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Bulgaria's Sunny Beach offers 'best value in Europe'

Sunny Beach in Bulgaria has been ranked as the most affordable resort in a Post Office study of 19 European destinations. The research found a basket of everyday items cost £37 at the Black Sea resort while the same goods in Ibiza, the most expensive destination, cost £131. It also found average prices for UK tourists had risen across Europe, partly because of the weaker pound. In March researchers looked at the cost of a basket of 10 tourist staples - from lunch to evening meals, drinks to sun cream - in 19 European beach destinations. After Sunny Beach, the goods were cheapest in the Algarve in Portugal at just over £58, followed by the Costa Del Sol in Spain at £61. The same goods cost £119 in Sorrento in Italy and £117 in Nice in France. Andrew Brown, a spokesman for Post Office Travel Money, said Sunny Beach's good value owed much to its food prices. "Over the course of a week's holiday, lunch and evening meals for two will cost less than around £175 in Sunny Beach but this could mushroom to over £600 in more expensive resorts in France or Italy." Average prices for Britons across the 19 resorts rose 17% in the year to March - partly because of the weakness of sterling since the Brexit vote, but also the rising popularity of some resorts. The biggest rises were in Zadar in Croatia, up 44%, the Lisbon coast in Portugal, up 29%, and Crete in Greece, up 29%. However, prices also fell in several destinations, with Sunny Beach down 10%, Mamaris in Turkey down 4%, and Paphos in Cyprus down 0.5%. Mr Brown said: "These resorts are trying to attract tourists and restaurants and hoteliers are prepared to drop their prices. "Also, in places like Turkey the local currency has actually fallen against sterling which makes them even more affordable." He said UK holidaymakers should do their "homework", as there were large price disparities between similar resorts within countries. For example, tourists in Spain could expect to pay 25% more for everyday items in the Costa Blanca - at £76 - than in the Costa del Sol. And at £89, prices in Majorca were 47% higher than in the Costa del Sol, although they were also almost a third cheaper than in Ibiza. The cheapest five resorts in March were: Sunny Beach, Bulgaria  Algarve, Portugal Costa del Sol, Spain Marmaris, Turkey Paphos, Cyprus The most expensive were: Ibiza, the Balearic Islands Sorrento, Southern Italy Nice, South of France Zadar, Croatia Lisbon coast, Portugal (BBC)

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European Parliament approves visa-free travel for Ukrainians

An EU bill allowing Ukrainians into the bloc for short stays without visas has been overwhelmingly backed by the European Parliament. Amid the conflict with Russia, the deal is a show of closer EU-Ukraine ties. The European Parliament on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of enabling Ukrainians to travel to the EU without a visa. The proposed bill passed by a 521-75 margin - with 36 abstentions. Ukrainians who have biometric passports would be authorized to enter EU countries, except for the UK and Ireland, without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period. Ukrainians will also be able to access non-EU countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland without a visa. Read: Ukraine slams Eurovision amid feud with Russia over entrant "Great day for the people of Europe and Ukraine," said Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, a Swedish member of the EU parliament. The legislation must still be formally approved by individual EU member states and should come into force in June. (Deutsche Welle)

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Baba Marta Day

Grandma March Day (or simply Baba Marta, Bulgarian: Баба Марта) is a holiday celebrated in Bulgaria, on the first of March. Martenitsas - usually in the form of a wrist band or small yarn dolls or tassels, created by combining red and white colored threads - are worn on that day and through March, until a stork or a blossoming tree is seen, symbolizing the coming of spring, warmer weather and well being. Once the stork or blooming tree appears, the Martenitsa is taken off and hung on a tree. It is common in the spring to see trees festooned in Martenitsas. Older Bulgarians call it Birch Month, because it is around this time when birch trees start growing leaves and giving sap. There's much folklore about Grandma March Day and the character of Baba Marta herself.[1] The greeting exchanged on this day is Chestita Baba Marta (Честита Баба Марта – Happy Baba Marta, often shortened to ЧБМ on greetings cards). There are various theories and suggestions (even several legends, involving real historical figures) about the symbolism of these two particular colors - red & white, from which Martenitsa are made. An obvious explanation and perhaps a common belief people share, is that "red" stands for "life/birth" and "white" denotes "anew/on clear grounds". Combined together, they mean "newborn", "rebirth", "a new beginning"; a celebration of Life and Survival. Another popular explanation is that white stands for wisdom and red for good health, which means that anyone giving you a Martenitsa is wishing you both throughout the new year. In March, these amulets, worn around one's wrists and on their attire, can be seen almost everywhere in Bulgaria and in the neighboring regions. Being a purely pagan ritual by origin, Baba Marta Day is one of the oldest, still existing traditions in Christian Europe. /from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia/

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