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Published: July 28th 2015
South Western Bulgaria
We entered Bulgaria from Macedonia on Bulgaria’s west.
Crossing into Bulgaria we were checked more thoroughly than anywhere else so far. Later we read that the Macedonians and Bulgarians crossed each other of the Christmas card lists some time back. The exit from Macedonia was manned by border police and customs agents. Each made separate inspections of the vehicle as well as the Carte Gris ( French ownership certificate) and original Green Card insurance. The customs guy sought assurance that all the equipment was for personal use. Then we moved across no-man’s land to the Bulgarians. Another search by customs agent and a long quizzing look at the Carte Gris ( as if they had the slightest clue of what all the French words on it mean) and even longer on the Green Card. I pointed out that BG was included. However they told me I had to pay a road tax. I think they were relieved that I spoke English rather than French. Then the poor guy who had to issue the Vignette had to translate each letter so he could key in the details using a Cyrillic alphabet keyboard.
The mood was sombre all around. At all previous border crossings personnel had been on the cheerful side of polite. These guys were stern but polite.
We left the border post and drove down a long hill. Not steep, but downwards for maybe 15 klms. That loss of altitude was more than matched by loss of esprit de corpse in the general vista.
The clapped out houses and buildings, overgrown orchards, and feral crops all worked to give a depressing introduction to what seems to be a worn out soviet scarred sovereign state. Many houses appeared to be poorly built. Dark looking buildings – invariably unkempt with foliage growing where most folks would not allow it. Roofs of many houses were caving in. Brickwork of a very poor standard. In fact if you had an apprentice bricklayer do a job like most of these joints, you would make him pull it down , refuse to pay him, and suggest he find a different career - like being on the dole – or something where his slovenly ways would be fully appreciated. Obviously quite old buildings. Constructed before the invention of the straight line or plumb bob.
Farms showed neglect. Poor yielding crops stood unharvested. Significant numbers of grain crops had that unhappy feral appearance of either having being sewn by hand broadcasting by an indentured labourer who couldn’t care, or had sprung up from the unharvested seed of a previous crop.
Most of the people hanging around were old. Now that Bulgaria is in the EU, young people can go anywhere in Europe for work. Sad looking people, Smoking just for something to do. When we approached some, they would not look us in the eye or acknowledge our presence, let alone our greeting, showing the scars of 2 generations of soviet direction about every aspect of their lives – now lost with no one to tell them what to do, and all incentive and self motivation cast out of their collective spirits.
In the town of Dupnista we got to see some quite ugly soviet block apartment buildings. Maybe they are pretty on the inside, but I suspect not. Living in this type of block housing its little wonder that the people are depressed dreary and dog tired.
We took it steady on the roads. Minor roads in
the south west of Bulgaria were quite corrugated matching the texture of faces of the sad smoking forgotten looking people along the road. Main roads were smooth but not slick. However, quality of both the road base and driving surface varied from one kilometre to the next.
Next – Central Bulgaria and Plovdiv - Bulgaria gradually Improves
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