Letter from Ulan-Ude (Buryatia, Siberia)

“The Rinpoche Bagsha temple crackled with the deep murmur of Buddhist prayer. Under the warm gaze of a golden cross-legged Buddha, eight monks in crimson robes sat at a low table in the centre of the room, ethereal chants bursting from their throats. A bell tinkled. During the final prayer the congregation, squeezed together on benches close to the monks, picked up parcels of food and waved them in front of themselves in clockwise circles. The bell tinkled one last time”. … More Letter from Ulan-Ude (Buryatia, Siberia)

Lower-league football in Bulgaria: Tundzha Yambol vs. Chernomorets Burgas

On a hot October Saturday, as a scrum of players lunged for the ball bouncing head-high in the midfield, a match in Bulgaria’s Third League – a 71-team competition divided into four regional groups – played out in the universal rhythm of amateur football: frenetic and slow at the same time.

On some rusty blue benches between the changing rooms and the stadium’s running track, 40 spectators chatted and nibbled pumpkin seeds, half-watching their friends and relatives exhausting themselves on the pitch.

In an early-evening, early-autumn kick-off at Nikolai Laskov Stadium in the town of Yambol, the game between Tundzha Yambol and Chernomorets Burgas – mid-table rivals in the south-east group of the Treta Liga – ended in a 3-0 win for Chernomorets. The visitors were by far the better team, and scored through an own goal before half-time, then impressive goals by Martin Dimitrov and Milen Tanev in the second half. … More Lower-league football in Bulgaria: Tundzha Yambol vs. Chernomorets Burgas

Yambol, Bulgaria in photographs – part three: Colours of Thrace

There can’t be many places in Europe more colourful than Bulgaria’s Thracian Valley – the basin of the Black Sea in the country’s south-east, just above the borders with Turkey and Greece. 

Yambol – one of the region’s main towns, with about 70,000 people – is full of colour, from its 19th century houses painted in bold reds and apricot orange, to its yellow Orthodox church, to the park in the centre of town covered by a canopy of dark green leaves. Colours mix on shop signs and graffiti, and in the brickwork of the 14th century Eski mosque – the second biggest in Bulgaria.  … More Yambol, Bulgaria in photographs – part three: Colours of Thrace

Yambol, Bulgaria in photographs – part two: Living in the past

The way Bulgaria feels and looks is anything but socialist. And in this changing part of southern Europe there are few places that have been renewed and invested in as much as Yambol – a small town in the Thracian Valley, an hour inland from Burgas on the Black Sea.

But still, in a few corners of Yambol survive some symbols of the Communist era – a left-behind but quite recent past. A brutalist building, just off the central Targovska street, still houses an art gallery. The square outside the gallery is only two minutes from the town’s old central post office, at one end of Rakovska street. And then there are all sorts of decades-old murals, mosaics and shop signs, which look more and more jarring with every sparkling new cafe that opens up next to them.

Communism is an aesthetic now. These days Bulgarians walk past the past without noticing… … More Yambol, Bulgaria in photographs – part two: Living in the past

Yambol, Bulgaria in photographs – part one: Summer shade

In the scorching heat of summer in the Black Sea basin, the centre of Yambol – a town of 70,000 people in Bulgaria’s south-east – is a soothing blend of elegantly painted buildings, serene blue skies and pretty tree-lined avenues. From morning until night her two main streets – Rakovska is new and trendy; Targovska is old and tranquil – are full of people, young and old, basking in the shade of outdoor cafes.  … More Yambol, Bulgaria in photographs – part one: Summer shade

‘I think we should just live’ – a translation of some poems by Ekaterina Khlebnikova

“I bought everything on your list
Plus I got you your favourite fruits”.
I screw my face up, and then hiss
In a cold voice: “Did I ask you to?”

“So I take it that this picture of beauty
Got out of bed on the wrong side today?”
He asks, as he takes from behind his back a bouquet
Of flowers, presented with irony. … More ‘I think we should just live’ – a translation of some poems by Ekaterina Khlebnikova