Issue 149

CREATING SOFIA'S DIAMOND-SHAPED MARVEL

Few buildings are able to grab the attention of the passer-by and to become an iconic part of the cityscape. Ellipse Center is such a building. Rising at the entrance of Sofia at Tsarigradsko Shose Boulevard, this distinctive leaning tower with diamond-shaped mirrored façade cast its spell over passers-by long before it welcomed its first tenants.

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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BULGARIA'S 'RIGHT WING'?

Twenty-nine years after the fall of Communism, Bulgaria stands more disunited than ever. Bulgarians are split not only between rich and poor; between those who can afford to pay their electricity bills and those who can't; between the people in the derelict villages and the people in Sofia and the large towns; between those who speak proper, Sofianite Bulgarian and those who don't; and between those who are favoured by GERB because they pay their dues and those who are out of favour and get their businesses destroyed.

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A DUNE IS NOT A DUNE

The sort of attitude Bulgarians have to their tiny stretch of seaside can be illustrated with an incident at the beginning of 2019, when excavator operators levelled a huge sand dune near Kavatsite, south of Sozopol. The men were detained, and explained they had been paid a fee of 1,000 leva by a "third party" to finish off what nature had created thousands of years ago. Nothing can be done about this, explained Angelkova, as the construction permit had been issued prior to 2008, when the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast Act was adopted.

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BULGARIA'S TOP 10 SMALL TOWNS

Small-town Bulgaria is a diverse place. Some of the towns are well known to tourists while others are largely neglected by outsiders. You can find them all over this country, both in the mountains and on the plains, from Bulgaria's sea coast to its western border. What unites them is the feeling of genuine discovery, the charming details, a boon for anyone tired of the bustle of the larger cities.

 

Tryavna

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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.

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BORDER ZONE VILLAGE

Of the many villages in Bulgaria that can be labeled "a hidden treasure," few can compete with Matochina. Its old houses are scattered on the rolling hills of Bulgaria's southeast, overlooked by a mediaeval fortress. At night, the horizon glows with the lights of Edirne, in Turkey.

Matochina is close to Svilengrad, but few people visit, mainly due to inertia. The village is on the border with Turkey and still preserves an atmosphere of isolation: under Communism only permit holders were allowed to visit.

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SPELL OF SPETSES SURVIVES

The villa on the hill looks as un-Greek as I expected from the quote of its most famous guest, an English author once declared to be one of the most important writers in the English language. The building is too far from the road to see in detail, yet I find myself trying to discern the distant music of a virginal coming from the abode of a mysterious man who seemingly posses inner knowledge of and power over humanity's dark side.

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SHADOW MAKERS, An excerpt from a novel

When she looks up, Finn sees that Murphy is on his porch, feeding the magpie family again. Finn frowns. She hadn't heard the birds make a sound. She wonders if Murphy has been watching her, and feels embarrassed, now, about the things she's done in chalk. But when Murphy sees her watching he smiles as if seeing her for the first time today. He beckons her over, and Finn leaves her chalk pieces and walks across slowly, side-on to the porch so as not to frighten away the magpies he's feeding.

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THE WORLD IN MY PLATE

Walking around central Sofia in the couple of past years means to immerse yourself in a cosmopolitain atmosphere: the sidewalks are crowded by people from all continents and the lively conversations of Greek, Israeli, Indian, Italian, Turkish, Spanish and Serbian tourists mingle with tour guides' explanations in Chinese, Japanese and Russian. English, in all of its varieties, is spoken everywhere.

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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.

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