04.11.2014 § 1 Comment
Success stories seem so few and far between in Bulgaria these days, so it is extremely heartening to be able to report some good news. This past month, alongside the colossal scandal of Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank imploding to the tune of a 2 billion Euro deficit, some great things have happened in spite of the usual grey mass of doom and gloom. Sofia’s iconic Lion’s Bridge just reopened after extensive renovations, the latest in a string of long-overdue infrastructure improvements presided over by Sofia’s most successful mayor in decades, Ms. Yordanka Fandukova. Four Bulgarian entrepreneurs just sold their hugely successful homegrown software company Telerik to Progress Software for $262.5 million. Finally, Dextrophobia Rooms, a real-life escape game business created by seven dreamer friends in their spare time, is neck-to-neck with St. Alexander Nevski cathedral as the best reviewed attraction on TripAdvisor in Sofia, barely six months after opening.
What is Dextrophobia and is it worth seeing? Read on!
05.09.2014 § 1 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.
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.
28.08.2014 § Leave a comment
[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,
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.
23.08.2014 § Leave a comment
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?!
06.06.2014 § 2 Comments
As a resident of Toronto, I have been closely following the ordering, testing and politics surrounding the fleet of new low-floor, double-capacity TTC streetcars. Across the Atlantic, where full-fledged streetcar networks are far more common, the Bulgarian capital Sofia is in the process of replacing some of its classic (i.e., aging) streetcars (also known as trams or трамваи/tramvai in Bulgarian) with Polish-built articulated units. Back in January, the first one was symbolically put into exploitation to mark the 114-year anniversary of the opening of the first Sofia tram line.
However, as exciting as the new trams are, I was delighted to discover another interesting development. In tune with its bid for European Capital of Culture (for which it competes with three other Bulgarian cities: Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv and Varna), Sofia has initiated a brilliant public art project. On June 1, 2014, as part of the city’s youth art festival ZONA CULTURA, a dozen of the current system’s yellow-and-white trams were painted by various graffiti artists before returning to circulation. This is a welcome change of pace, as it gives graffiti artists a very daring showcase, instead of whitewashing their works on sight. It also reserves for art visual space that is all too often (khm-khm, Toronto) used for advertising decals.
24.05.2014 § 5 Comments
May 24th is celebrated in Bulgaria as the day of two saints: St. Cyril and St. Methodius, of Bulgarian education and culture and Slavonic literature. It is a widely observed holiday in the country, on par with Liberation Day (March 3) and Christmas. It is a day largely devoted to celebrating the creation and the existence of the Cyrillic alphabet, which Bulgarian is written in.
Bulgaria may not be the largest user of Cyrillic today, but it is the first. The Cyrillic alphabet was the official script of Bulgaria before it was spread to Russia, Croatia, Serbia, etc. and it was Bulgaria’s Boris I who commissioned the two literary schools where thousands of monks would be educated and the first thousands of books in the new alphabet would be hand-copied and spread across the land.
It may be strange to see such importance placed on a set of symbols that we take for granted, but there is a great reason for our fascination with our letters, and a great accompanying story: the story with the greatest cultural significance in Bulgaria’s history.
30.11.2013 § Leave a comment
So this is a thing that happened. Americans were asked to label the countries on a map of Europe. As could be expected, most were able to identify large tourist destinations like the UK, France and Spain, but very few knew anything about Central or Eastern Europe.
Now, this is not necessarily surprising. Central and Eastern Europe have long been plagued by stereotypes and few Americans have ever gone there. They see no reason to, since they can get all their vacationing done in places familiar from popular culture and ones they perceive as safer, not to mention closer to the States.
What I found unusual and quite disturbing is the amount of knowledge people had about Bulgaria specifically.