single melody that sounded as if from another time – and its effect was hardly due to the strong homemade Chacha, or brandy, guests are treated to here.

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WAITING FOR THE ELECTRICITY, An excerpt from a novel

In the beginning, when God was distributing the land to all the nations, we Georgians missed the meeting. The next morning we looked around and realized we were homeless. "Hey!" we shouted to God. "What about our land?"

"Where were you last night?" He asked. "You missed the meeting. I already gave away all the land."

"We were drinking!" we cried out. "We were toasting Your name!"

God was so pleased with us that He gave us the land He was saving for Himself. That’s why we are supposed to relax and enjoy the beauty of God’s earth.

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GO GREECE, FOR THE SUMMER

Only 190-kilometre drive separate Sofia from Kulata, the most popular border crossing with Greece. The country is blessed with Mediterranean climate. The summer is hot, sunny and dry, and it is more than guaranteed that the weather will not suddenly turn bad for several days in a row during your vacation – the average number of sunny days in the country is 250. As a result of concurrence of geographical and historical circumstances, Greece has a coastline of 13,676 km – incomparably more than Bulgaria's 354-kilometre Black Sea coast.

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