Issue 134

BULGARIA INCREASINGLY SLIDES INTO AUTOCRACY

What has been in the offing ever since Boyko Borisov's GERB's ascend to power in 2009 is now beginning to assume sinister proportions more befitting the years just after the Second World War, when the Bulgarian Communist Party consolidated its hold to power, than an EU member state in 2017.

According to Prof (Oxon) Evgeniy Daynov, a political scientist, the central issue no longer is the replay of the means and methods of "Mature Socialism," with its stagnated economy and police state. It is when GERB will turn their almost 10-year rule into an open, full-fledged dictatorship.

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BULGARIA'S DOLMENS: PREHISTORIC MEGALITHS SLOWLY DISAPPEAR FROM SOUTHEAST

Yes, there are dolmens in Bulgaria, and it was the Thracians who constructed them. This ancient people had a predilection for megaliths, the prehistoric manmade structures found all over Europe, whose most famous example is Stonehenge. The term megalith, a derivative of the Greek for "big stone," traditionally applies to the single standing stones called menhirs, the stone circles called cromlechs, and the dolmens, which are low, heavy structures often used as tombs.

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WORKING FOR A BETTER FUTURE

Expats in Bulgaria often fell deeply for the country, but the enthusiasm that Israeli entrepreneur Avinoam Katrieli nurtures for all things Bulgarians stands out. It comes second only to his belief that Bulgarians can build a better version of modern Bulgaria, and that they should be proud with their nation.

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TROYAN MONASTERY

Located deep into some of the most inaccessible parts of the Stara Planina, the town produces and lends its name to the famed Troyanska Slivova, or Troyan plum Rakiya. It is also the place of origin of the ubiquitous pottery found all over Bulgaria's traditional restaurants. The so-called Troyan pots, with their distinctive multicoloured patterns, are amongst the best souvenirs visitors to Bulgaria can lay their hands on.

Then, there is the Troyanksi Pass, a precipitous road that reaches an altitude of 1,595m before leading down, south of the Stara Planina.

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TIRANA, ALBANIA'S CAPITAL, IS NO LONGER ONE OF THE MOST ISOLATED PLACES IN EUROPE

Albania and its capital are shrouded in the atmosphere of a little-known, little-visited, isolated and poor country haunted by the memories of Europe's last dictatorship.

Between 1944 and 1991 Tirana was the capital of Communist Albania. Most of those years were spent under the Stalinist Enver Hoxha, who imposed total isolation on the nation. Albania was a North Korea in southern Europe. Add this to Albania's late start as a nation state, in 1912, and its troubled transition to democracy in the 1990s, and you end up with a destination that simultaneously fascinates and frightens.

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PETIA WHITMORE, CONNECTING THE US AND BULGARIA

Most recently, she was the dean of graduate admissions at Babson College, where she frequently canvassed the globe in search of the next best and brightest candidates for the Babson MBA. "Wanderlust is my number one vice, liberally cultivated and indulged," Petia says. During a recent visit back to Bulgaria, she identified an unexplored opportunity to introduce the culture, history, nature, wine and food of her homeland to fellow US and world travelers. In 2017, she leveraged her entrepreneurial training as a Babson MBA to launch Flying Raconteur.

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WHO WAS NIKOLAY PIROGOV?

It belongs to the largest emergency hospital in the country. The tall, rather drab building on Tsar Boris III Boulevard has seen countless casualties arrive by ambulance or taxi after suffering accidents or becoming victims of crime, to be treated by some of Bulgaria's finest medical specialists.

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THE MASTER, An excerpt from a short story

It was the winter of 1980, the year of my birth and of my grandfather's death, when Grandma Nelly first put on Dencho's Dress, as she used to call it, and never took it off again. I remember she even used to wear it at night and sleep in it, with her arms crossed over her chest, as though to embrace herself as strongly and as tightly as possible, tucking her fingers underneath her ribcage. When I asked her why she did that, she would smile and say it was a way for her to embrace two people at once—my grandfather and herself.

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THE SPIRIT OF BULGARIA

In Bulgaria, Rakiya is much more than a drink: it is a part of national culture. There is hardly a festive or everyday gathering around the table to start without savouring a glass of Rakiya, accompanied by seasonal salad and appetisers. Many Bulgarians are proud with their home-made Rakiyas, and in some regions the spirit is made of specific fruit. Rakiya is consumed cooled throughout the year, but in wintertime it is also mulled with honey or sugar.

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THE MASTER, An excerpt from a short story

It was the winter of 1980, the year of my birth and of my grandfather's death, when Grandma Nelly first put on Dencho's Dress, as she used to call it, and never took it off again. I remember she even used to wear it at night and sleep in it, with her arms crossed over her chest, as though to embrace herself as strongly and as tightly as possible, tucking her fingers underneath her ribcage. When I asked her why she did that, she would smile and say it was a way for her to embrace two people at once—my grandfather and herself.

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