Issue 138

HAPPY SKIES

Turkish Airlines has scores of international awards for the outstanding quality of its services in both economy and business class. However, it only takes a single flight with the company to realise that all those awards are more than well-deserved. Turkish Airlines takes hospitality, comfort and efficiency to a whole new level, and its extensive network of flights to 302 cities spreads over the planet, making the company the largest carrier in the world by number of countries.

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IS BOYKO A RELIABLE ALLY?

One of the things that has clearly distinguished Bulgaria's Prime Minister of about 10 years, Boyko Borisov, from his obvious authoritarian ilk – Hungary's Orban and Poland's Kaczynski – is the fact that sometimes, usually at the right time (in the presence of Western leaders), he asserts that he is pro-Western.

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LIONS OF BULGARIA

Australia has the emu, South Africa the springbok. Canada has the beaver, China the panda. In Europe, the countries are almost equally divided between those – Germany, Poland, Albania and so on – which cherish the eagle as its national animal, often putting it on their coats-of-arms. Then there is Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and of course England which venerate the lion. Bulgaria belongs to the second group.

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KRUSHUNA WATERFALLS

However, as so often happens in Bulgaria, appearances are deceiving. Leave the main road and you will discover that the rolling hills hide intriguing natural phenomena.

The Krushuna Waterfalls is one of the best known. Located by the eponymous village, near the town of Letnitsa, the waterfalls started to attract visitors in the 2000s, when an eco trail was built around them.

The Krushuna Waterfalls is a cascade carved by the Proynovska River into the soft travertine rock, the largest formation of this sort in Bulgaria.

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TIHOMIR STOYANOV

Photography has of course changed beyond recognition since the digital revolution. Everyone with a smart phone now considers him or herself to be a photographer, and there is already a generation of young people who not only have no idea what a "darkroom" as opposed to Adobe Lightroom means, but who take Instagram to be the ultimate tool for disseminating visual statements ranging from the political to the selfies taken in front of some sunny beach or secluded waterfall.

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FORGOTTEN GLORY OF RED CHURCH

They do exist, however: forgotten remnants of the time when the Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold back the invasions of the Barbarians in the Balkans. Most are nothing more than low crumbling walls, almost invisible in the undergrowth and interesting only to archaeologists. Others, however, are still striking, despite time, neglect and the depredations of those seeking second-hand building materials.

One of them is near Perushtitsa, a town at the northern foot of the Rhodope, more famous as the scene of intense fighting and a massacre during the 1876 April Uprising.

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PUMP UP THE BASS

Victor Blagoev is an up-and-coming Bulgarian/American bassist born and raised in Prague, Czechia. He is quickly expanding his repertoire, playing with internationally renowned musicians such as blues singer Diunna Greenleaf, and some of Prague's biggest names including Martin Kratochvil, Rene Trossman, Cyrille Oswald and more. He is also set to work with, and eventually create and record music with the Rene Trossman, as well as developing a unique musical project with a modern neo-soul, Latin, R&B, jazz group, Skeptemistic.

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OUR MEN IN VIENNA

More than 10,000 Bulgarians live in Vienna today, a community with its own life, cultural centres and even a newspaper. Most arrived after 1989, although the Bulgarian presence in the Austrian capital is much older. It stretches back to Ottoman times, when Bulgarians lived, studied and traded in the capital of the then Habsburg Empire. This trend intensified after the Bulgarian state was restored, in 1878. Vienna was then the cosmopolitan heart of Central Europe: a place of wealth, culture, political thought, science and innovations that poured into Bulgarian lands via the Danube.

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THIS DRUM BEATS LIKE A HEART, A travelogue

I wake up with the increasingly sticky morning heat and the crushing smell of the traditional feijoada's black beans with pork that Suzanna is already stirring in the tiny kitchen. Suzanna is the live-in maid. All middle-class households have one here – just because they can. Ours is 22, with warm sparkly eyes and three kids, the youngest of whom she had at 16. Preta (Portuguese for black), she says, poking an index finger at her chest.

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DELICIOUS TRADITIONS

Regardless of whether we are tourists visiting a new place or we are living our ordinary lives, we are after authentic experiences and tastes. Food is probably the most significant manifestation of this trend. Indeed, in Bulgaria are being introduced new culinary ideas from all over the world, but authentic food remains one of the pillars of Bulgarian national culture. We cannot imagine Easter without sweetbread and coloured eggs, St George's Day without roasted lamb, Christmas Eve without odd number of meat-free dishes, or New Year without Banitsa pastry with good luck charms.

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BRIDGES OF FREEDOM

History sometimes moves in mysterious ways, as indicated by the story of the role two bridges played in two revolutions, a century and an ocean apart.

Most of the tourists visiting Koprivshtitsa, a town of beautiful traditional houses in the Sredna Gora mountains, pause at a certain bridge. Small and humpbacked, it does not look that important.

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