Christ was an alien. Or if He wasn't, then four centuries ago there were UFOs hovering over what is now southwestern Bulgaria.
Bulgaria's extreme nationalism, whose main perpetrators are now in government, sometimes assumes wacky proportions. In the past several months the political establishment of GERB, supported by the loose alliance of ultranationalists identifying themselves as "united patriots," has been ruthless in condemning and eradicating anything that might smack of "anti-Bulgarianness." Of course, no one but GERB's leaders and their nationalist pals can define what Bulgarianness means. It may range from wearing baggy 19th century peasant trousers and fur hats to more "refined" 21st century Bulgarian "virtues" such as being anti-cosmopolitan, anti-liberal and of course anti-gay.
Travelling in Bulgaria's Northwest, particularly in early summer when the greenery is still fresh, tempts you to explore the outdoors: the magnificence of the Belogradchik Rocks, the might of the mountains around Vratsa, the slow flow of the Danube past the walls of Vidin fortress. However, when travelling in this region, you should not forego the opportunity to peer into the dark, mysterious underground.
Travelling in the Bulgarian countryside in the summer is particularly fascinating, for it is then that sunflowers are in full bloom, creating a colourful cacophony with their yellow, orange and brown hues.
"We should be proud with the border fence, the Great Wall of Bulgaria."
Deputy Prime Minister Valery Simeonov, on the fence on the border with Turkey
Nicole Simmons is the wife of Eric S. Rubin, who has been the US Ambassador to Bulgaria since February 2016. Nicole is also an epidemiologist and international health expert with 20 years of experience managing and developing technical assistance, training and research projects. She is currently a part-time faculty member in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a current project evaluating an early childhood development programme in Swaziland.
One thing Bulgaria does not have in great abundance is… islands. In fact, there are but a handful of isles, sometime just rocks, off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and none of them is permanently inhabited except for the usual lighthouse keeper. However, one of them, near Burgas, has recently been refurbished as a growing tourist attraction.