Issue 90

GYPSY BRIDES MARKET

Socialising with strangers in bars, hanging out with friends and colleagues, going on blind dates, having a dating site account: finding a partner in modern Bulgaria is like anywhere else in the West, but there is a community where people meet prospective spouses in a much more traditional way.

Every year, the Kalaydzhii, a distinct group of Bulgaria Gypsies, organise a Brides Fair.

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VISIT TUNISIA

If you take an early morning stroll through downtown Tunis, you are bound to immediately note three things. Forget the horror stories of violent demos, ruthless police, tear gas and the sort of stuff the international media likes to propagate. Tunis in particular and the whole of Tunisia in general are remarkably safe.

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MATTHIAS HOEPFNER

For the past nearly five years he's been in Bulgaria. German Ambassador Matthias Hoepfner has gained notoriety for his candour and outspokenness on issues that other Western ambassadors have chosen to eschew. In spite of – or perhaps because of – his long career in the German Foreign Ministry, Matthias Hoepfner knows how to do two seemingly self-contradictory things: remain diplomatic "to the backbone" and at the same time hit the nail right on the head.

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MOVABLE EASTER

Last year, an early-April trip to Poland provided an interesting insight into the calendar system. Heavy snow still covered the streets and temperatures were unusually low, causing concerns about climate change and the well-being of the storks who had already returned, only to find frozen fields and lakes deprived of any food. In Poland, as well as in the Catholic and Protestant parts of the world, Easter had already been celebrated at the very end of March, and Easter bunnies made of snow were still sitting in the gardens of some creative people.

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CAN BOYKO BE STUPID, OR IS HE JUST PLAIN STUPID?

Barekov, a former TV presenter who was a staunch and exceptionally outspoken supporter of Borisov while he was in power, unexpectedly turned against him shortly before the 2013 snap election. A few months ago he left the media world altogether and founded a new political entity, called Bulgaria Without Censorship, which some pollsters say may enter the next parliament. At the present time, Barekov is an exceptionally outspoken foe of his former patron.

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NUKES UP, NUKES DOWN

The road is narrow and straight, the fields of wheat and corn around spread far and wide under an endless sky. Here and there, huge, recently repainted metal road sculptures indicate that nearby, hidden behind lines of poplars, villages exist.

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SOFIA IN THE DETAILS

The Aleksandr Nevskiy cathedral and the Yellow Brick Road, the Largo and NDK: tourists in Sofia tend to gravitate around these focal points of interest. The more adventurous explore the multiethnic bustle around the Women's Market, and everyone is into discovering Sofia's restaurants and nightlife.

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'RED' FORT BY A 'BLACK' RIVER

In Bulgarian, cherven with the stress on the second "e" means red. When pronounced with the stress on the first "e," however, the name of the colour becomes the name of one of the best places in Bulgaria to be when spring is in full bloom and the unbearable dreariness of urban life overwhelms you.

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HOLY MOUNTAIN

Many means of reliving the past – historical reenactments, books or movies – rely on the strength of your imagination, but there is a place where an almost complete immersion in the Middle Ages is still possible.

This place is the monastic republic of Agion Oros, or Holy Mountain, in Greece. The lifestyle has hardly changed in the past 10 centuries, when the entry of women and female animals onto its territory was forbidden. Situated on the easternmost tip of the Chalkidiki peninsula, the monastic community is an easy one-day trip from Bulgaria.

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EVERYTHING HAPPENS AS IT DOES, An excerpt

This story considers itself the story of everyone. I don't know if this is true. You will be the one to decide.

I myself am certain that all stories are love stories, so I have refrained from classifying it as such.

It is simply the story of women and men who are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, loved ones and friends... or, in a nutshell, of people who are tigers and lions, oranges and lemons.

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FORTRESS BULGARIA?

If someone wants to cross a wall, they will – regardless of the obstacles. This is an adage every wall-building government in the world knows – ever since the times of the Great Wall of China and, more recently, the Berlin Wall and the West Bank Wall. Bulgaria seems to be catching up.

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