Archive for September, 2013

Bulgarian High Court Moves ahead with ‘New’ SAPARD Case

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassations, VKS, announced Friday it will rule within a month on the request of Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, to start from scratch the notorious SAPARD case.

With this VKS re-launched the case despite the absence of some of the defense counsel, triggering strong protest among the present lawyers.

Three defense attorneys failed to appear, and only one of them sent a doctor’s note for sudden illness. The magistrates immediately ruled to replace the other two with Court-appointed ones.

According to several local media reports, the judges have behaved in a strange manner, showing very familiar and sarcastic attitude towards the defense, prompting the latter to suspect violations of rights and a foretold rule.

Back in January, Appellate Prosecutor, Stoycho Nenkov, was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of justice in foiling the prosecution of the defendants in the SAPARD case – Mario Nikolov and Lyudmil Stoykov.

On October 11, 2012, Nenkov stepped back from his protest of the acquittal of businessman Mario Nikolov and the other defendants in the country’s highly publicized SAPARD money laundering case.

They were charged with participating in an organized crime group engaged in laundering EUR 7.5 M drained from the EU agriculture program SAPARD.

Nenkov’s move fully cleared the defendants of all charges, bringing to an end a strongly politicized trial, which was closely monitored by the European Commission and the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.

It emerged later that Nenkov has decided on his own to not file an appeal, prompting Tsatsarov to ask for the case to be launched again from the very beginning.

The scandal also cost the post of Sofia Appellate Prosecutor Angel Iliev, who resigned in the aftermath.

If VKS rules to restart the case, it will be sent either to Sofia’s Court of Appeals or even all the way back to the prosecution. If it rejects Tsatsarov’s request, the defendants will be conclusively and forever cleared of all charges and on all counts.

Source

Bulgarian Opposition Files Conflict of Interests Report

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Bulgaria’s opposition GERB party has submitted a report on former Austrian lobbyist Peter Hochegger to the Parliamentary Commission Against Corruption and Conflict of Interests.

By the end of Friday they will submit it to the Chief Prosecutor as well.

Hochegger made headlines in Bulgaria after it became known that he had lobbied for Bulgaria’s EU accession in exchange for a fee of EUR 1.5 M under two contracts from 2006 and 2008 signed during the term in office of the three-way coalition government headed by Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

“We hope that the head of the Commission Against Corruption and Conflict of Interests Volen Siderov will show that he is an honest fighter against corruption and will not employ double standards”, stated GERB MP Dimitar Glavchev.

Another GERB MP Rumen Ivanov revealed that the report contains facts incriminating former PM Sergei Stanishev and close aids of his in a conflict of interests.

Last week, the Viennese Regional Criminal Court sentenced Hochegger to two years and a half of imprisonment after declaring him guilty of abetting embezzlement and making false statement in testimony to the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.

 

Source

Bulgarian Energy Consultant: Probe against Me Is Farce

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The CEO of Bulgaria’s Risk Engineering consulting company Bogomil Manchev labels the Friday raid of his offices in Sofia a “farce.”

Speaking before the public radio after the news about the special police operation made headlines, he firmly declared that his business and every penny he earned form it were legal, and he had no reasons whatsoever to be nervous about the probe.

Earlier in the day, Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security, DANS, and the Interior Ministry launched a large-scale joint special operation against suspected fraud in the energy sector.

The operation took place in the capital Sofia, including in the offices of Risk Engineering, the western city of Pernik, and the Danube towns of Kozloduy and Belene.

Kozloduy is the site of Bulgaria’s only Nuclear Power Plant, NPP, while there is a debated project to build a second, Russian-sponsored one in Belene.

Immediately after the news made headlines, rumors started circulating that Manchev has been arrested. His office, however, informed that he is currently abroad, has been notified about the raid and had promised to return to Bulgaria to cooperate with the investigation. Manchev has also ordered all his employees to help the authorities.

“One lev or 10 million levs, it does not matter. What matters is that they are legal. They are legal. I am abroad. They even thought I was lying that I am abroad, which I found very, very funny. The leading investigator in the case has summoned me to appear as a witness and we even decided on a day next week. Me, arrested? This is non-sense. Why should I be arrested? I learned from the media that the charges involve large-scale embezzlement and mismanagement. None of the two is true,” said Manchev.

The special police operation comes on the heels of Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office launching on August 9 a pre-trial procedure for large-scale embezzlement and mismanagement. The main lead in the investigation are payments from the National Electric Company, NEK, for consulting services for the Belene NPP project, made after the previous government of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, decided to freeze it in March 2012.

“It is not my fault that the government decided to halt the project. They failed to implement the administrative procedure for it. The Council of Ministry issues an order to the Minister of Economy and Energy, he than orders NEK and the Bulgarian Energy Holding, BEH, what to do regarding the subcontractors – annul the contracts, close the site etc. None of this has been done,” said the businessman.

Worley Parsons is the company that was hired by the National Electric Company (NEK) for the consultancy of the Belene project. Risk Engineering is a subcontractor for the consultancy.

Manchev, however, was one of the three individuals mentioned as key players in Bulgaria’s so-called “energy mafia” in a diplomatic cable of the US embassy in Sofia, dated December 20, 2006, revealed on WikiLeaks and provided to the project for investigative journalism www.bivol.bg.

The cable brought out new details about corruption and lack of transparency in Bulgaria’s energy sector.

The full text of the cable can be found HERE.

Source

Bulgaria Among 32 Countries Bidding for Euro 2020

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Bulgaria is among the 32 countries taking part in the bid for hosting the 2020 European Football Championships.

The format of the tournament in 2020 will be unique, since 13 different cities across the continent will host matches. The European football’s governing body decided on this innovative approach as a way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the championships.

The 32 member associations that have stated their interest, together with their proposed host cities are:

Armenia (Yerevan), Azerbaijan (Baku), Belarus (Minsk), Belgium (Brussels), Bulgaria (Sofia), Croatia (Zagreb), Czech Republic (Prague), Denmark (Copenhagen), England (London), Finland (Helsinki), France (Lyon), Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Skopje), Germany (Munich), Greece (Athens), Hungary (Budapest), Israel (Jerusalem), Italy (Rome, Milan), Kazakhstan (Astana), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Poland (Warsaw, Chorzow), Portugal (Lisbon, Porto), Republic of Ireland (Dublin), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (St Petersburg), Scotland (Glasgow), Serbia (Belgrade), Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia), Sweden (Solna), Switzerland (Basel), Turkey (Istanbul), Ukraine (Kyiv, Donetsk) and Wales (Cardiff).

“We are extremely proud to see the huge interest in the bidding process, with more than half of our member associations willing to host matches at UEFA EURO 2020,” said UEFA President Michel Platini.

The appointment of the host cities by the UEFA Executive Committee will take place on 25 September 2014.

Source

ASIA Arrive in Bulgaria to Perform with Plovdiv Orchestra

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Legendary British rock band ASIA has arrived in Bulgaria for their Saturday concert in the second largest city of Plovdiv.

They are rehearsing with the orchestra of Plovdiv State Opera, conducted by Levon Manukyan.

The concert, including ASIA’s biggest hits, will be held in the Antique Theater in the city. This will be the first live concert of the band together with a symphonic orchestra, bTV reported.

Tickets are sold by Eventim.bg. Prices range from BGN 30 to BGN 35.

Admission is free for children under 7.

ASIA will film their concert and will release it as official DVD.

Source

New Dutch Ambassador to Bulgaria

Friday, September 20th, 2013

H.E. Tom van Oorschot is the new Ambassador of The Netherlands to Bulgaria.

The diplomat handed Friday his credentials to Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev, the Embassy reported.

According to the official site of the Dutch Embassy in Sofia, Tom van Oorschot was born in 1955 in The Hague and graduated Civil and International Law at the University of Leiden.

He has been working for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1982 taking various positions. Since 2000, Tom van Oorschot has been consecutively Deputy Ambassador of The Netherlands to Hungary and Turkey, and from 2009 till 2013 – Director for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Source

New Dutch Ambassador in Bulgaria

Friday, September 20th, 2013

H.E. Tom van Oorschot is the new Ambassador of The Netherlands to Bulgaria.

The diplomat handed Friday his credentials to Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev, the Embassy reported.

According to the official site of the Dutch Embassy in Sofia, Tom van Oorschot was born in 1955 in The Hague and graduated Civil and International Law at the University of Leiden.

He has been working for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1982 taking various positions. Since 2000, Tom van Oorschot has been consecutively Deputy Ambassador of The Netherlands to Hungary and Turkey, and from 2009 till 2013 – Director for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Source

Sofia City Prosecution Confirms Multiple ‘Energy-Fraud’ Raids

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The Sofia City Prosecution confirmed earlier reports of a special police operation against violations in the energy sector.

 

BGNES published the official communication from the Prosecutor’s office:

 

On 20.09.2013 the Prosecution, the State Agency for National Security (DANS), and the Ministry of Interior began a joint special police operation on the territories of Sofia, Pernik, Kozlodui, and Belene, directed by the Sofia City Prosecution.

 

On 09.08.2013, the Sofia City Prosecution formed pre-trial proceedings for embezzlement of large amounts, constituting a particularly aggravating offense, as well as deliberate neglect. The main cause of investigation are payments by the National Electric Company (NEK) for consulting services regarding the Belene NPP project, which was halted in March 2012.

 

At 8:30 AM on Friday morning, simultaneous raids were conducted in office buildings and households in Sofia, Pernik, Kozlodui, and Belene. The operation was initiated after the Prosecution received tipoffs from DANS regarding planned actions for destroying and concealing documents related to the subject of investigation.

 

In view of the nature of the case, the Prosecution will not disclose further facts at this stage. They will be made available only after charges have been pressed.

Source

Travel: The Road to Rodopi, Bulgaria

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Robin Gauldie

The National

Bulgaria’s significant Muslim population keeps its Ottoman roots well-tended, Robin Gauldie writes

In the capital of a country that – more than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet imperium – is still reinventing itself, it still came as a surprise to see, only a couple of hundred metres from the Sheraton Balkan, Sofia’s poshest hotel, the graceful minaret and three grey lead-sheathed domes of an age old mosque.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been taken aback: Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries, and elements of its Islamic heritage crop up everywhere. On the Black Sea coast, I found the architecture of towns like Sozopol and Nessebar, where the balconies of old wooden houses overhang steep, narrow cobbled lanes, irresistibly reminiscent of the old quarters of Istanbul. Around 15 per cent of Bulgaria’s seven million people are Muslims – the highest proportion of any European country. The Muslim population includes around 750,000 ethnic Turkish people, as well as around 200,000 Bulgarian Muslims who are descended from Bulgarians who found Islam some 500 years ago.

Built in 1576, Sofia’s Kadi Seyfullah Efendi Cami is a powerful reminder of Bulgaria’s Ottoman links. It is lovingly preserved by Sofia’s Muslim community. Within, its walls are embellished with Islamic calligraphy, and next to it is part of the eight-sided bath complex that surrounded it and gave the mosque its nickname: the Banya Bashi.

And it is the work of no less a builder than Kodja Mimar Sinan, the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire’s golden age and the designer of two of the Islamic world’s most magnificent places of worship: the Suleimaniye Mosque, dominating the skyline of old Istanbul, and the Selimiye, in Edirne, which, according to his own autobiography, he regarded as his greatest achievement.

Sinan served three great Ottoman sultans – Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II and Murad III – as a military engineer and architect of great religious buildings in a career that spanned almost 70 years. According to official sources, he was born in Kayseri in Anatolia in 1491. But Bulgaria claims him as its own. According to a plaque outside the Kadi Seyfullah Efendi Cami, he was born, not in Anatolia, but in the village of Shiroka Luka, in the Rodopi Mountains. This rugged territory, bordering Turkey and Greece, is Bulgaria’s Muslim heartland. I decided to find out more.

The road to the Rodopi Mountains took me first to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city where, after penetrating an outer ring of shabby, Cold War era apartment buildings and 21st-century construction sites, I discovered another historic mosque. The minaret of the Djumaya or Ulu Mosque is a landmark in Plovdiv’s charming historic centre, a 23-metre spire strikingly patterned with red and white diamonds. It soars above a solidly built, four-square mosque with massive stone walls that support nine great vaulted domes suspended above a light-filled, pale blue interior. Built during the reign of Sultan Murad II in the second half of the 14th century, it has twice been restored, after being damaged by earthquakes in the 18th and 19th centuries. More restoration is being carried out thanks to gifts from Turkish donors.

Plovdiv’s other great mosque has been less fortunate. Derelict since 1928, the Taskopru Mosque, built in the 16th century, was handed over to private ownership in the early 1990s after the fall of Bulgaria’s communist regime. Since then, it has been used as a bar and restaurant, outraging local Muslims. Ahmed Mersin, Plovdiv’s mufti, says it is “unbearable” that the mosque is no longer a place of worship – but its current owners want ?600,000 (Dh2.9 million) to return it to Islamic ownership, and the office of the Mufti can only raise ?300,000.

From Plovdiv, I headed into the mountains. The Rodopi range rises sharply from the plains on either side of the Maritsa River, and as I followed the steep, winding highway the temperature dropped from a toasty 30°C to just 16°C – only to rise again as I crested the hills and swooped down, through valleys surrounded by pine-covered slopes, to the little spa town of Devin, famous for its mineral springs and natural hot baths. It still has a sizeable Bulgarian Muslim community, and its mosque, though nothing like as grand as those in Sofia and Plovdiv, sits among neatly tended rose gardens and is clearly a social hub for older villagers as well as a place of worship.

After a swim in Devin’s famous mineral pool to get the kinks out of my back after the long drive, I took time out to seek out some of the Rodopi’s rich wildlife, guided by Vlado, a local wildlife expert, who whetted my appetite with a slide show of his. Bulgaria is said to be among the most biodiverse countries in Western Europe, and the mountain forests and high meadows of the Rodopi are home to a myriad species of butterflies and wild flowers, birds, reptiles and Europe’s largest predator, the brown bear. The hill pastures in the valleys above Devin are also at the centre of a government-funded effort to build up breeding stocks of one of Europe’s oldest domestic breeds, the Karatchan horse. But after four moonlit hours in a cramped hide in the hills above Devin not a single bear showed up, though I did see chamois, roe deer, wild boar and foxes that same evening. “Sorry,” said Vlado. “Maybe you’ll see bears next time.”

In Skiroka Luka, an hour’s drive through the mountains from Devin, my quest for Sinan’s Bulgarian roots also ran out of luck. The village’s steep streets are lined with pretty wood and stone “Bulgarian Revival” houses built in the 19th century, and the local ethnographic museum stresses its Bulgarian heritage and has little to say about the region’s Ottoman past. The only possible connection with the great architect seemed to be the three graceful, arched bridges that cross the Shirokolushka River. According to official accounts, Sinan was the son of a stonemason, and his father’s apprentice. Later, as well as designing mosques, he built elegant bridges all over the Ottoman domain. If he really did come to Shiroka Luka, might he not have acquired some of his skills while working here? I like to think so.

In the western part of the Rodopi range, villages are thin on the ground. But heading eastward, past the starkly modern winter sports resort at Pamporovo, I found myself in more thickly settled country, where rolling hills are dotted with hundreds of tiny villages. Many seemed half-deserted. Others were no more than ghost towns. In the shadow of small village mosques many older men chatted and drank coffee. In many places, there was little sign of younger people. Most, I learnt, had left for Bulgaria’s big cities, or for Turkey, where job opportunities beckoned.

This part of the world is well off the beaten track. The few current guidebooks to Bulgaria hardly mention it, and most hikers and wildlife enthusiasts bypass it in favour of the more spectacular landscapes of the western Rodopi. You’ll search in vain for reviews of its towns and villages on sites like TripAdvisor. The few foreigners who make their way here are keen birders, hoping for a sight of the eagles and vultures which soar over the region’s limestone crags. But for those willing to take the rough with the smooth, it has its high points. In spring and early summer, pastures and river banks blaze with swathes of red, yellow, white and purples wild flowers. Although unaccustomed to foreign visitors, villagers welcome strangers – if you can overcome the not inconsiderable language barrier. That proved easier in towns like Madan, a thriving district capital, than in the sleepy surrounding villages. Most of Madan’s 6,000 people are Bulgarian Muslims, and its well-kept mosques are in sharp contrast to the sometimes dilapidated village mosques elsewhere. It’s a pleasant, green little place, surrounded by pine-covered hills.

I was tempted to carry on across the Turkish border to Edirne, to marvel at Sinan’s great Selimiye mosque. It would have been a fitting end to my journey. But border formalities in this part of the world are notoriously time-consuming. Instead, I turned back towards Sofia. The Selimiye – and the bears of the Rodopi – must wait for another visit.

Source

Travel: The road to Rodopi, Bulgaria

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Robin Gauldie

The National

Bulgaria’s significant Muslim population keeps its Ottoman roots well-tended, Robin Gauldie writes

In the capital of a country that – more than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet imperium – is still reinventing itself, it still came as a surprise to see, only a couple of hundred metres from the Sheraton Balkan, Sofia’s poshest hotel, the graceful minaret and three grey lead-sheathed domes of an age old mosque.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been taken aback: Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries, and elements of its Islamic heritage crop up everywhere. On the Black Sea coast, I found the architecture of towns like Sozopol and Nessebar, where the balconies of old wooden houses overhang steep, narrow cobbled lanes, irresistibly reminiscent of the old quarters of Istanbul. Around 15 per cent of Bulgaria’s seven million people are Muslims – the highest proportion of any European country. The Muslim population includes around 750,000 ethnic Turkish people, as well as around 200,000 Bulgarian Muslims who are descended from Bulgarians who found Islam some 500 years ago.

Built in 1576, Sofia’s Kadi Seyfullah Efendi Cami is a powerful reminder of Bulgaria’s Ottoman links. It is lovingly preserved by Sofia’s Muslim community. Within, its walls are embellished with Islamic calligraphy, and next to it is part of the eight-sided bath complex that surrounded it and gave the mosque its nickname: the Banya Bashi.

And it is the work of no less a builder than Kodja Mimar Sinan, the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire’s golden age and the designer of two of the Islamic world’s most magnificent places of worship: the Suleimaniye Mosque, dominating the skyline of old Istanbul, and the Selimiye, in Edirne, which, according to his own autobiography, he regarded as his greatest achievement.

Sinan served three great Ottoman sultans – Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II and Murad III – as a military engineer and architect of great religious buildings in a career that spanned almost 70 years. According to official sources, he was born in Kayseri in Anatolia in 1491. But Bulgaria claims him as its own. According to a plaque outside the Kadi Seyfullah Efendi Cami, he was born, not in Anatolia, but in the village of Shiroka Luka, in the Rodopi Mountains. This rugged territory, bordering Turkey and Greece, is Bulgaria’s Muslim heartland. I decided to find out more.

The road to the Rodopi Mountains took me first to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city where, after penetrating an outer ring of shabby, Cold War era apartment buildings and 21st-century construction sites, I discovered another historic mosque. The minaret of the Djumaya or Ulu Mosque is a landmark in Plovdiv’s charming historic centre, a 23-metre spire strikingly patterned with red and white diamonds. It soars above a solidly built, four-square mosque with massive stone walls that support nine great vaulted domes suspended above a light-filled, pale blue interior. Built during the reign of Sultan Murad II in the second half of the 14th century, it has twice been restored, after being damaged by earthquakes in the 18th and 19th centuries. More restoration is being carried out thanks to gifts from Turkish donors.

Plovdiv’s other great mosque has been less fortunate. Derelict since 1928, the Taskopru Mosque, built in the 16th century, was handed over to private ownership in the early 1990s after the fall of Bulgaria’s communist regime. Since then, it has been used as a bar and restaurant, outraging local Muslims. Ahmed Mersin, Plovdiv’s mufti, says it is “unbearable” that the mosque is no longer a place of worship – but its current owners want ?600,000 (Dh2.9 million) to return it to Islamic ownership, and the office of the Mufti can only raise ?300,000.

From Plovdiv, I headed into the mountains. The Rodopi range rises sharply from the plains on either side of the Maritsa River, and as I followed the steep, winding highway the temperature dropped from a toasty 30°C to just 16°C – only to rise again as I crested the hills and swooped down, through valleys surrounded by pine-covered slopes, to the little spa town of Devin, famous for its mineral springs and natural hot baths. It still has a sizeable Bulgarian Muslim community, and its mosque, though nothing like as grand as those in Sofia and Plovdiv, sits among neatly tended rose gardens and is clearly a social hub for older villagers as well as a place of worship.

After a swim in Devin’s famous mineral pool to get the kinks out of my back after the long drive, I took time out to seek out some of the Rodopi’s rich wildlife, guided by Vlado, a local wildlife expert, who whetted my appetite with a slide show of his. Bulgaria is said to be among the most biodiverse countries in Western Europe, and the mountain forests and high meadows of the Rodopi are home to a myriad species of butterflies and wild flowers, birds, reptiles and Europe’s largest predator, the brown bear. The hill pastures in the valleys above Devin are also at the centre of a government-funded effort to build up breeding stocks of one of Europe’s oldest domestic breeds, the Karatchan horse. But after four moonlit hours in a cramped hide in the hills above Devin not a single bear showed up, though I did see chamois, roe deer, wild boar and foxes that same evening. “Sorry,” said Vlado. “Maybe you’ll see bears next time.”

In Skiroka Luka, an hour’s drive through the mountains from Devin, my quest for Sinan’s Bulgarian roots also ran out of luck. The village’s steep streets are lined with pretty wood and stone “Bulgarian Revival” houses built in the 19th century, and the local ethnographic museum stresses its Bulgarian heritage and has little to say about the region’s Ottoman past. The only possible connection with the great architect seemed to be the three graceful, arched bridges that cross the Shirokolushka River. According to official accounts, Sinan was the son of a stonemason, and his father’s apprentice. Later, as well as designing mosques, he built elegant bridges all over the Ottoman domain. If he really did come to Shiroka Luka, might he not have acquired some of his skills while working here? I like to think so.

In the western part of the Rodopi range, villages are thin on the ground. But heading eastward, past the starkly modern winter sports resort at Pamporovo, I found myself in more thickly settled country, where rolling hills are dotted with hundreds of tiny villages. Many seemed half-deserted. Others were no more than ghost towns. In the shadow of small village mosques many older men chatted and drank coffee. In many places, there was little sign of younger people. Most, I learnt, had left for Bulgaria’s big cities, or for Turkey, where job opportunities beckoned.

This part of the world is well off the beaten track. The few current guidebooks to Bulgaria hardly mention it, and most hikers and wildlife enthusiasts bypass it in favour of the more spectacular landscapes of the western Rodopi. You’ll search in vain for reviews of its towns and villages on sites like TripAdvisor. The few foreigners who make their way here are keen birders, hoping for a sight of the eagles and vultures which soar over the region’s limestone crags. But for those willing to take the rough with the smooth, it has its high points. In spring and early summer, pastures and river banks blaze with swathes of red, yellow, white and purples wild flowers. Although unaccustomed to foreign visitors, villagers welcome strangers – if you can overcome the not inconsiderable language barrier. That proved easier in towns like Madan, a thriving district capital, than in the sleepy surrounding villages. Most of Madan’s 6,000 people are Bulgarian Muslims, and its well-kept mosques are in sharp contrast to the sometimes dilapidated village mosques elsewhere. It’s a pleasant, green little place, surrounded by pine-covered hills.

I was tempted to carry on across the Turkish border to Edirne, to marvel at Sinan’s great Selimiye mosque. It would have been a fitting end to my journey. But border formalities in this part of the world are notoriously time-consuming. Instead, I turned back towards Sofia. The Selimiye – and the bears of the Rodopi – must wait for another visit.

Source

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