GOOD TO KNOW

OFFROAD MADNESS

Spring adrenaline often needs to find an outlet, and on 20-21 April you have the perfect excuse to let it all out. For two days Hadzhidimitrovo Village, near Yambol, will host Tundzha Trail, one of craziest 4WD competitions. The event is a part of the Bulgarian championship and is organised by Yambol 4x4 Extreme Club and Tundzha Municipality. Though the championship has run for 12 years, this is the first time Hadhzidimitrovo will host it.

The competition has competitive trials, each of them has nine zones with six gates. Participants have 12 minutes to pass through each gate.

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EMBASSY RECIPES

Emma Hopkins OBE was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Bulgaria in May 2015. Since then, she has been exploring Bulgaria, its people, culture, landmarks and, last but not least, its cuisine. She openly professes her love for Bulgarian food and adds with a smile: "I prefer Bulgarian vegetables, because they are more delicious than UK ones."

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TRANSPORT FOR SOFIA?

"Do I feel lucky today?" This popular movie tag could easily apply when considering whether or not to chance the public transport network in Sofia. The experience can be something of a roller-coaster ride, and depends on so many variables that no two trips are alike.

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IN FOR A RIDE

A French girl emerges from Sofia Airport and, before she even looks round for a taxi, she is bombarded with offers of a ride into the city. Some even reach for the luggage in her hands and inform her insistently in broken English that they will give her the best possible price. The flustered girl picks one of the men in dingy track suits and lets him lead her to the yellow car, not suspecting that she is about to be ripped off to the tune of tens of euro for the short trip to the city centre. This scenario unfolds several times a day.

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BUYING PROPERTY IN BULGARIA

I’m reading “The English Neighbour” at the moment, a book about an Englishman who moves to a quiet Bulgarian village. Many people had recommended it to me.

It’s very amusing, and I’m learning slang words that I would never come across in my formal lessons. It's well worth reading, or watching when it comes out on Bulgarian National Television in September.

My heart fell, however, when the Englishman in question got into a property dispute. Sadly this is an all too familiar occurrence. I receive at least one letter on property issues every week, and sometimes several.

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GETTING A JOB

According to the National Employment Agency, Bulgaria's official unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. Eurostat, however, has produced different data, stating that in June 2011 the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent, compared to 10 percent a year earlier. This is a particularly worrying situation for the summer as, due to seasonal jobs at Black Sea resorts, unemployment usually goes down.

The only country where the number of jobless is rising faster than in Bulgaria is Greece.

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STUDYING HOW TO STUDY

You may have various reasons for choosing public education in Bulgaria, either for yourself or for your children, ranging from an inability to afford the fees at private educational institutions to being unable to access their services because you live, for example, in Hotnitsa. Here's how you can receive a public education in Bulgaria.

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LEGALISE IT!

Whether you are buying property or marrying a Bulgarian, you will certainly come to a point when you will need to get documents officially translated and/ or legalised. Higher education diplomas, personal documents or a certificate that you have no criminal convictions are only part of the long list of documents that you might need to get officially recognised on various occasions. Any document that was issued outside Bulgaria and is to be used within the country and, likewise, any Bulgarian document that is to be used abroad, must be translated and legalised in order to be valid.

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GETTING EMERGENCY HELP IN BULGARIA

Three young Finns set out in May 2010 to trek over the mountain pass at Bachkovo, in the Rhodope. The day started well but ended up as a nightmare when one of them fell and was injured.

The young men called 112. Over the next couple of hours they remained in constant touch with the operators while the police, the Civil Protection Service and the Mountain Rescue Service were trying to find them. This story has a happy ending: the police found the Finns, who were alive and in reasonable condition.

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HAPPY BUYERS?

"I bought a pair of winter shoes, they seemed stable. After two weeks the sole of one of them came off“ a friend of mine complained. "They were under warranty. I exchanged them for another pair at the shop. Two weeks later the sole came off again. I returned the second pair too and they offered me a third one. I didn't want it. It seemed that the whole lot was defective. I wanted a refund. But they refused."

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TRACED IN WARS AND DISASTERS

It could happen to anyone. Your brother or husband goes on what seems like an exciting trip to the Middle East or the Pacific. Then you switch on the TV and you catch some breaking news. There are riots in the place where your brother or spouse is, chaos reigns and people have been killed. Maybe a tsunami has swept in from the sea or an earthquake or a volcano has devastated whole towns and villages.

Where is your brother? His phone is silent. His Facebook status doesn't change for days and only tells you about the temperature at the beach. His Skype account is inactive.

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ADOPTING A BULGARIAN CHILD

There was a report in The Sunday Times a few years ago that described how easy it was to purchase a child from some Gypsy quarter in Bulgaria. A healthy child was priced at ₤16,000. The story unleashed a wave of controversy in Bulgaria, including its state institutions. Bulgaria had signed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in 2002 but adoptions had been so difficult that some people were tempted to overstep a few rules.

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NAVIGATING THE BULGARIAN LEGAL SYSTEM

What is the level of corruption in the Bulgarian judicial system? Judging by what WikiLeaks has revealed, the US Government is as concerned with corruption in this sphere as it is with all branches of power in Bulgaria.

Living in Bulgaria, you may find yourself face to face with the Bulgarian judicial system. Maybe you may need to file a petition for divorce (provided, of course, you married under Bulgarian law) or sue someone who has swindled you in a real estate deal. Whatever the situation, the important thing to know is how the system works.

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RIGHT TO KNOW

"Goodness gracious! An English woman wants to come and live in Bulgaria? Can we switch places?" Such was the lively response I got from the clerk at Toplofikatsia Sofia, the capital city's heating utility, when I called to enquire if there was any way by which a London friend of mine, who's moving to Sofia, can check her bills in a language other than Bulgarian. The official, however, quickly became matter-of-fact, admitted she was joking and said that heating bills were delivered by courier and were only issued in Bulgarian.

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HEALTHY HEALTH SYSTEM?

Three different health ministers in little more than a year and health care reforms that are constantly postponed and heatedly challenged. A national health insurance authority which is the focus of investigations into more than 300 million leva in missing budget allocations and hospitals on the verge of bankruptcy. Even if you have had no immediate contact with the Bulgarian public health care system, the news that you hear daily can hardly be a comfort.

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WHAT CORRUPTION? WHAT FIGHT?

An extraordinary number of Bulgarians (in excess of 90 percent, according to some polls) consider corruption, next to low wages and crime, to be the most serious woe faced by their country. Yet only a tiny number of Bulgarians actually do anything to fight corruption.

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FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE

Judging by the number of stray dogs and cats, you may think Bulgarians have a problem with street animals. You will be right. As a rule Bulgarians tend to take good care of everything inside their own home and be negligent of whatever lies just outside their front door. Stray animals, many of which are the result of un-neutered pets, are just one example.

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NINE MONTHS AND BEYOND

Before the democratic changes in 1989, women in Bulgaria had antenatal examinations in their regional clinic and gave birth in the regional hospital without having the right to choose their obstetrician or midwife. Since then, everything has changed – even the conditions in the hospitals of the still unreformed healthcare system.

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PROPERTY IN TIMES OF CRISIS

The Chinese character for "crisis" means both "danger" and "opportunity". Bulgarian real estate agents are trying to make us believe that the potentially disastrous economic situation holds out great opportunities for a profitable investment – but beware.

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BUY PROPERTY IN BULGARIA SAFELY

Buying real estate in Bulgaria can be a rewarding experience, and you can end up with a great house if you go about it sensibly. Unlike the UK Bulgaria doesn´t do buyer´s surveys. The Bulgarian way may be more laborious, but it usually works in the end.

Property laws used to change frequently but, since joining the EU, the Bulgarian system is beginning to conform with that of other member states.

You are obliged by Bulgarian law to have a notary deed, signed by everyone involved in the transaction, to legally own or build property.

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