Mon, 09/01/2008 - 13:02

It is a shock, really.

Where in Bulgaria are you 24.jpg

You are driving through one of the dullest stretches of the Danubian Plane – a conglomeration of rundown villages and small towns with unpronounceable names, epitomising the eternity of Bulgaria's Transition, when suddenly, among the distant trees, you see a church spire better suited to southern Holland than to this neck of the Balkans.

As you approach, the cross on the spire becomes visible, but then another shock comes. A second cathedral, erected in a peculiar Gothic fashion, emerges, and next to it is a... Soviet jet fighter forever grounded in what appears to be a severely dilapidated village square.

You are in north-central Bulgaria; not far from Byala Slatina (one of Bulgaria's most boring towns) and Knezha (one of Bulgaria's coldest spots).You find yourself surrounded by dun houses with high roofs, their windows sheltered by wooden shutters that have withstood time, war and dictatorship.

This unusual architecture is not some local Bulgarian quirk. The houses and the fantastic churches have been erected by Germans, who came here from the Banat in 1893. They were poor folk, driven by poverty and destitution, but their Germanic determination turned them into the richest community in the neighbourhood in just a couple of decades.The end of this, like so many other things in Europe, was brought about by Hitler and his war call "Heim ins Reich!". Everyone left, except for a single family. The lady of that family still lives in her father's house now.

Where in Bulgaria are you?

Issue 24

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