Ruins of Bulgaria's recent past are around every corner, inviting exploration. Contunues from issue 146
Not all ruins are created equal. Regarded as pinnacles of human imagination and dexterity, ancient sites such as the Parthenon, the Great Wall and Stonehenge get scores of tourists and are a source of pride for their home countries. Abandoned modern housing projects, hospitals and factories, however, are perceived as eyesores and as signs of bad planning, bad economic or political luck, a tragedy even. They are not the things a tourist authority includes in its promotional materials.
When you travel around Bulgaria, from the capital to the smallest of villages, you will inevitably encounter monuments of stern men and sometimes women, with guns in their hands and passion in their eyes. Made of stone or bronze, these monuments adorn squares and streets, peek over the trees by roads, and form whole, often overgrown compounds.
When you go to Tirana, you do not seek stunning architecture or rich history. You go for the curiosity factor. Albania and its capital are shrouded in the atmosphere of a little-known, little-visited, isolated and poor country haunted by the memories of Europe's last dictatorship.