Of Bears and Men

Jan 30th, 2009

Of Bears and Men

For centuries, captive bears have made money for their gypsy owners by dancing in the streets of Europe. But thanks to the efforts of actress Bridget Bardot and an Austrian animal rights group, the last of the dancing bears have been placed in a cushy retirement home in the mountains of Bulgaria. And, as reporter Matthew Brunwasser reports, that isn’t sitting well with some of the local humans.

Memo From Pravda: In Eastern Europe, Lives Languish in Mental Facilities

Jan 5th, 2009

Memo From Pravda: In Eastern Europe, Lives Languish in Mental Facilities

January 5, 2009 Memo From Pravda In Eastern Europe, Lives Languish in Mental Facilities By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER PRAVDA, Bulgaria — The name of this isolated spot in the lush Danube plains means justice or, in Russian, truth. But little of either seems to have penetrated the home for men with mental disabilities and illnesses here, a bleak establishment reached most easily by a bone-jarring, six-hour ride from Sofia, the capital. In the Communist era, this is where authorities hid the mentally ill from public view. Today, the Pravda Social Care Home for Men with Mental Disorders, a small complex of scrappy, two-story buildings, is still a favored destination for city folk to send away relatives with a mental illness or disability — and not worry about hearing from them again, employees and residents here say.

A Bulgarian care center for disabled children excels

Nov 29th, 2008

A Bulgarian care center for disabled children excels

VARNA, Bulgaria — State institutions in Eastern Europe devoted to the care of children and the disadvantaged are most often the subject of negative news stories in Western media. So after the British Broadcasting Corp. aired an upsetting documentary last year about conditions at a home for mentally impaired orphans, advocates for the disabled were relieved they could focus attention on good practices and all point to Karin Dom, a nonprofit day care center for children with mental and physical disabilities.

Macedonia dispute has an Asian flavor

Oct 1st, 2008

Macedonia dispute has an Asian flavor

SKOPJE, Macedonia — It is one of Europe’s most bizarre – and stubborn – international disputes, and certainly the only one that invokes an argument about Asian tribes stretching back to Alexander the Great.

A Book Peels Back Some Layers of a Cold War Mystery

Sep 11th, 2008

A Book Peels Back Some Layers of a Cold War Mystery

September 11, 2009 Sofia Journal A Book Peels Back Some Layers of a Cold War Mystery By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria — It was one of the legends of the cold war: a Bulgarian dissident writer, Georgi Markov, dying in a London hospital of a mysterious fever after being injected with a poison pellet from a specially adapted umbrella as he walked to work across Waterloo Bridge.     A prominent novelist in his native land when he defected to the West in 1969, Mr. Markov had become a journalist at the BBC’s Bulgarian service and an unflinching critic of Communist rule and Bulgaria’s longtime leader, Todor Zhivkov.

Cold war escape route

Aug 19th, 2008

Cold war escape route

Reporter Matthew Brunwasser reports on one of the routes chosen by East Germans who wanted to escape their country during the Cold War. It went through Bulgaria, and held the promise of freedom. But many didn’t make it.

landfill – D’Arcy Norman

Aug 5th, 2008

The Nation’s Largest Landfill Beckons Tourists

story by MATTHEW BRUNWASSER photo by D’ARCY NORMAN Broadcast on NPR / Day to Day Click here to listen Los Angeles County is home to the country’s largest active landfill. Recently the high-tech Puente Hills Landfill also began offering tours. What is so attention-worthy about a massive pile of trash? Garbage is the affluence of our consumption. That’s one of the messages of the exhibit, Post Consumed: A Landscape of Waste in Los Angeles at CLUI’s Culver City gallery. It’s 8:30 in the morning, and Heidi De Vries (ph) is waiting for the bus tour, which is part of this exhibition. She’s looking at photos of different stages of the waste stream.

Singing-Shepherd: Hans Breuer

May 12th, 2008

Singing-Shepherd: Hans Breuer

Hans Breuer is one of a kind. He was born in Vienna, Austria…to a Jewish father and a Christian mother. He became a shepherd — a singing shepherd. In fact, he became a Yiddish-singing shepherd. Breuer sings to his sheep…and to his fellow Austrians. He says his songs make the sheep happy. But they make some Austrians uncomfortable. Breuer was featured in the book “Shlepping through the Alps,” by American Sam Apple. Matthew Brunwasser schlepped along with Breuer and his 900 sheep in the Austrian Alps.

Nuclear ambitions fan controversy in Bulgaria

Oct 30th, 2007

Nuclear ambitions fan controversy in Bulgaria

SOFIA — As governments around the world struggle to secure energy supplies, cut carbon emissions and adapt to rising oil prices, Bulgaria has adopted an ambitious solution: Construct a new nuclear power plant, the country’s second, near the northern town of Belene, across the Danube from Romania.

A Ride to the Afterlife

Oct 1st, 2007

A Ride to the Afterlife

story by MATTHEW BRUNWASSER published in Archaeology Magazine Vol 60 Issue 5 STANDING OVER AN EXCAVATED PIT in a lush field between rusting grain silos and an aging dairy, archaeologist Veselin Ignatov explains, in helpfully unscientific language, the difference between two Thracian chariots he has just uncovered. “This one is a Mercedes,” he says, as we look over the remains of a chariot and horses buried in Bulgaria sometime between the first and third centuries A.D. “The other one,” he says, indicating a pit 10 yards away, “is more economy class.”