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Son Of A Gunnar

A Nomad's Christmas Brood: On Crypto, COVID And The Speed Of Time

Our roving Swedish reporter's darkish holiday dispatch from Sofia, Bulgaria.

SOFIA — It was the Scottish poet Alexander Smith who called Christmas the day that holds all time together.

While that is obviously true in the Gregorian sense, Smith likely had in mind something more cosmic; perhaps that simultaneous longing for the past and future that only deep nostalgia can serve up. Yet for those of us who’ve spent our adult lives hopscotching around the world, Christmas memories tend to be an incoherent blend of vacated offices and hotel rooms and awkward well-wishing with dressed-up strangers.

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Keep Calm And Travel On? Why We Can't Return To Global Shutdowns

The Omicron variant has sparked a new wave of COVID-19 travel restrictions, but the chances of returning to worldwide shutdowns are slim for a series of reasons.

SOFIA — Two weeks ago, I was swabbing my nose in a minuscule London hotel room, trying to navigate the faulty app that came with my COVID-19 home-test kit. Home ... as in, I need this damn test to be able to fly home.

After re-installing the app and re-reading the instructions, I called the phone number for the support line and got a friendly female voice with a Cockney accent. I asked if they'd had similar glitches in the past. “We get a lot of calls,” she said. “Bit of a pain, innit?

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COVID Spikes In EU, Bulgaria Bus Crash, Uber Weed

👋 Tere!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where EU countries face a sharp rise in COVID cases and conflict, at least 25 die in a Bulgarian bus crash, and Uber starts delivering weed. Bogota-based daily El Espectador takes us through the return of gang violence taking over the streets of Medellín, Colombia, which became notorious during the 1970s thanks to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.


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Endemic Times, Get Ready For Our Forever COVID Future

As the 5 million death toll has been passed, signs abound that the virus is not going away any time soon. We need to accept that we can return to normalcy even without eradicating COVID — though we must do it right and keep re-learning the right lessons.


Heading toward Year 2, the stream of COVID headlines continues to flow: vaccine hesitancy and breakthrough infections, lurking new variants, overrun hospitals and, yes, yet another lockdown somewhere in the world. The grim milestone this week of five million deaths adds to the creeping feeling that, unprecedented scientific breakthroughs aside, we are simply outmatched in our collective battle against the pandemic.

There is a growing consensus among experts that the virus, the whole of humanity's microscopic nemesis, is here to stay.

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Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID Chaos In Bulgaria: One Reporter Is Tired Of Asking “Why”

With much attention now focused on rising COVID-19 cases in the UK and Moscow's new lockdown, a hidden story is in Bulgaria, which claims both Europe's highest death rate and lowest vaccination rate. By now, this reporter knows the drill…

SOFIA — I suspected, while Google translating the Bulgarian news Wednesday morning, that I might be the last person in Sofia with an internet connection to have found out about the new COVID rules.Following reports of 4,979 new COVID-19 cases and 214 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, the Bulgarian government had announced that proof of vaccine or negative PCR tests will be required for access to restaurants, theaters, cinemas, gyms, clubs and shopping malls. Starting tomorrow.

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Save The Last Bulgarian Dance

In the lobby of my hotel on the shores of the Black Sea, locals in full folkloric attire were dancing to traditional tunes. It felt strangely familiar, having had my own experiences preserving the music and folklore of my local traditions.


Head Over Heels

Photography works in mysterious ways. This frozen moment of some graceful Bulgarian folk dancers in Varna somehow looks terribly clumsy.

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Soviet Tenacity

The Georgi Dimitrov mausoleum in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, was built in 1949 to contain the embalmed body of the country's first communist leader.

After the fall of the USSR, some members of the government started thinking the monument was an embarrassing nod to Bulgaria's totalitarian past, and in 1999, they decided to blow it up. But though the mausoleum had been built in only 6 days, it took four attempts to destroy it.

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French Prestige

There wasn't much to see in this remote and destitute Bulgarian village. And then, around the corner, there was this huge advertisement for the local communist party, in Bulgarian and ... French. This defied logic in a town where not a soul seemed to speak French.


Lobby Folklore

In the lobby of a hotel on the shores of the Black Sea, a band was playing what we in France call de la musique tzigane. This Gypsy-style music is recognizable, among other things, by the characteristic way of playing the violin — an instrument I myself tried my hand at when I was younger, but that has proven a little too unrewarding.

Elise Vincent

Turkey-Bulgaria Border, From Iron Curtain To Refugee Gateway

People escaping the Communist bloc used to try to cross from Bulgaria into Turkey. Now, immigrants, including many refugees from the war in Syria, cross the other way.

HARMANLI – Major Zhelyn Zhelev is small stocky man with a suspicious glare. At 48, he may have dreamed of a better career path than the one that landed him as director of this detention center in southern Bulgaria, 30 kilometers away from the Turkish border.

He barely hides his dissatisfaction with what he sees. For the past two months, his men have spent their days blowing their whistles and hurling insults at dozens of Syrian asylum seekers, as they squeeze them into the Harmanli center's prefabricated homes and tents lined up along a former barracks’ wasteland.

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Alexandre Levy

Real Passports, Fake Drivers' Licenses - How Hezbollah Slowly Infiltrated Europe

SOFIA - While Cyprus was in the middle of a financial crisis, the court of Limassol, the island’s second largest city, made a ruling that largely went unnoticed.

Yet it was a judicial first. On March 28, the Cyprus court condemned a 24-year-old Swedish-Lebanese man, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, to four years in prison for helping plan attacks against Israelis on the Mediterranean island.

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Bulgarian Bombings: Hezbollah Implicated, What Next?



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Suicide Bomber On Israeli Tourist Bus Had Fake US Documents



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Antonio Salvati

Baby Black Market: Pregnant Bulgarians Brought To Italy To Hand Over Newborns

In the Italian city of Caserta, infertile couples bought the babies of Bulgarian women who were specifically brought to Italy when they were eight months pregnant. Three have been arrested, as disturbing details of the special arrangements emerge.

CASERTA - "What stage are we in now?" a lady asks by phone.

"No contractions yet," answers another female voice from the other end of the line. The faint sound of an irritated gesture can be heard, before the lady wonders: "if there's another one available?" This was the kind of routine call at the "baby supermarket," a brutal black market of newborns Italy's carabinieri military police have uncovered in the Caserta region near Naples.

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food / travel
Jörn Lauterbach

Ski Eastward: Budget-Friendly Bulgaria Now Among Europe's Top Ski Destinations

Think ski holiday in Europe, and most people imagine the Alps. But what about Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains? The skiing is great, the scenery is spectacular and lift tickets are refreshingly affordable.

BANSKO -- There are some soccer fans who prefer the whole experience of going to a game to actually watching it. Rather than follow the action on the field, they'll spend their time taking photos of their friends, or standing in line to buy snacks. They might also buy a T-shit – just to prove they were there.

There are skiers who are like that too, "resort collectors' who care less about the actual skiing or the atmosphere of a place and more about just having been there. Instead of the Alps or Aspen, they prefer "exotic" destinations like New Zealand, Australia, the slopes of Etna in Sicily and…Bulgaria.

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