Mavericks & Lost Causes

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Vladimir Zhirinovsky Liberal Democrat Russian MP

The problem with modern day politics, is that it is populated by grey and rather boring people. Maybe we are living in an age where being anodyne and characterless somehow reflects a quality of dependability and dedication, but I suspect that our present day leaders are no more dynamic or dependable than before, and often quite the opposite..

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They are becoming rather elderly now, and one might say a little battered around the edges, but a few years ago politicians seemed to have more charisma, and more lustre.They somehow inspired us all to hope, and in anticipation of change, many of these huge characters, not only influenced these changes in the world, but they were often quite amusing too!

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a flamboyant veteran lawmaker known for his fiery rhetoric, recently told Reuters in an interview, that Trump was the only person able to control the dangerous tensions between Moscow and Washington, but by contrast, Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton could spark World War Three. Zhirinovsky, received a top state award from Putin, after his pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party of Russia came third in Russia’s parliamentary election last month.

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Friends in High Places

Many Russians regard Zhirinovsky as a clownish figure who makes outspoken statements to grab attention but he is also widely viewed as a faithful servant of Kremlin policy, and sometimes used to float radical opinions to test public reaction.

“Relations between Russia and the United States can’t get any worse. The only way they can get worse is if a war starts,” said Zhirinovsky, speaking in his huge office on the 10th floor of Russia’s State Duma, or lower house of parliament.

“Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump. But if they vote for Hillary, it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasaki’s everywhere.”

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Vuk Draskovic Leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement.

Vuk Draskovic is a Serbian politician who served as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and as Minister of Foreign Affairs fro both Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbia itself.

Graduating from the faculty of law at the University of Belgrade in 1968,  from 1969-80 he worked as a journalist in the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug, was a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and worked as the chief of staff for Yugoslav President Mika Spiljak. He has written several novels, and fits into the Balkan stereotype, of intellectual politician and leader.

After the Milosevic years, he attempted a comeback as one of the eleven candidates in the Serbian presidential elections, which were subsequently unsuccessful due to low turnout. Despite a polished marketing campaign that saw Drašković change his personal appearance and tone down his fiery rhetoric, he ended up with only 4.5% of the total vote.

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His next chance for political redemption came in late 2003. Fully aware of a weak political standing, after more than 3 years in political oblivion, Drašković entered his party into a pre-election coalition with New Serbia,  reuniting with old party colleague Velimir Ilic, but Joining forces for the 2003 parliamentary election, he achieved limited success. But more importantly, he managed to get into the coalition that formed the minority government, in which Drašković received the position of foreign minister for Serbia and Montenegro.

In response to Montenegro’s vote for independence, Drašković called for a restoration of Serbia’s Monarchy – “This is an historic moment for Serbia itself,” he said, “which would be based on the historically-proven and victorious pillars of the Serbian state and I am talking about the pillars of a kingdom.”

After the breakup with Montenegro in June 2006, Drašković served as the foreign minister of the Republic of Serbia, a successor to the state union of Serbia-Montenegro. He has published two novels, including The Knife and Charlie Rose, which became a TV series.

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George Ganchev BBB and National Patriotic Union.

I have known George Ganchev – real name Georgi Petrushev – since 1985, when he walked into my West London office, and talked about a Bulgaria he had only recently returned to. He subsequently came most Saturday mornings – at exactly 10 am – knowing full well, that it was when a plateful of bacon sandwiches would be delivered from the nearby Greek cafe.

During his impromptu breakfast, he would regale us all with stories of communism and patriotism, and of course, the forthcoming changes. So much so, that I finally told him to stop talking about it, and to show me the realities of Communist Bulgaria, which he did during the Christmas period that followed.

A lot of rot has been spoken about him, and his connection with the old regime. And of course, much has been said by George himself, which has added to his myth and public image, but most of which was carefully crafted for his Bulgarian voters.

During the first Bulgarian presidential election, there was no doubt that George managed to capture the attention of the younger voters, with his Mid- Atlantic spiel and his numerous exaggerated claims. But that was then, and now of course, things are quite different.

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April 1996 The Good Old Days.

But in the beginning he was one of the founders of The Union of Democratic Forces, and however you see that hotchpotch of opportunists – plus the occasional idealist – it did happen, and it left its mark on Bulgarian politics.

As to George being a spy, what was he spying on? Obviously it must have been his fellow boozers in Stringfellows. Or was his deceit crystallized, during an amorous foray into London’s Hampstead suburb, and an adulterous romance with a Russian Countess; with a thick Australian accent. Full of of American chutzpah, learned from his days in the US, perhaps it was when he was finally able to play the central character, and the romantic lead, in a story about himself.

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George Galloway, leader of Respect Party.

On the subject of Donald Trump, George Galloway had this to say-

“He is a big vulgar oaf, a locker room jock. But we knew that. And it is saying something that he beat the Establishment’s favourite, the one with all the money behind her. Trump spent more on souvenirs, T-shirts and giveaways than he did on pollsters and focus groups. Who called that one, right? The elite – and Clintons represent that elite – have constructed a supra-national paradigm in which the losers, the ordinary people have no say. People want to live in a national economy. They don’t want globalisation, which cannot be affected and they cannot; by definition, influence..”

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George Galloway, was a traditional socialist, until he fell out with Tony Blair. A long-standing associate, Galloway has supported Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn,  since Corbyn’s election in September 2015.The Respect Party “voluntarily deregistered” itself at the electoral commission in August 2016.

Early in his career, Galloway was an opponent of Saddam Hussein, but he has been accused by David Aaronovitch and Christopher Hitchens of changing his mind, about the Iraqi leader, when it became Western policy not to support him. Galloway visited Iraq in 1994 and delivered a speech to Saddam Hussein, which ended with the statement – “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” But, he maintained that he was addressing the Iraqi people in his speech.

Galloway testified to the United States Senate in 2005, over alleged illicit payments from the United Nations Oil for Food Program. Galloway supports the Palestine side of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, taking an anti Israel stance, and was involved in the Viva Palestina aid convoys.

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By Patrick Brigham 

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Shopska or Greek Salad? – The Balkan Foodie Page

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The difference between having an annual Balkan holiday, and permanently living almost anywhere in The Balkans, is the difference between sitting in a posh restaurant, or going food shopping for yourself. Living in a Western European country, where almost anything is available in the market at all times, or trolling around a hometown Balkan supermarket – whilst desperately trying to buy the correct ingredients – can be maddening.

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But one thing is for sure – despite what the celebrity chef on the local TV channel might have to say – that most of the ingredients available anywhere in the Balkans, are disappointingly much the same. Cooking, on the other hand, does vary a bit, but not as much as the pundits would have you believe, and although most national dishes have different names, many hark back to the Otterman Empire, and 500 years of Turkish occupation.

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The Balkans have always been fairly austere, and this has determined the average diet, and of course the lifestyle which it supports. Although the main factor is tradition, food in the Balkans is about wives or Grandmothers, who are determined to maintain traditional cooking standards.

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That is why every dish one eats, seems to be fairly similar to the last time, and any variation in quality or presentation will receive a scowl – usually from some ancient lady in a black dress – or even a knowing look, from a patronizing dinner guest. The Balkans doesn’t seem to like gastronomic change or variety, meaning that restaurants and homes tend to serve up the same fare, and try to maintain the same standards.

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Communism stymied many of the cooking skills in Bulgaria and Romania, which wasn’t helped much by central food planning – factory ships collecting fish from around the world, meat freezing factories. Russian processed tinned fish and meat, cooperative farming, and regional agricultural plans, all helped to provide a glut of certain foods, and a dearth of many others. So, a citizens food choice during communism was a frugal affair, and with high days and holidays occasionally helped along by Father Frost, most Balkan nations remained Christian, except in name.

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Greece, on the other hand had no such restrictions; other than poverty or the will of the people to grow their own vegetables and fresh meat, and of course Greece had the sea. Today, it is the fresh fish – if expensive these days – that attracts the visitors and holidaymakers, to this friendly and hospitable nation, and to most of those countries to be found in the Aegean and the Adriatic. So……………

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Whatever I might have said which may sound a little critical about Balkan food, it is meant to amuse more than detract, because Balkan food is unquestionably the healthiest food in Europe. With a surfeit of olive oil, cheap and easily available herbs and spices, white brine cheese – feta in Greece or sirene in Bulgaria, but much the same all over the Balkans – kaskaval yellow cheese, wonderful yoghurt,  and some spectacular smoked meats and sausages, the Balkans generally have a lot to offer by way of home grown, and interesting produced foods.

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But, let’s get back to our problem. As foreigners, many of us are used to a varied diet. That means the odd Indian curry, Chinese food – world famous take out food – and of course gourmet food from France, Italy, Spain and most recently, Denmark.

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Although it is hard to compare Balkan food with top French cooking, if you have a simpler taste and enjoy a fish diet, most of the Balkans, and all the little countries along the Adriatic should keep you gastronomically content for years to come.

By Charlie Loftus

Communism and Self Esteem

What did ‘Communism’ do for you?

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Perceived from the sitting rooms of suburban England or even from a press office in Canary Wharf, the ex Communist countries of Europe remain an anathema to most. With an absurd oversimplification of the facts, to the yellow press, it is just another rant about the job market, cheap Eastern European labor, and taking work away from English people. But most of it is rot and downright misleading. It also presents these foreign job hunters as androgynous, feeling-less and totally self motivated, but of course, none of this is true.

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All gone except Gobby the only decent man among many! 

Sixty years of Communism have caused more emotional damage to the inhabitants of Eastern Europe than has been presupposed. Despite the various Communist administration’s absurd political claims – that social engineering would one day put greedy western capitalists in their place – after the political changes in the 90s, there was little evidence of this success, just a daunted and disillusioned population of resentful and confused people. Just how our fellow Europeans managed to survive the oppression, which Communism so gladly provided for them, is a lesson we should all learn, when it comes to the personal management of our mental health.

The reality of Communism was a tall greasy pole which anybody with any ambition, had to climb. The rewards were very clear and although a citizen had to conform to certain strict criteria when it came to where they lived and how much they were paid, their way forward was either through working as a senior manager in one of the many enterprises, or by becoming a part of the control structure and working for the Ministry of the Interior.

The whole system was tied to Communist Party values and to the people who controlled and oiled the corrupt political process. Everyone knew this, and together with a paper trail – which makes Franz Kafka’s literary machinations seem almost childlike – they were doomed to conform to the often absurd edicts of their masters, held in an emotional inertia, under strict observation and remorseless control.

The effect of all this pressure was to create a creature which nobody in Northern Europe could easily recognize then, or even to this day. People of all ages were secretive, conspiratorial, passive and compliant. Few liked their lifestyle, their jobs, their colleagues or even their own families. The net result was that jealousy and contempt, were gradually superseded by paranoia and a massive grudge. Nothing was good enough, people – who on the surface seemed cordial and reasonable – conspired against one another and looked forward to the day when they could reek humiliation on their chosen victims, which for some deeply held and obscure reason, gave them their greatest satisfaction. That was reality under Communism.


In layman’s terms, it also goes a long way to describe a massive inferiority complex, too, and together with little opportunity to excel – of course there was always sport – and with deeply held resentments in place, many once loyal citizens descended into alcoholism, drug abuse and prostitution; especially after the political changes.

When these changes finally came, most of the peoples of Eastern Europe had dreams of being saved by the Americans. It was believed that they would wave the stars and stripes over these forlorn and forgotten nations like a magic wand, and that everyone’s lives would be changed for the better overnight. But this did not happen.

Iris Murdoch once described low self esteem, in terms of finding fault in others. This might be true, in a gentle English town, full of gentle English people. But in modern Britain, people are forced to compete for the few jobs that are still around and being knocked back and rejected must seem a very painful experience to those of a gentle disposition. But you must take heart and to try to understand how it is that many of your fellow Europeans have been through far greater trauma and humiliation than you because, in the end, all they had to believe in was themselves.

By Charlie Loftus

Beautiful Greece & The Evros Delta

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Greece is not very good at advertising itself in the media, because it is assumed that the world knows all about it anyway. Recently, the destination for a particular visiting American democrat, Greece is usually associated with stones, myths, sunny islands, and the blue Aegean Sea.

Set in an intimate café, we imagine ourselves – as dreamers often do – enjoying the warm Mediterranean breeze, and watching the sun set, with the sound of Bouzouki music quietly playing in the distance.  Well, it is all true, but this is the Greece of the package tour; a forsale advert discretely placed in The Lady Magazine for a holiday home, offering long leisurely summers, and warm winter breaks. But what about the rest of Greece, what happens there? Well that; according to the Greeks, can take care of itself!

The River Evros divides Greece from Turkey, and runs from Bulgaria to the north, where it is called the Maritza. Flowing down to the Aegean Sea, it gradually widens into a delta and a rather unmanageable border area with Greece’s neighbour Turkey.

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Famous for its wildlife, it is an ornithological wonder, and a place of pilgrimage for bird watchers worldwide. Protected by the World Wildlife Fund, trippers and tourists pass it by, with little interest – as they drive along the E 85 to Bulgaria or Turkey – ignorant of the fact that they are passing through a National Park, the biggest display of Raptors in Europe, and most of the migrating birds from North Africa and beyond.

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Greece has been blighted by illegal immigration in the past, but since the intervention of EU Frontex Police, and the building of a Trump –like fence in the most vulnerable places, these poor unfortunates have given up crossing the River Evros from Turkey, opting for the easier sea bound route from Anatolia to the Greek islands, and Italy. Whilst writing, I think that it is fair to say that; at great cost, Greece has been the European gateway, for most Middle Eastern migrants, and has done more than any EU member state, on behalf of Europe.

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Evros is also the name of the county, which borders Bulgaria to the north and to the rest of Greek Macedonia. Called Thrace, it also includes both the island of Thasos and the mystical and hardly known island of Samothraki. Mainly visited by the Greeks themselves, it might account for the few foreign visitors  because  Greeks are very good at keeping secrets. Especially about Samothraki, which is a mountain bikers and hikers paradise, but with many small hotels, waterfalls and beautiful beaches, it is a wonderful family destination.

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Alexandroupolis is the capital of Evros Region, and is a working port for fishermen. With few pleasure craft to clutter up the harbour, it is no surprise that fresh fish is on the menu at the many little café’s and restaurants.

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What is good about Alexandroupolis, is that compared to the usual holiday spots in Greece, it is not expensive. Unlike much of Greece, which appears to be presently asleep – the failed economy has made much of the provinces give up – Alexandroupolis is alive and vibrant, with all the well known international shopping haunts and more besides, on offer to visitors.

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Alexandroupolis – and the Evros Region – has many good quality and good value hotels. Mainly found in the port area, which up until now have catered solely for Greeks and passing commercial travelers, with B&B starting at about 35 Euros and upwards, it is good value, with most hotels offering family rooms.

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The Greeks are a kindly lot, and like children,  so it is always a pleasure to stay in these places, where many Bulgarians now go for their summer break. If you want to be a little posher, there is more luxurious accommodation to be found along the coast road towards the little port of Makri, on the way to Komotini. But Evros beaches are wonderful, uncrowded, clean and tidy, and the municipal campsite, is one of the best in the Balkans.

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But it is not all fishing and seashells, because the countryside is startling in places, seeming to be as old as the Greek myths and legends themselves. In Makri, you can visit the cave of the Cylops, and in Samothraki you can discover Niki – not a Rolls Royce adornment or expensive trainers – but the real thing. There is also a local airport in Alexandroupolis, with two flights a day to Athens.

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HOTELS IN ALEXANDROUPOLIS

 

 

Edi Rama: The Artist Prime Minister

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Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania

There are very few colourful characters left in Balkan politics, mainly because The Balkans, is the poorest part of Europe. Savaged during World War Two, most of South Eastern Europe fell into obscurity, when communism took its grip on power, turning these little countries into minor minions of the Soviet Union. The only true exception was Greece, which also had its post war political challenges, but Albania has remained an enigma to most Europeans, and until the 21st Century, very little was known about this beautiful country or its politics.

After 1990, the Balkans experienced the free for all of heavily disguised democracy. It was the usual game of musical chairs, where all the old communist leaders repositioned themselves – spinning their fiction on the wheel of fortune –with newly named political parties. Offering absurd agendas, they remained the same men and women from the same old political club. Meaning that most of what they said was unpractical drivel, their main objective was  to make money.

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Today, things are very different, although there is still that whiff of corruption in the air, and so it is positively refreshing to write about the Balkan artist and Prime Minister, which Albania has chosen above all others, to lead it into Europe. This is because Edi Rama, the ex basketball playing surrealist artist, is now at the helm.

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Coming to prominence in 2000, as the mayor or Tirana, he spent eleven years tidying up a capital city which had lost its lustre. Not always the most popular politician, he managed to get rid of the third world buildings, which cluttered up the centre of Tirana, and embarked on an ambitious rebuilding program. With his artistic flair, he also managed to cheer up some of the older buildings too.

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In 2011 his term in office as mayor, came to an end, which is when he entered main stream Albanian politics, achieving the office of Prime Minister in 2013, which he has held since, on behalf of the Albanian Socialist Party.

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Edi Rama Surrealist Painter

Popular with many western politicians, his towering figure even managed to dwarf John Kerry, at a recent meeting, and he remains friends with many of the worlds greats, and perhaps not so good.

By Charlie Loftus

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Bed & Breakfast in Romania – by Royal Appointment.

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His Royal Highness Prince Charles.

The beauty to be found in Transylvania was there a long time before Prince Charles arrived in Romania, or even his Transylvanian colleague, Count Tibor Kalnoky.

Descendant of a family persecuted by the Communist authorities, Count Kalnoky was born in Germany and was educated in France. He graduated from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in 1990, but after the fall of the Nicolae Ceaușescu regime, he returned to his family home in Romania.

Passionate about both his natural and cultural heritage, Count Kalnoky has supported the efforts of HRH Prince of Wales, to preserve the natural, and cultural treasures of Romania, together with a programme for the sustainable development of rural communities.

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Count Tibor Kalnoky.

There seems to be a kind of synergy between the these two men. Or is it more an expression of timelessness; the futile social engineering of communism having ended up in the rubbish dump of history, simply means that they have resumed their natural place in the world. But, why is Transylvania such a beautiful part of Romania?

Many years ago, the Saxons were able – during  a few hundred years – to civilize a large part of medieval Transylvania. They  were skilled craftsmen and merchants, who represented a real economic and cultural boom for the regions where they became established.

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During the XIIth Century, many of the Germanic nations began to emigrate to Transylvania. Some of them lived on the Carpathian Arc in the south east, while others preferred the north east of Transylvania, where they started to colonize and civilize the rural areas; which were then mainly inhabited by the Vlachs or Slavs. The new settlers were called Saxons, which is how they were described by numerous historical sources throughout the Middle Ages, and those who knew them well, were impressed by their diligence and skills.

In Medieval Hungary the Saxons were holders of privileges – as owners of the original mines in Saxony – which they also obtained in Transylvania, Slovakia, Bosnia, and also Serbia. This colonization began during the reign of King Geza II, during which time waves of Germanic immigrants continued to appear.

The Saxons improved many major cities, such as Sibiu, Brasov, Alba Iulia, Bistrita, Seica, Medias, and many villages as well. Building beautiful fortified churches, and beautiful houses, they left a very recognizable mark on the area, and even during the communist period, Transylvania was different in culture, economy, and in people’s behaviour, from the rest of Romania.

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The past and the present.

The story of Count Dracula, has always dominated peoples thoughts, when Transylvania has been mentioned, which  ‘in publicity speak,’ gives the whole area a somewhat bizarre aura. But we must always remember that the Hollywood story of Dracula, is historically inaccurate and simply the imaginings of Bram Stoker.

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The mantra of the Prince Charles Foundation in Romania is ‘Nature, Tradition and Privacy.’ In the website of the Prince’s private retreat, it refers to a fundamental belief in the practical world. It offers the visitors much more than a pampered few days away from their reality, and introduces them to a calmer and simpler world.

The website says – ‘Our philosophy of restoring heritage architecture, is characterised by utmost respect for the textures and atmospheres of ancient buildings. All the rooms have been lovingly restored and furnished with authentic antiques and textiles from Transylvania. The way we restore derelict houses is barely noticeable, rather it would seem that the buildings have aged gently and gradually without recent intervention. The property is not to be seen as a ‘shabby chic’ styled holiday resort – it is genuine in its harmony – and guests feel like staying in a centuries-old private home.’

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The heritage centre includes the ‘Prince of Wales Guest House,’ a fully appointed hotel, which offers a full service to guests, and a unique restaurant menu, with many local dishes. Guests are looked after by discreet local staff, who cater to all their needs – also transfers – and guided activities and meals are all available. Guests are welcomed on arrival with local Transylvanian brandy and pastries, before being shown to their rooms. There is neither TV nor radio, but the drawing room has a small HiFi player with cds. There are plenty of books, including nature guides, and you can also borrow binoculars and a scope to watch wildlife from around the house. Laundering is also available at a small charge.

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Meeting like-minded travellers from all around the world, is one of the special features of this place. Meals are mostly taken along with other guests, unless otherwise required, and the rooms are equipped with kettles for making your own tea and coffee, and bottled mineral water is also provided. Local produce and crafts are on offer, to buy at the little shop in the guesthouse office. There are only two small shops in the village, and no restaurant. The nearest town is 20km away called Barót Baraolt.

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On each day of the week, they offer one activity for their ‘All Inclusive’ guests. These are mostly in the form of nature walks, horse & cart rides, and visits to local craftsmen guided by knowledgeable staff and dependent upon the season. In addition, horse riding is available at nearby stables; transfer by car, and bicycles are available for hire. In the warm season  -May to September – ‘al fresco’ dinners in the surrounding hills are offered, as well as visits to the nearby wildlife hide, with mostly bears and deer. Guests can simply relax in  deck-chairs and hammocks, in one of the most harmonious surroundings in the hills of Transylvania. Guests can also enjoy a refreshing dip in the mineral water pool during the summer heat. In winter, they also offer horse-drawn sleigh rides with bells, blankets and mulled wine, but no trips by motorised vehicle are possible except for transfers to and from the estate.

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The Zalán Valley nestles among the rolling foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, Romania. Its cultural landscape can be said to be unique in Europe, still reflecting the harmonious interaction between man and nature. Small brooks trickle through the valley and cross the property. Some of the most beautiful and biodiversically rich wild flower meadows are located in the direct vicinity of the guesthouses. The landscape is ideal for painting and for photography.

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The tiny hamlet of Zalán Valley  -Zalánpatak in Hungarian, Valea Zălanului in Romanian – was first documented in the 16th century as belonging to Bálint Valentin Kálnoky of Kőröspatak, one of the Transylvanian ancestors of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales. The family had originally founded a glass factory in this part of the hills, which has since ceased to exist. Today, around 120 inhabitants live in the village. Prince Charles owns the property that had been built for the former ‘judge’ who was overseeing the glassworks and the village. It is composed of several buildings, and has a patch of forest and extensive flower meadows, with mineral springs and small brooks belonging to it. The property is characterised by its rich biodiversity of plants, insects, birds, mushrooms and large mammals including bears, who sometimes crossing the back yard. One of Europe’s rarest and most spectacular orchids, the Lady Slipper – Cypripedium calceolus – of which only one single wild specimen has survived in Britain up to date, is blossoming in the valley’s forests in May and June.

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Charles Helping out with a fleece.

The Prince of Wales hopes that his guesthouse will encourage more people to visit Transylvania and in this way promote sustainable development. Proceeds from the guesthouse go to The Prince of Wales Foundation in Romania, member of The Prince’s Charities.

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GUESTHOUSE WEBSITE

 

 

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The Invisible Bulgarian President

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Mr. Harold Thodes.

Recently listening to an interesting podcast discussion, by Clive Leviev Sawyer and Lance Nelson – concerning the forthcoming Bulgarian presidential election – I chanced upon a newspaper interview in the Daily Sleaze, a Bulgarian underground yellow press weekly. It was with a jobbing actor, who had recently arrived in the capital, called Harold Throdes.

A well known impersonator, Mr. Thodes has recently appeared in the Wrexham Players version of The Invisable Man,  and in the past featured in the Hollywood film Ghoastbusters. Originally appearing in a documentary, filmed in Sofia in 1998, called The Invisible Bank Manager, Mr. Throdes – a talented actor – specializes in parts involving people who aren’t there.

The 2016 Bulgarian Presidential election has 21 candidates to date, many of whom have never been heard of before, most of which will never be heard of again, and some of whom are so old, that they have forgotten why anyone is voting for them in the first place. Most candidates qualify for the well known maxim that: ‘Politics is Hollywood for ugly people,’ which is something that makes Harold Throdes an ideal candidate. This is because, you cannot see him at all!

It all came about when the Bulgarian Parliament chose to make it illegal, for its citizens not to vote in presidential elections. It has also become rather confusing for political statisticians, because it befuddles the matter of electoral numbers, if people don’t vote. But, nevertheless, the law was passed.

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This then caused more anxiety, when the political pundits had to design a voting slip for the Bulgarian election, because, what if people didn’t want to vote for any of the candidates? So finally, and in desperation, it was agreed to have a special box to tick on the voting form called, “I don’t support anyone.”

‘That’s when I got the phone call,’ Throdes was reported as saying in The Irish Pub, ‘it suddenly dawned of the voting commission, that if the “I don’t support anyone” voters won, there would be no one to take the top job.’

Asked if he was politically motivated in any way, he replied, ‘Nah, most politicians are a bunch of plonkers, aren’t they? They are all the same to me, I only came here for the money!’

Asked what he would do, if he was elected, ‘Well, nothing really; nobody else does, do they? I might open a few supermarkets and petrol stations, and I am quite good at dancing and singing, as long as my bandages don’t drop off. If that happens, everyone usually runs away.’

Asked about the advantage of being invisible, Harold Throdes had to think for a moment. ‘Well, I suppose the best thing is not having to pay for buses, and of course, being able to drink as much beer as I like. I usually find a nice crowded pub, and go around emptying every bodies glasses. Nobody seems to notice!

By Patrick Brigham

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Oxi means No in Greek But Why?

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On October 29, 1922, fascist leader Benito Mussolini was offered the Italian premiership amid political and social upheaval.

Mussolini launched his first military action in 1923 when he bombarded and briefly occupied the Greek island of Corfu. For some reason, he always had it in for the Greeks, and this was to emerge later on, when he finally attempted to invade the mainland of Greece. For all his bluster, Mussolini did not enter World War II until June 1940, by which time his Nazi Germany allies had already swept through much of Europe.

It soon became apparent that Italy lacked adequate military equipment and that its pace of production was pitiful. In fact, the United States could manufacture more planes in a week than Italy could in a year. Mussolini did not help matters by repeatedly changing his war plans and stretching his forces too thin. His poorly executed attack on France made little progress, until the French asked the Germans for an armistice. Later that year, Italian troops invaded Greece, only to be pushed back into neighbouring Albania, by a ill equipped Greek army.

In Greece, the 28th October is Oxi day, which is the day when the Greek nation remembers and celebrates the courage of the citizens of Greece, and their determination to say no to II Duce, the fascist leader of Italy.

On 28th October 1940, the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, after returning home from a party at the German Embassy in Athens, phoned Ioannis Metaxas – a Greek Army General, who served as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941 – offering the following ultimatum. Made on behalf of  Benito Mussolini, it demanded that Greece should give permission for the Axis forces to enter and annex key locations in Greece, and to virtually occupy the country. Prime Minister General Ioannis Metaxas said no, and consequently little Greece was a war!

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Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas leads Greece into  World War II

At five thirty on the morning of 28th October 1940,  that Italian troops, stationed in Albania, invaded Greece, and so began the Greco Italian war – Oct.1940 to April 1941 – finally  leading to The Balkan Campaign of WW2, between the Axis powers and the Allies; leading to the Battle of Greece, when British and German ground forces intervened in 1941.

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Patriotic posters during World War II

Greece managed to stop the initial Italian invasion, by pushing the Italian army back into Albania. This Italian defeat, caused by the Greek counter-attack, was the first Axis setback of WWII, although the Italian high command went on to organize a spring offensive in 1941. This again failed, because the feisty Greeks had – once more – surprised everyone with their courage and determination. It was not a surprise though to the Greeks, and from ancient times they had been known for their courage and bravery, because the Greeks will to never give up!

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Each and every wartime leader was in awe of Greek fortitude and bravery

This atrocious war persisted for four horrific years. Greece was liberated from Nazi occupation on October 12th1944, but before it had time to recover, it was plunged once again into war; This time a Civil War. This bloody War – from December 1944 to January 1945 and then again from 1946to 49 – was a two-stage conflict, during which Greek communists unsuccessfully tried to gain control of Greece.

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Greek schoolchildren marching through the streets in Orestiada

Every 28th October, Greece celebrates “Oxi” day, a public holiday, and – from the smallest village to the largest town – proud Greeks flock to the streets, to admire school children, patriotically dressed in blue and white, the colours of the Greek flagH γαλανόλευκη or H Galanoleuki, meaning, the blue and white – local brass bands play and the Greek army parades through the streets. It is a day when all Greeks remember the motto of Greece:

“Freedom or Death!”

By The Editor