by Stamen Manolov

Following years of incompetent management, neglect and theft, the Bulgarian State Railways system is now in tatters. Many stations have been closed, demolished or just abandoned, and the railways' staff are constantly engaged in industrial action to prevent more closures and job losses.

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The reasons why a series of Bulgarian post-Communist governments decided to ruin the railways system are many and varied, but come down to the usual mixture of corruption, shortsightedness and the by now proverbial lack of interest in the public good.

Yet, Bulgaria once used to have a smoothly running (in Balkan standards) railways system that would take you from Sofia to Varna in less than five hours (as opposed to the current eight), operating restaurant carriages with hot food and several types of modest but perfectly OK sleepers. Perhaps the most obvious vestige of the once glorious railways days are the still surviving railway stations, about which we will bring you a detailed report about in the next issue of Vagabond.

But now we will take you up the clock tower of one of Bulgaria's most remarkable fin-de-siècle stations, located on the southern Black Sea coast. The winding staircase is usually hidden from the eyes of the general public as it is kept locked, but we were allowed access - and were rewarded with exclusive views and insights.

Where in Bulgaria are you?


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