by Anthony Georgieff; photography by BTA

Rosen Plevneliev, the president of Europe's poorest nation outside Albania, made a grand and very expensive present to Pope Benedict XVI, in Rome.

easter egg to the pope.jpg

Plevneliev, Boyko Borisov's handpicked head of state, was visiting Italy for 24 May, the day of celebration for the two Greek monks, Cyril and Methodius, who had been employed by the Byzantine emperor in the 9th Century to devise a new alphabet to consolidate Constantinople's hold over non-Greek-speaking Slavs.

The egg in question is reminiscent of the huge Fabergé eggs manufactured for the Russian tsars.

The Bulgarian egg is over two metres high, made of gold-plated Inox steel covered with fake rubies and glass beads. It is topped by an icon depicting Cyril and Methodius. Symbolic representations of some of the Bulgarian letters can be seen engraved on the egg. It was reported that the huge confection was not able to fit into the Pope's private chambers. This was seen by the media as a sure indication of the "uniqueness" of the egg in question.

Citizens in Bulgaria were divided in their reception of the folly. Some were proud that 15 Bulgarian master jewellers had toiled for two years to complete the egg, while others dismissed it as yet another manifestation of the completely useless religious kitsch the Bulgarian establishment has become so fond of in the 2000s.

Hens' eggs have become a somewhat controversial matter in Bulgaria, as their price is perhaps the highest in Europe. Ahead of Easter, when Bulgarians traditionally buy, dye and eat a lot of eggs, their price shot up so much that Prime Minister Boyko Borisov personally intervened by going around shops and telling his newspapers and TV stations that measures had to be taken to make eggs cheaper.

Whilst Plevneliev was making his grand gesture in Rome, people back home in the proletarian town of Pernik were reeling in the aftermath of the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that left many of their houses chimney-less. Despite protestations by the government that everything was working fine, nothing in fact did, as thousands of citizens were left outside their houses in the cold rain waiting for some credible news about what had happened.

As was to be expected, the prime minister was quick to seize the opportunity to talk to the media. Instead of going for a tried-and-tested early warning system of the sort used in other countries in earthquake zones, Boyko Borisov said he would order his Interior Ministry's police to drive slowly in patrol cars and use megaphones to announce exactly the strength of each tremor in any future earthquake.


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