FOR A FEW STRETCHES OF ASPHALT
Where has the 'love of the people' disappeared?
The current ruling coalition comprising the BSP, DPS and Ataka is busy digging into the GERB party sewers frantically shovelling wagonloads of slime to pour over Boyko Borisov's head – accusations of financial mismanagement, corrupt cronyism, gross intrusion into citizens’ privacy and so on and so forth - in the hope that the muck will be so sticky that its stink will remain in voters’ nostrils come the next election. So how will posterity assess the legacy of the "Greatest Living Bulgarian"?
If Boyko "Big Brother" Borisov is remembered for anything positive at all, it must be the motorway linking Sofia with Burgas. Such excitement – my friends and neighbours all boasting how they can now drive to the capital in just over a couple of hours. The speed limit is 130 kph, but my mates assure me that the police grant a 10 kph margin. This mysteriously translates into a cruising speed of 150 kph.
How hard to remember those golden days of leisurely motoring when Bulgaria’s only stretch of motorway ran from Sofia to Plovdiv and the KAT traffic police put trestle tables across all but one lane at the beginning of the highway just to remind comrade drivers how lucky they were to pretend that their Ladas and Trabants could be temporarily transformed into F1 racing cars for the 120 kilometres ahead.
Now Bulgaria is in Europe and Big Brother Boyko boasts that the motorway built with European money is his creation.
However, whether this road deserves to be called a motorway is seriously open to question. Unlucky foreigners can easily be fooled into believing that driving down this road at the prescribed speed limit is safe. They should know two things. First, the oldest part of the road - between Sofia and Plovdiv - is in serious need of repair. Two, that there is little or no warning of roadworks. Those beloved Autobahn signs that advise you kilometres in advance of speed restrictions and lane closures are entirely absent. Instead the unwary driver in the fast lane faces a sudden unheralded line of traffic cones 50 yards from a parked bulldozer. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred he swerves and because of the relative lack of traffic intensity he survives to rain curses on the bulldozer’s mother.
Summer traffic on the motorway is intense. _Gästarbeiters[ital] are making their summer migration from Germany to Turkey in cars filled with children and luggage. Just one more country to cross and they are on home soil. Outside Plovdiv, two policemen are flapping their arms and directing traffic off the motorway. Like inept toreadors they risk their lives with just a line of plastic traffic cones to protect them from the cars charging at them at phenomenal speeds.
Elsewhere diverted drivers expect to see further signs, leading them through back roads towards that magic point where they can safely rejoin the motorway. On an occasion the traffic column sent off down the dual carriageway into Plovdiv took the first opportunity to perform an illegal U-turn and return to join the motorway just a few yards down from the flapping policemen. No one had thought to close the slip road back onto the motorway.
A mile on down the road the traffic slowed to thread its way through the wreckage of five cars, that had swerved, crashed, shunted in trying to avoid an enormous steam-roller left over the weekend in the fast lane. In a nearby field a stunned Turkish woman wept beside her smashed up car – a car filled to the roof with luggage and presents for her friends and relations back home.
Meanwhile thanking our lucky stars that we hadn’t embarked on our journey half an hour earlier we drove on towards Burgas down the remaining 150 kilometres of Boyko Borisov's road. The Turkish drivers had now left to join the still largely single track road towards the border and the only snake in this motoring heaven is that there are no petrol stations, no toilets – just a very few treeless shrubless high-fenced parking lay-byes.
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