Bulgarian Icons – The End of History

08.09.2014 § Leave a comment

hbotev

Photographer Lyubomir Sergeev asks a painful question: would the treasured heroes of Bulgaria’s past stab themselves in the heart or shoot themselves if they could see what their country is like today? In painstaking detail, he recreates the dress and time periods of six great Bulgarian men and creates a new kind of portrait: one that not only inspires, but also forces us to think harder, to be better.

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Unified Bulgaria

07.09.2014 § 2 Comments

Bulgaria’s national day is deservedly March 3, 1878. After almost 500 years under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and a two-year war of liberation championed by Russia, a treaty signed on that day in the Istanbul suburb of San Stefano restored Bulgaria as a powerful state on the Balkans encompassing all the lands populated by Bulgarians and ruled by the idealistic Alexander I Battenberg, grandson of Queen Victoria and nephew to the Russian emperor. However, San Stefano Bulgaria was hacked up by the delegate nations at the Congress of Berlin only three months later. Ethnically Bulgarian territories (in striped red on the map) were divided into three distinct regions: the Principality of Bulgaria encompassed only Moesia and the Sofia region, Thrace became semi-autonomous under the name Eastern Rumelia and the status of Macedonia and parts of Thrace remained unchanged: they returned to Ottoman rule and their populations were brutally punished for the short gasp of freedom.

Prince Alexander I Battenberg

In this manner the Great Powers of Europe sowed the seeds for countless conflicts on the Balkans. Because of the Congress of Berlin, Bulgaria would spend decades struggling to once again unify all the lands considered ethnically Bulgarian in its borders. This struggle would cost it two national catastrophes and sour its relationships with Serbia, Greece and Romania, who’d believe (not entirely without cause) Bulgaria to be motivated by hegemony.

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Plovdiv selected for European Capital of Culture 2019

05.09.2014 § Leave a comment

After a five-year, good-natured rivalry with three other cities, my birthplace of Plovdiv has been selected as Bulgaria’s official entrant into the European Capital of Culture program. The other European Capital of Culture for 2019 will be in Italy, where Caglieri, Lecce, Matera, Perugia, Ravenna and Siena are competing in the final round.

Out of 8 original candidates in Bulgaria (Burgas, Gabrovo, Plovdiv, Ruse, Shumen, Sofia, Varna and Veliko Tarnovo), four finalists were selected to submit detailed proposals and to begin implementing strategies and programs towards becoming Capital of Culture. Any one of these cities is well worth a visit.

pdnight-007Plovdiv

Continuously inhabited for close to 6000 years, Plovdiv is the third-oldest city in Europe (following Athens and Argos). Throughout its long history it has had multiple stints as an important crossroads city. Notably, as Trimontium to the Romans, Plovdiv was the most important Roman city in the province of Thrace, as it lay on the Via Diagonalis arterial road for the empire. Cobbled Roman streets, theatres, villas, and an entire stadium can be seen there, layered with Ottoman-era and Revival-era homes. The oldest mosque in Europe outside of Moorish Spain, Djumaya mosque, lies at the centre of the city.

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В памет на Валери Петров

28.08.2014 § Leave a comment

valeri-004

[Read the English version here.]

На 27 август 2014 г. загубихме поета Валери Петров. Загубихме писателя, драматурга, преводача, хуманиста, мислителя, примера Валери Петров.

И тъй разкошно-звездна бе нощта,
че всекидневните неща,
суетни, летни,
мимолетни,
със своите “Чудесно!”, “Цар си!”, “Браво!”
във бягство се отдръпваха стремглаво.

чувствах се голям под свода гъст
– а бяхме уж нищожества, уж атоми -
и всичко беше мир околовръст,
и красота изпълваше душата ми.

Из “Августовска нощ”

С поезията си той умееше да предизвиква в един куплет искрен смях и нежна тъга, да ни опише и есенния хлад, и топлия пролетен ветрец. С преводите си на Шекспир той положи в краката ни невероятната красота и благозвучие на българския стих и създаде нещо повече от превод: сюжетите и картините на Барда на нашия собствен мелодичен език. Със сценария на “Рицар без броня” той ни разкри най-наболелите язви в нашето общество през погледа на едно невинно, все още безгрижно дете. С “Пет приказки” той подари на децата ни въображението да покоряват планини, да играят с еленчета и да изследват дъното на безбрежния океан. Той никога не надрасна детската си фантазия, но и геният му никога не залиня, не отслабна, чак до края.

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A Tribute to Valeri Petrov

28.08.2014 § 1 Comment

valeri-004

On August 27, 2014 we lost the poet Valeri Petrov. The writer, the translator, the humanist, the thinker, the example Valeri Petrov.

And oh! So gorgeous-starry was the night,
That our everyday plights,
Vain, summery,
Fleeting,
With their “Wonderful”s, “Hurrah”s and “Bravo”s,
Head over heels took off, retreating.

For I felt large under the starry dome
– and are we naught but atoms with no goal? -
And all around was peace and calm,
And beauty filled my soul.

             Valeri Petrov

With his poetry, he could make us laugh and cry within a single stanza, experience the chill of autumn or the breath of spring. In translating Shakespeare, he laid out the staggering beauty of Bulgarian verse before us and created something more: the stories and images of the Bard in our own melodious tongue. With the script for “Knight Without Armour” (YouTube link), he put his finger on our worst societal sores through the eyes of a carefree, as-yet-unburdened child. With “Five Tales”, he gave our children mountains, deer friends and the ocean floor to imagine and explore. He never grew up, and yet his genius never faltered, never waned, until the end.

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The Golden Sabre

24.08.2014 § 1 Comment

Прохода Шипка

The Monument at Shipka Pass

[Reposted in honour of the 137th anniversary of the battle of Shipka Pass]

It is well known that in history often insignificant circumstances can change the fates of nations. For example, the battle for Shipka pass in August 1877, the trial by fire of the newly formed Bulgarian volunteer corps and its most costly victory, was fought because of a sabre. A beautiful sabre, made of gold and encrusted with diamonds, but still, merely a sabre. « Read the rest of this entry »

Plovdiv at Night

23.08.2014 § Leave a comment

pdnight-001

Plovdiv is a great city to visit, famed for its Revival-era old town and Roman past but, especially in the summer, midday lighting makes for some very harsh looking photos. This is doubly true for inexperienced amateur photographers without the proper filters like myself. In a quest to soften the glare, I set out on a picture-taking excursion at dusk in late August. Not only did I capture some lovely evening/night colours, but I saw the city in an entirely new light…darn, wait, that’s a bad pun. I saw it through a new lens. No, that won’t do either. It was lovely, okay?!

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