WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

Fri, 11/11/2011 - 15:25

By now you are probably feeling inundated by all the monstrous Soviet Army monuments, the statues of "heroic" partizani and the other Socialist Realism constructions that dot the countryside from Vidin to Varna and from Silistra to Simitli.

where in bulgaria are you 61-62.jpg
© Anthony Georgieff

In fact, there is hardly a town or village in Bulgaria whose central square does not have some sort of "monument" designed to celebrate the 1944 Communist coup and the Communist camp system it generated. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these.

After the 1989 collapse of Communism, when it emerged that the Communist rulers were responsible for more deaths than Bulgaria had ever suffered in a war, a very different type of monument started to emerge. There are fewer of them and they are a lot less spectacular than the state-commissioned Communist stuff, yet they are here, a sombre reminder that in the 20th Century Bulgaria, supported by the Soviet Union, spent 45 years as a cog in the wheel of one of the world's cruelest social experiments.

In this picture you can see a simple mock-up of a chapel and two plaques commemorating hundreds of citizens shot or worked to death in a notorious Communist-run labour camp in northern Bulgaria.

Where in Bulgaria are you?

Issue 61-62

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where in bulgaria are you
WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?
Most of these water reservoirs exist to this day, though some are reportedly in a bad state as they have not been maintained for years. The majority are unremarkable, but some are in fact quite serene – and many locals frequent for angling or camping.

where in bulgaria are you
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As a result of what some Bulgarians refer to as the "unbridled" construction of hotels, resorts and holiday homes – "entombing the Black Sea in concrete" – many of them have been destroyed.

where in bulgaria are you
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But owing to its topography it is one of the best places in Europe to explore bridges.

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Still, this country does boast a number of small isles one of which is even permanently inhabited.

where in bulgaria are you
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It was supposed to commemorate a series of 19th century battles between Russian and Ottoman forces that led to the restoration of Bulgaria's independence. As such, every Bulgarian school kid knows it as they are taken on obligatory bus tours of the area.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?
During the centuries the natural fortification provided by the rocks was used for a military installation by whoever happened to be in power.

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Through the centuries, Bulgaria has changed the location of its capital city at least a dozen times.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?
High hills were deemed a particularly appropriate location as they used both Socialist Realism and the power of nature to assert the invincible authority of the Party and the working classes.

where in bulgaria are you 170.jpg
WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?
A few yards from the muddy waters a small village house stands. This is where Vanga, the blind clairvoyant and one of Bulgaria's best-known 20th century phenomena, used to live.

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He discovered he could find virtually no information relating to it. In fact, he could find a lot more about the Nile's journey through Africa than he could about this river's meanders through southeastern Europe.

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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?
Often, they can be visited without any restrictions. But Bulgaria has another type of military installations that predate the Warsaw Pact barracks and border outposts.

where in bulgaria are you 166.jpg
WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?
But behind the trinket souvenir stands and the overpriced tavernas it holds many centuries of history, a charming old town and perhaps the biggest concentration of medieval churches in Bulgaria.