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345. Bulgaria celebrates 146 years from the birth of Aleko Konstantinov

News BG: 2009-01-12

The celebration of the 146th anniversary from the birth of the writer Aleko Konstantinov is starting in Svishtov with a charity concert.

Pianist Professor Vladimir Radulov will present a jazz recital, organized by the International foundation "Aleko Konstantinov". The funds will be given for the restoration of the temple "St. st. Cyril and Methodius". The church has been built through donations in 1872, but was demolished during the catastrophic earthquake in Svishtov in 1977.

Local businessmen started the initiative for the restoration of the temple. They are joined by the "Aleko Konstantinov" foundation, which works on the preservation of cultural-historical heritage and spiritual growth of the Danube town.

Through the funds, acquired during charity activities, organized in the years, the foundation helped the restoration of the cathedral temple "Holy Trinity", memorial of architecture, built by the famous master Kolio Ficheto.

Part of the funds is regularly being given for stipends to gifted people from Svishtov.

344. Forbes Magazine to be published in Bulgarian

Sofia Echo: 2009-01-11

The world-famous magazine Forbes arrives in Bulgaria. The first edition of Forbes Bulgaria is expected to be released in October 2009.

The Bulgarian publisher will be Attica Media, also the publisher of Playboy and Maxim, "Capital" reports.

Forbes Bulgaria's content will include 60 percent Bulgarian business articles and 40 % translated materials from the American version. The first edition of the magazine will be released in 30 000 copies.

American magazine Forbes is famous for its lists of the world's richest people, the world's most influential people, etc.

One of the favorite mottos of the business magazine founder, Bertie Charles, was: Selling advice, can win you much more than following it".

343. New housing complex to sprout in Plovdiv

Sofia Echo: 2009-01-10

Plovdiv-based property developer and investor Yazov announced it will break ground on January 5 2009 on a 21-building residential complex in Bulgaria's third largest city.

The project, named Sky Buildings is valued at 50 million euro, according to the investor.

The buildings, set to rise on a 3.2 hectares plot, will house homes, shops, eateries, spa centres and cinema halls.

Thirty per cent of the total area will be gardens and childrens playgrounds.

The complex is set for completion in March 2013.

342. Bulgarian yoghurt made in China

Sofia Echo: 2009-01-08

Starting from the beginning of 2009, Chinese Bright Dairy & Food Company Ltd will manufacture a new sweetened yoghurt called Momchilovtsi, the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on January 7 2009.

The company has launched an aggressive marketing campaign underlining the fact that Bulgaria is a country where people live long lives amid a beautiful and clean natural environment. The product is named after the village of Momchilovtsi in the Rhodope Mountain, which in recent years has become a popular tourist destination because of its picturesque surroundings, clean air and unique atmosphere.

To produce the Momchilovtsi label, China imports from Bulgaria Lactobacillus bulgaricus, the lactobacterium L99, which is widespread in the country's latitude zone. It induces natural milk-acid fermentation, which leads to the yoghurt formation. The bacterium was first discovered and introduced in 1905 by Stamen Grigorov, a Bulgarian studying medicine in Geneva.

Momchilovtsi yoghurt will be first distributed in eastern China and later throughout the entire country. On larger packages there is introductory information saying that in Bulgaria, a small country in the south-east Europe, there is a mountain which is home to a mysterious and beautiful village. People there live long and happy lives. Many generations have grown accustomed to making their own yoghurt and consuming it on a daily basis.

341. Bulgaria celabrate Ivan's Day

New BG: 2009-01-07

January 7 IVAN'S DAY Holiday of Ivan, Ivanka, Ivailo, Vanyo, Vanya, Yonko, Yonka, Yoto, whose names mean "God's blessing". On this day the men perform the so-called "Ivanovstvo" rite - become fellow brothers and as a vow they step in the glowing embers with their right bare foot. From this day on their wives become fellow sisters.

340. Plovdiv builder to invest 50M euro in grand-scale project

Wise Property: 2009-01-06

Yazov, a Plovidv-based construction company, announced that, on January 5 2009, it would turn the first sod on a 50 million euro project called Sky Buildings, Dnevnik daily reported on January 3.

The plan envisions 21 buildings on a land plot of 3.2ha with a total built-up area of 129 000 sq m, near Assenovgradsko Chaussee and Lokomotiv Stadium.

Two of the buildings meant for office spaces are to boast 27 storeys, making them the tallest facilities in Plovdiv.

In addition, the grand project features 14 residential buildings with a total built-up area of 49 000 sq m and a commercial zone with retail spaces, restaurants, cinema theatres, and spa and wellness centres.

Dnevnik reported that, during preparation of the plot for the upcoming construction, an unexplored Thracian mound was discovered. Yazov said that they would make sure the mound got thoroughly studied, preserved and displayed within the complexÕs premises, but no assumptions as to how valuable the finds might turn out to be have been made.

Sky Buildings is expected to be completed by 2013.

339. Snowy Bulgaria

Focus: 2009-01-05

Snowy, beautiful, cold and jammed here are the comments of FOCUS News Agency reporters on the situation in Bulgaria over the last days.

The snow is it a problem, or rather a gift, a disaster or a prophecy for a good 2009. Is it good to travel in winter or is it better to stay home and avoid causing trouble to our relatives and the rest of the people as our ancestor used to do, bearing in mind the fact they did not have the powerful vehicles we enjoy now and, of course, the self-confidence of nowadays drivers.

Is it possible for us to stick to the old traditions and do without the winter holiday at the mountain, the airplanes, and all the rest of the extras?

Snow, cold and winter are they a gift form the God for the winter resorts, are they the reason to make us happy about all the new constructions at the resorts Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo; or it rather seems as if the crazy attempt to compare Bulgarias Pirin Mountain to the Austrias Alps gives grounds to show muscles over our artificial snow and the extra expenses provided in the padded bills we pay for tourist services.

Christmas and New Years holiday, a trip to Greece or only to the villa near Sofia on the bad mountain roads in the extremely low temperatures whos right and whos wrong. Is it for the state, which spends a mint of money to rescue 10 drunken enthusiasts blocked in a mountain hostel; is it for the municipality, which plays gymnastics with the company in charge of the snow-cleaning; or is it for the time we live in who is to be blamed?

338. Cold grips the Balkans

Sofia Echo: 2009-01-03

Bitter cold, snow, rain and strong wind are in the forecast for the following days for Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Macedonia, website netinfo.bg wrote on January 2 2009.

The weekend forecast for Bulgaria foresees snowfalls throughout the entire country, with light north-western winds. Temperatures will drop to between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius, while in southern Bulgaria and the Black Sea region they will reach between 5 and 1. The snow cover is expected to reach 15cm.

In the mountains, the weather will remain cloudy and windy, with scattered snowfall and fog up high. All tourists are advised to strictly follow marked paths and to move from one point to another in daylight.

Danger from falling rocks and landslides have been detected around Iskarsko and Kresnersko Defile, Sofia-Samokov, Mezdra-Botevgrad, Assenovgrad-Smolyan, Yugovo-Luki, Krichim-Devin and around Koznitsa.

The traffic police warned that all lorries must travel with snow chains and without carriages in the section Batak-Dospat, and through Shipka Pass and Petrohan.

The website quoted Greek media reports that in the northern part of the country were to be expected heavy snowfall with temperatures as low as 13 degrees Celsius. Extreme caution on the road and snow chains are highly recommended if travel is hard to avoid.

Temperatures in eastern Turkey were to reach 36 degrees Celsius and heavy snowfall was in store for Sunday January 4. The same is expected for Macedonia, where, at the beginning of next week, temperatures will continue to drop and the snow cover would reach up to 25cm. Roads, however, would remain passable, with only lorries being denied access between Mavrovo and Debar, where roads are snow-packed and slippery, the website reported.

337. YEAR IN REVIEW: Health check

Sofia Echo: 2009-01-02

For many people, 2008 was the year that the property balloon burst, but that is not strictly true. Despite the US sub-prime mortgage crisis spreading to other developed nations, property prices in Bulgaria displayed a steady increase in the first half of the year, albeit not at the same rate that made Bulgaria the country with the fastest price growth rate in the world in 2007. Only in recent months have prices begun to show signs of decline.

The problem, like with other sectors of the economy, is that there is virtually no centralised statistical data that would gauge real estate prices and construction activity, only irregular and far from comprehensive status updates from real estate firms.

But there is widespread agreement that the one segment that went downhill, and fast, is that of holiday properties. Geared heavily towards investors from developed countries, a large share of whom were British and Irish buyers, it showed the first signs of slowdown already in 2007 and did even worse in 2008. Hopes in the first half of the year that Russian customers will compensate for the declining number of Brits proved to be a false dawn as the US problems became global ones.

The other big fad of recent years commercial areas is yet to show the same level of decline, but there is a tangible threat of saturation of the market, especially if household consumption goes down in case of an economic downturn. That is yet to happen, but with gloomy economic forecasts multiplying, it could be just around the corner. Already a number of announced projects have been put on hold, while three deals for the sale of malls, one completed and two under construction, in Sofia have collapsed in November.

Residential real estate also appears to have peaked out, with the number of deals being done falling down in the second half of 2008. After years of steady growth, which came despite the fact that 90 per cent of Bulgarians are homeowners, potential customers are no longer willing to pay the prices asked by sellers. According to the data cited by Kapital weekly, prices in Sofia have more than doubled since 2004, while cumulative inflation over the same period of time was only 40 per cent. It does not help that foreign investment funds, which were busy buying real estate even into 2008, have stopped doing so and are now even actively looking to exit their investments, pushing down prices from the supply side.

Office space is not doing any better the chronic lack of space from recent years seems to have toned down as new construction has flooded the market, while prospects of an economic slowdown are pushing down demand.

The key factor that put a dampener on the sector was banks slamming the brakes on lending in autumn, when the global financial crisis took a turn for the worse. The credit crunch did not appear to have a major impact on the willingness of banks to lend money before that, but after September, Bulgarian banks all but froze loans for new projects and began asking potential customers to put down a larger amount of their own money when giving mortgages, while at the same time raising interest rates on old loans. Inevitably, developers and buyers are not the only ones to suffer the consequences of over-extending their reach, with construction companies also feeling the pinch.

Even though at this stage it is much too early to talk of a deflated balloon, doomsayers might not be totally wrong, merely getting their predictions in early.

Budgeting for recession

Tourism is another sector where statistics are sketchy at best and too often dismissed as unreliable. What data is available from the State Tourism Agency (STA) seems to disprove the pessimistic scenarios at the start of the summer season: as of end-August, for the first time in years, revenue from foreign tourists in Bulgaria was greater than the amount spent by Bulgarians abroad. The difference was by no means small either, with foreigners spending 1.45 billion euro in Bulgaria, while Bulgarians took 900 million euro out of the country when they went on holiday.

The trend may appear confusing as one surfed for available offers online, where the opinions posted in favour of holidaying abroad vastly outnumbered those who planned to stay within Bulgarias borders. Although the number of people vacationing abroad is rising rapidly, according to STA data, and comes mainly from the age groups that are more likely to use the internet for research and booking, most Bulgarians still think local when taking their summer holidays.

Constantly rising prices, however, coupled with no change in the standard of service and the massing grey clouds on the horizon of Bulgarias economy, mean that Bulgarians spend less time vacationing, to the extent that the high summer season is now just one month, half of what it used to be. Its a vicious circle, that has prompted hotels and restaurants to further raise prices in a bid to stay profitable. This, in turn, is cutting into the willingness of domestic customers to vacation longer.

Tourists from foreign markets, some already feeling the hurt of their economies slowing down, are doing no better. The number of Brits and Scandinavians visiting the Bulgarian seaside was down this year, according to an informal poll by Kapital weekly in August, while the German market recorded a small recovery after years of decline. Even the Central and Eastern European markets brought fewer tourists, the only exception being Russia.

Winter resorts are even more dependent on foreign tourists, who accounted for 90 per cent of overnight stays in Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo the previous season. So far, the forecasts for this winter are for a drop of between 20 per cent and 40 per cent in the number of tourists, even though Bulgarian resorts continue to be advertised as budget destinations outside the country.

Now that the economic recession is a fact in much of Europe, many potential tourists are cutting down on unnecessary expenses and tourism is suffering the consequences. It does not help that too many Bulgarian hotels are yet to react and lower prices. By the time they do, it could be too late to save the season.

336. Weather in the mountains suitable for skiing

Focus News: 2008-12-31

The weather conditions in the mountains is suitable for skiing, the official on duty in the Mountain Rescue Service told Focus News Agency.

The ski runs in Vitosha mountain, Borovets, Bansko and Pamporovo resorts enjoy conditions appropriate for skiing.

It is cold in the mountains. The temperature is below zero. Light wind is blowing on high grounds.

No incidents have been reported, the service added.

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