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250. Willbrook to pour 40M euro in Bulgarias first green project

Wise Property: 2008-09-18

Real estate company Willbrook Management International will build a 40 million euro housing complex in Varna, said the companys executive director Daiana Voicu.

Willbrook Diamond Residences will comprise 11 home buildings, recreation and entertainment facilities and a spa centre. It is expected to be finished by the end of 2009.

The complex would be designed, built and used in line with strict environmental standards and would be Bulgarias first green project, Voicu said. It will use energy-saving light and air conditioning sources. Water-saving aerators will be mounted in the bathrooms to save water. Local green producers will be picked to supply the construction materials.

A survey by consultancy firm Colliers International showed eco-construction was just two per cent more expensive than conventional methods. Investors pay an average of $40 more per sq m while their direct financial benefits may exceed initial costs ten times.

Willbrook Management International has earmarked a total of 250 million euro to develop other projects in the Bulgarian capital, Voicu said, without identifying particular locations.

249. Champions League sees flying start for English sides

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-17

After Chelsea cruised to a seemingly effortless 4-0 victory over French side Bordeaux, and Liverpool having stamped their traditional domination over French sides over the years with yet another defeat of Marseilles, three more British teams will today face European challenges across the continent.

Chelseas form this season under new boss Scolari has been stupendous. Even more frightening for opponents was that in the immediate post-match interview Scolari said that he was rather unhappy with the poor performance of his men. Surely this will send alarm bells ringing in Sir Alex Fergusons men who will face none other than Chelsea in a mouth-watering Premiership derby this weekend.

Before that, however, Man United will have to concentrate on Spanish side Villareal, while Arsenal will wrestle it out with old nemesis Dynamo Kiev and Celtic will take on Danish minnows Aalborg.

The latest updates before tonights clash are that United will likely be without Ronaldo. Furthermore, Michael Carrick with a broken foot is out for at least a month, which means he will also miss Englands World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Kazakhstan. Bulgarian hit-man Berbatov with a knee injury is doubtful as well. If Berbatov is sidelined, and he most certainly will be, United will bank their hopes on Angolan striker Manucho.

Villarreal will be without Nihat Kahveci, and Giuseppe Rossi, both suffering from thigh injuries.

Arsenal are definitely not going to have the services of Samir Nasi and Mikael Silvestre for tonights opener with Kiev. Dynamo Kiev, on the other hand, will be without Kaddouri who is suspended.

In their last five visits to the ex-Soviet Union, Arsenal have lost three times to Ukrainian teams: Dynamo Kiev twice, and Donetsk once, as well as conceding a defeat against CSKA Moscow in 2006 and Spartak Moscow and 2001. Not one of their favourite places to visit in Europe by far, which partially explains why Arsene Wenger has claimed that a draw in Ukraine would be a success.

Celtic appear to have the easiest task, although the Champions League so far has been full of shocking defeats incurred by outright outsiders, CFR Cluj beating Roma 2-1 away from home, and Basel losing at home to Donesk, again 2-1. Celtic cannot afford to be complacent and they certainly cant take anything for granted if they are to avoid an opening spoiler.

Paul Hartley has recovered from a neck injury and he will be available for Celtic. Mark Wilson has overcome his knee knock and is also available in defence, and striker Hesselink is also up to notch.

One of Aalborgs staunchest defenders Kasper Bogelung has been definitely ruled out before the match with a deteriorating hamstring injury.

The rest of the games today are Porto v Fenerbahce; Lyon v Fiorentina; Steaua Bucharest v Bayern Munich; Real Madrid v BATE Borissov; and finally Juventus, v Uefa Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg.

248. Seven thousand first-graders fewer start new school year

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-15

A total of 60 786 first-graders entered classrooms on the first day of the new school year on September 15 2008, seven thousand fewer than in 2007.

More than 3000 schools around the country welcomed a little more than 820 000 pupils and parents at 9am with the national flag raised and the national anthem played at official ceremonies. It also featured a welcoming statement from Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

This year, fourth, fifth and sixth-graders will have to take exit level exams at the end of the school year in May 2009. Pupils in higher grades will have to take high school matriculation exams on May 17 and May 19 2009.

Matriculation exams were introduced in the last school year by the Education Ministry, which was a subject of protests by both pupils and parents, who claimed they did not have enough time to prepare. Parental organisations even threatened to take the issue to court, claiming that matriculation exams were a form of discrimination against their children.

The first of the long debated high school matriculation exams took place on June 1 2008 in all schools in Bulgaria with close to 76 000 high school students taking an exam on Bulgarian literature and grammar. Students who spoke before TV cameras after the exam, said they were surprised by the fact that the exam was not difficult at all.

The ministry's idea was for matriculation exams to serve as entrance exams to universities in Bulgaria because currently every university organises its own entrance exams based on its own criteria.

Universities, however, claimed that school education in Bulgaria varied around the country and that the matriculation exams would not serve as acceptable entrance criteria.

In other news the first school break pupils will have in the new school year will be on November 6-9 2008. The Christmas break will be on December 24-January 4. The first term of the year will end on January 28 2009 and the second term will start on February 1. The spring break is scheduled for April 1-12 2009. Other holiday days include November 1 2008 and May 24-25 2009.

247. Israeli-Bulgarian group to invest 250 million in eco project near Razlog

Wise Property: 2008-09-14

Israeli investors Tidhar Group and Asim Real Estate Ltd. and Bulgarian Investment Group will invest 250 million euro in a mutual eco project called Razlog Village All Seasons Nature ResortIsraeli investors Tidhar Group and Asim Real Estate Ltd., in partnership with Bulgarian Investment Group announced plans to collaborate on a mutual eco project called Razlog Village All Seasons Nature Resort.

The investment was worth 250 million euro and envisions eight hotels spread over 150 000 sq m. All facilities will have the capacity of 1500 rooms, which could house up to eight thousand people a day, the companies said in a media statement.

The main concept underlying this grand endeavor was the aim to inspire year-round tourism activities, investor said.

Construction will begin in 2009, and the whole central part together with the internal infrastructure will be completed by 2011. The first guests are expected to arrive in 2012.

Razlog Village will stretch on two hills connected with a pedestrian area, flanked by boutiques and mimicking the traditional Bulgarian mid-19 century architectural style. The area will feature two and three-storey buildings with retail and entertainment facilities.

The investors said all eight hotels would be different in style and function, so they match the needs and taste of various clients. A luxury five-star hotel with casino and business centre was one of the hotels, followed by a compact family hotel and a gated community-type complex offering five-star luxury. A spa hotel and a sport hotel were meant to attract a younger crowd who would enjoy an Olympic-size swimming pool and various playgrounds which were part of the plan.

Within the complex compound an aparthotel and an eco hotel with rooms hewn in cave-like compartments. Developers said they plan to invest in natural pine woodland, which would surround the complex.

Designers of the project are architects Israel Barlev and Stella Magrisso-Nanova, the construction work will be done by the two investing groups.

246. Dance in a cave to save the Earth

Sofia Echo: 2008-09-12

Earthdance is back in Bulgaria, and the new location for 2008 looks to be as hot as ever. On September 12 to 14, the country joins in the worldwide music event that gets more than 350 cities in 50 countries dancing and chilling all for the good of nature.

This year, the fifth time that it is taking place in the country, Earthdance will be held at Prohodna Cave, near the village of Karlukovo in Loukovit municipality. The 250m-long and 40m-high cave is known as Oknata, which roughly means the eyes of God in Bulgarian, due to the two eye-like symmetrical openings in its roof.

Three areas will be dedicated to different styles of music and interests. The main stage, in front of the cave, will feature the Macedonian guru of electronic sound Kiril Dzajkovski. Other names to play a the festival include Pistamashina, Pumpkin Temp, Skiller, 1000 Names, Quantone, Microwave, Kliment and Dickie, and the DJs KiNK, Zenk, Laylla Dane, Error Beauty, Passcoff, Acidtrip, Stoyan, Phoenix, SoulSlept, Joro Paskalev, Solaris, Pierre, Timetourist, Milan, VoV, Stenly, Cinnamint, ZawHer, Oxydant, Tokkah and Daft Dub.

In the 1980s, Dzajkovski came together with the director Milcho Manchevski to form one of the first electronic bands in Macedonia. Moving to Australia in the 1990s, he continued his musical career, and now, in addition to mixing tracks, writes music for film (Dust, Balcancan, The Great Water, Shadows), television and theatre.

At the second area, inside Oknata itself, the focus will be on relaxation and alternative culture, with acoustic and chill-out music, performances, theatre and film screenings.

The third area leans towards the necessaries, on a meadow in front of the south entrance to the cave, and will be home to a medical station, shaded areas, food and drink, and a camping ground.

Also at Earthdance will be options for climbing and bungee jumping.

Such a gathering could not take place in a concrete jungle, and Earthdance takes this into account. One of the aspects of the event is environmental preservation. Organisers said that strict measures will be observed for maintaining the cave clean and intact, along with overall cleaning of the entire area. There will also be discussions related to environmental issues. Profit from the event will go towards environmental preservation initiatives and building of a green infrastructure around Prohodna Cave.

Given its stated importance of responsibility towards nature, tickets (20 leva pre-sale, or 25 leva at the event) to Earthdance are limited to 1000.

How to get there: From Sofia, take the Hemus Highway towards Varna for 80km. The total distance is about 100km. Or, use the train there is a stop at Karlukovo, which is only two km from the festival.

245. Price Decrease of Mobile Phone Services

News BG: 2008-09-10

From summer 2009 onward the price of a one minute phone call between a BTK subscriber and a mobile phone operator and vice versa will decrease to 25 stotinki per minute. Night phone calls will even be cheaper.

This is according to the schedule of the price decrease between fixed and mobile phones prepared by the Commission for message regulations (KPC) and the operators, bTV announces.

"For the period of one and a half years we reduced prices by 35% in the high-traffic zone and 48% in the off-topic zone", the Chair of KPC Veselin Bojkov said.

Before the state pushed telecoms for these price rebates, the European Commission criticized Bulgaria many times that the prices and the profits of this kind of service are among the most expensive in the EU.

In the fall the regulator will have new market analysis for the expenses and profits of telecoms. If prices continue to be inadequately high, the Commission will order a new price decrease.

"Then we will have the right to levy even lower prices, lower than these we have already established with the operators. So this will be a major element in our relationship with the operators", Bojkov announced.

244. Russian interest in Bulgarian property market grows

Wise Property: 2008-09-09

There are times when the "Russian invasion" could be a pleasant surprise. When speaking of investments and buying property in Bulgaria, that is.

Russian buyers seem to be the new hope of property developers after the tide of British and Irish clients has begun significantly to subside since last year.

According to a survey by Green Life Property Development, as cited by Stroitelstvo Gradut weekly, a steadily increasing number of Russian, Scandinavian and Romanian buyers has come as a satisfying substitute, with Russian-speaking clients making up to 90 per cent of all buyers.

The investment company noted that there are two groups of emerging on the Bulgarias property market. One is of wealthy Russians coming from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, who seek to purchase spacious flats with the intention to use them as holiday homes and not let them for profit. The other group of buyers, not as solvent, prefers to buy smaller homes as an investment.

Green Lifes survey indicated that the latter group comes to replace British clients who often bought several flats off plan and later tried to re-sell them to their fellow countrymen for a profit.

However, most Brits who have bought property two years ago are pretty happy with their investment return that accounts for 40 per cent of the initial price. On the other side, people who have bought real estate last year are left rather disappointed.

Pressed by mortgage payments for a first home, in addition to unsatisfactory three to five per cent as opposed to the expected 10 per cent returns for the last holiday season, most buyers are looking for ways to rid themselves of the property, according to Green Life.

The withdrawal of potential British and Irish clients puts many developers seeking quick profits in unfavorable position, but the tendency will help the property market to regulate itself. Only the most reliable investors with a clear business strategy will be able to stay afloat in the midst of advancing property market crisis, Stroitelstvo Gradut has quoted Green Lifes CEO Nikolai Pehlivanov as saying.

243. Lighthouse Golf Resort to open May 2009

Wise Property: 2008-09-08

Lighthouse Golf Resort will officially open in May 2009Lighthouse Golf Resort, the 70 million euro complex being built near Balchik on Bulgaria's northeastern Black Sea coast, will officially open in May 2009. Some 50 million euro of the funds earmarked for the project have already been invested, executive director Georgi Chouklev said at the ceremony inaugurating the golf course.

Ian Woosnam, the Welsh golf pro who designed the course, is expected to attend the official opening of the complex.

The complex, whose full name is Lighthouse Golf Resort & Spa, will have 1000 housing units, of which some 600 are still under construction and 350 have already been sold to buyers of various nationalities.

The five-star 180-room hotel part will feature retail space, bars and restaurants, a spa and wellness centre, a tennis court and swimming pools. The holiday homes will be grouped in five clusters, two of which Marina and Lighthouse will rise above the cliffs on the shore, while Green, Lake and Forest are all surrounded by the golf course.

Lighthouse Golf Resort is close to two other golf courses Black Sea Rama and Thracian Rocks, giving golfers the chance to switch courses.

242. Russians Once Again on the Bulgarian Real Estate Market

New BG: 2008-09-00

90% of the buyers of vacation properties in Bulgaria are Russians. This was announced today in Sozopol by Nikolay Pehlivanov, the executive director of the investment company Green Life.

Clients of Bulgarian property no longer come from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but from other regions in Russia as well. They prefer big vacation properties near the beach with a well developed infrastructure.

The weak tourist season influenced the Bulgarian vacation real estate market in Bulgaria negatively. The levels of return this year are between 3 and 5% when the expected was 10% and the realized is 7% in the previous year, representatives of Green Life claim.

The English-speaking clients retreated from the market because of their inability to pay their credits and the financial crisis in Great Britain. Green Life predicts a retreat of profiteers from the market.

Experts claim that the prevailing vacation home search is for big properties and more scalable land terrains. The prices of big complexes will continue to increase, the company predicts.

241. India and Nepal En Face in Bourgas

News BG: 2008-09-06

The library in the Bulgarian town of Bourgas presents the unique exhibition of Shantipria India and Nepal en face.

The exposition includes photographs from that part of the East that has always been perceived not only as a geographic place but mostly as a center of spirituality, wisdom and the way towards self-cognition.

From the Thar desert in Rajasthan to the Jainism temples in Gujarat, from the crowded markets of West Bengal to the Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim, from Buddha's birthplace in the Nepalese Terai to the Tibetan kingdom of Mustang, from the valley of Kathmandu to the eternal ice of Everest.

The exhibited photographs reflect the direct contact and the specific viewpoint of the person interested in the East who has his camera with him.

The audience has the chance to (re)discover a spot in the world, in the dynamic and changing everyday of which the ingenuous beauty and the deep insight of India and Nepal remain frequently incomprehensible and hidden.

The photo exhibition will be in the Exhibition hall of the regional library P.K. Yavorov in Bourgas from 8 to 19 September.

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