Port of Vidin
Communist era concrete construction
The “port” of Vidin is a good example of the failure of communist concrete. The Romans perfected concrete construction 2,000 years ago, but when the communists in Eastern Europe decided to construct concrete apartment structures and office buildings they apparently failed to read the recipe correctly. Not only are the buildings drab but the concrete used is crumbling and what little rebar was used is exposed and rusted. The port facility here is no exception. It looks like it has been bombed but it is only because the concrete structure is crumbling. This is something I found repeated all across the Balkans. We talked about this on the Kleine Prinz and we agreed that it must have something to do with using “dirty” sand from the bottom of the Danube. I saw many dredging operations along the river where sand was piled up along the river bank. I am no expert on concrete construction but using unwashed, dirty sand probably doesn’t insure long lasting concrete. Whatever the case, crumbling concrete structures are common across this part of Europe.
We toured an ancient fortress in Vidin which has been well preserved and is in quite a
The ruins of the center of Jewish life in Vidin, Bulgaria
bit better shape than the buildings built during the 60s and 70s. Bulgaria is struggling to overcome its communist past. Like many of the other nations of the Balkans it has gone through many jarring changes of political control ever since the Roman times. I didn’t realize how much of this part of Europe was built during the Roman era during the first 400 years or so after the time of Christ. Here in Vidin as well as all along the Danube are the remains of ancient Roman cities. Subsequently this area was invaded and ruled by the Ottoman Turks a theme we heard repeated all over the Balkans. Then of course there was the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, World War I and II, the German Nazis followed by the communists and most recently Bulgaria and other countries here have become market economies. I simply can’t get my head around how people manage their lives after being jerked back and forth so violently over such a long time. One woman explained it to me by saying “we have to try and focus on today and tomorrow. What happened in the past is gone and we have to move
Baba Vida fortress
Me at the ancient 13th century fortress of Baba Vida in Vidin, Bulgaria
on.” I suppose that is what you have to do under such circumstances, but yet it seems very clear that hatred and animosity from the past is still strong. Romanian lies less than a mile across the river from Vidin and here they refer to the mosquitos that swarm the place as “Romanian” mosquitoes. It doesn’t appear that there is much love lost between the two countries.
One important thing of note here concerns the Bulgarian Jews during WWII. Bulgaria is one of the few countries along with Denmark which made a concerted effort to protect its Jewish citizens from being sent to German concentration camps. I am told that it was the Orthodox bishop in this country whose opposition to deportation of Bulgarian Jews that saved many of them. Most Jews have since moved to Israel and the original synagogue lies in ruins yet there remains here an aura of tolerance. I visited a mosque which is located right across the street from the offices and headquarters of the local Christian Orthodox church where we were warmly welcomed.
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