WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

In recent months the telltale Soviet soldier waving a submachine gun is gone and the whole compound has been fenced off. It is being protected round the clock by Bulgarian police. Opponents of the monument, who disparagingly refer to its as the MOCHA, want it knocked down completely and immediately. Supporters however say removing it will be an affront to this country's 20th century history. The anti and pro groups are at their necks as both like to use historical events to justify current political ambitions. Their confrontation is unlikely to subside any time soon.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

It tells of a boy who loved to dive, but a storm once trapped him to his death in a submarine cave just under the rocks. As no one can deny that the naturally formed rock looks a lot like the manmade moai on Easter Island, some 12,000 miles away, a newer albeit less convincing hypothesis brings in some extraterrestrials, who made the link between the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

These are long extinct, but the lion has become so popular that Bulgaria has adopted it for its national coat-of-arms. Consequently, visitors to this country can see lions in various sculptural iterations in many Bulgarians towns and even in some villages.

Here you get a pair of the majestic animals proudly guarding a courthouse. Look closer, and you will discover there is something wrong with one of them. His legs are in a very unnatural position. In fact, no lion can actually walk in this manner.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

At the same time it found itself facing with severe labour shortages. What they did was to convince young Bulgarians... to work for free, in exchange for the promise of a brighter Socialist future where everyone would be given according to their needs and everyone's input to society would be commensurate with their abilities. The Communists were successful. Thousands of young Bulgarians joined the youth task force, misleadingly called brigade, and helped boost the national economy by building railway lines, water dams and reservoirs, power stations and...

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

It produced some of the brightest minds of the time. Since independence in 1878, however, it has been going downhill as its citizens sought their fortunes elsewhere and emigrated en masse. At present it is a pleasant backwater of a town tucked in the southern foothills of the Stara Planina mountain range. It is now known mainly for two things. It is the most popular gateway to hikers heading to conquer the Botev Summit (2,376 metres above sea level), the highest in the Stara Planina.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

Perched on a rocky outcrop, it marks the easternmost point of Bulgaria. It was erected in the middle of the 19th century by a French company working on commission from the Ottoman sultan who was keen on modernising the outer reaches of his realm. The lighthouse survived many wars, natural disasters and political regimes, and it still stands where it was supposed to be originally. But – like at least a dozen other interesting, intriguing or bizarre sites in Bulgaria – you cannot visit it.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

The bridge was built in the late 19th century with a donation by Jiří Prošek, a Czech entrepreneur who had introduced beer brewing to Bulgaria. The grand total cost of the project amounted to 160,000 gold leva, a colossal sum at the time. The bronze lions were made by the Waagner Biro in Vienna, the same guys who manufactured the Bulgarian "Iron Church" in Constantinople. Hint about the location: If you look closer, you will find out that none of the lions have tongues.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

Referred to by everyone as just "The Russian Church," its initial purpose was to serve the Russian emigres in town. It was erected on Russian land and its maintenance was given to the Russian legation nearby. When the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, two things happened. Firstly, the Soviet diplomatic corps neglected it and, second, the number of White Russian emigres increased manyfold. Understandably, The Kremlin did not like that.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

There are no road signs pointing to it and the road itself, which was once asphalt, is slow and tortuous. Yet, you are less than a mile from one of this country's major tourist attractions, and coming down to the water will guarantee a full day of seaside pleasures that will not leave you – pun intended – at sea.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

Growing roses and extracting valuable attar of roses is a big thing here in springtime. And the area is doted with bigger and smaller mounds most of which conceal tombs belonging to ancient Thracian nobility. The area is squeezed between two major mountain ranges, the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora. What is the name of the big town in the Valley of Roses?

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