In 2008 we published East of Constantinople/Travels in Unknown Turkey, a travelogue about some of the highlights of one of Europe's most amazing countries. From the Iranian border and what some still think is the remnants of Noah's Ark to places like Mount Nemrut, Şanlıurfa, Cappadocia and Trabzon, we transversed eastern Turkey several times over to be able to come up with a product that still captures the imagination of thousands of readers. In Bulgarian only.
East of Constantinople/Travels in Unknown Turkey
In 2009 we published a small book entitled Wall-to-Wall/Poetry Europe. This was supposed to be a guide to a major project in which the embassies of all EU member states plus Turkey participated. The aim of the project? To decorate some of Sofia's empty walls with snippets from a wide range of poets from European countries.
These included Constantine Cavafy (Greece), Jaan Kaplinski (Estonia), Odilon-Jean Périer (Belgium), Piet Hein (Denmark), Wolf Harranth (Austria), Marcelijus Martinaitis (Lithuania), Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden), Liz Lochhead (UK), Máirtín Ó Direáin (Ireland) and Jan Hanlo (The Netherlands). They were in the company of poets from other European countries that hardly need any introduction: Dante, Schiller, Hristo Botev and Mihai Eminescu. The project had been initiated by the Dutch Embassy in Sofia. The book, which includes short bios of the represented poets, is in over 20 languages (plus English and Bulgarian) – a linguistic treat!
Our Guide to Jewish Bulgaria appeared in 2011. This book takes on to the relatively well-known Jewish heritage sites in Sofia, Plovdiv, Samokov, Pazardzhik, Ruse and Shumen, but it also detours off the beaten track to the lesser and sometimes unexpected sites of Jewish interest in Vidin, Lom, Silistra, Dobrich, Varna, Burgas, Yambol, Stara Zagora, Dupnitsa, Kyustendil, Gotse Delchev and many others.
Richly illustrated with superb photography and voicing independent research and opinion, A Guide to Jewish Bulgaria was designed to be a journey through both territory and time: illuminating the backgrounds while directing through the topography. Many of the monuments described are hard to find and in various stages of disrepair. Some are poignant, others are stomach-churning. But once discovered, they hold a reward as they open up the gateways to a fascinating if largely forgotten part of Europe's Jewish heritage. In English.
Bulgaria spent 500 years of its history under the Ottomans and the country is still dotted with various remnants of its Ottoman past. Still, there is surprisingly little information about all the bridges, mosques, public buildings, water fountains, forts and schools that the Ottomans built. Amazingly from a Western standpoint, the Ottoman legacy in this country is still controversial.
We took the challenge, at the end of 2011, and we wrote and published, with the assistance of noted historian Professor Hristo Matanov, A Guide to Ottoman Bulgaria: two versions of it, in Bulgarian and in English. Within a few months, it sold out – so we did a second run, at the beginning of 2012.
At the moment we have a small stock of A Guide to Ottoman Bulgaria in Bulgarian only. The English version is out of print.
Encouraged by the success of Ottoman Bulgaria, we went deeper into Bulgaria's heritage since the 15th Century. Whilst Ottoman Bulgaria focused on material heritage – mainly sites and buildings, our next title was supposed to deal with the non-material heritage of the Ottomans: music and dance, language, cuisine, religion... We invited a number of Bulgarian scholars to participate: Yordanka Bibina, Radko Popov, Orlin Sabev, Doroteya Dobreva, Bozhidar Aleksiev, Ivanka Vlaeva. This is how The Turks of Bulgaria came into being, at the end of 2012.
The book was so novel in Bulgaria that a group of "patriots," including some scholars, snatched the chance to brand us "traitors" and demand the book be banned. Bulgaria in the 21st Century is rarely at peace with its own past... Like A Guide to Ottoman Bulgaria, The Turks of Bulgaria came out in two versions: one in Bulgarian and one in English. Both are still available.
In 2013, we started a very interesting cooperation with the American Research Center in Sofia. The result of this has been three titles: Medieval Melnik by Elena Kostova (2013), Memories of Everyday Life During Socialism in the Town of Rousse, Bulgaria by Dilyana Ivanova (2014) and The Jews of Karnobat by Zvi Keren (2014). These books are quite different from what we had done previously as they are purely academic researches in history and archaeology. We are very happy with them, and went on to publish the research papers of ARCS, called – you've guessed it! – PARCS. The first volume of PARCS is already out. In early 2015 we will be bringing out the second. All of those are in English.
Earlier in 2014 we did a small book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of Sofia's landmark buildings, the Residence of the British Ambassador. The British Residence, as it is popularly known in Sofia, is a gem. Situated on a major road in Central Sofia it has undergone several reconstructions since its original inauguration in 1914, but its spirit has remained unchanged: exquisitely British.
The residence is increasingly used for social functions in addition to being of course the home of the British ambassador and his family. The British Residence book is in English and Bulgarian.
In December 2014 we are bringing out another major title: Hidden Treasures of Bulgaria, Vol. 2. With it we we take the reader to lesser or completely unknown places in Bulgaria that fully live up to the promise of being "hidden treasures." Often located off – or off-off – the beaten path, they are an integral part of what makes today's Bulgaria such a fascinating travel destination. Many of the rock formations, monasteries, bridges, Jewish cemeteries and abandoned border zone outposts are not to be found in any guidebook, and neither are some of the events and festivals described and photographed in detail here.
To get to see them, one needs to know that they exist and how to get to them, and to understand what they are about one needs to be familiar with the background.
This book provides both. Hidden Treasures of Bulgaria is the result of many years of travel and research through all parts of Bulgaria, from the western Rhodope to Shabla, and from the estuary of the Timok River on the Danube to Bulgaria's far-flung Rezovo on the southern Black Sea coast. We feel it is an indispensable source of information about everything that travellers are likely to want to know about this country – and more. It is a tableau vivant of where Bulgaria stands at the beginning of the 21st Century: with one foot entrenched in its sometimes controversial past but with the other making determined strides towards its European future. In English.
The road ahead? In 2015 we will be publishing two more guidebooks, one about Bulgaria's Thracian heritage and one about its Roman heritage. Coming to a bookshop near you...