Port Tomas, Constanta, Bulgaria

Salut,

  Just now we’re listening to some really bad rap music to celebrate Navy day and the religious holiday for Mary’s Assumption.  There were big doing which I’ll probably get to writing about sometime in October at the rate I’m getting these emails out.  It takes me forever to find the few bits of info I do find.  So I keep looking and get frustrated and shut down the computer which gets me no place at all.  So as I said previously, more photos and few, if any words.

As we walked around Ruse I noticed lots and lots of statues of women.  Wish I knew why. 

Ru

DoraMac

http://www.bulgarian-monuments.com/browse/%D0%A0/Rusenska  had the tiny bit of info but really no explanation why so many statues of women around Ruse.

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I took a photo of this stone woman but looking at my photo on the computer I noticed something odd about her clothing.  Not sure if this is intentional.

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Tonka Obretenova

Born 1812

assumed Rousse, Bulgaria

Died 27 March 1893(1893-03-27)

Rousse, Bulgaria

Spouse(s) Tiho Obretenov

Tonka Obretenova (Bulgarian: Тонка Обретенова), known as baba Tonka (баба Тонка), was a female Bulgarian revolutionary, born in 1812, probably in Rousse.

Her parents, Toncho Postavchiyata (Тончо Поставчията) and Minka Toncheva (Минка Тончева), were from the village of Cherven. She married Tiho Obretenov — a famous tailor and tradesman in Rousse. They had seven children (five sons and two daughters) all of whom participated in the Bulgarian revolutionary movement.[1] Obretenova herself lent major support to the revolutionary committee - she was famous for sheltering a number of revolutionary leaders.[2] The Rousse Revolutionary Committee, the most important one in the interior of Bulgaria, was established by her son Nikola Obretenov, in her house. Baba Tonka buried Stefan Karadzha, and managed to preserve his skull.

Her sons Angel, Petar, Nikola, and Georgi (Ангел, Петър, Никола и Георги) took part in different detachments and were killed, or sent into long exile. Her younger daughter, Anastasiya (Анастасия; also called: Siya, Сия) married Zahari Stoyanov — a revolutionary, writer and publicist.

Baba Tonka Cove in Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Tonka Obretenova.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonka_Obretenova

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Woman with a hoe but no info

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Sculpture of a woman on her knees

The sculpture is in the park in Rousse. It was made in May 2006.

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Same park but no info

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Fountain in the park in Rousse

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Except for the child at the far left, I think they’re all girls.

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Monument of the heroes that died in the battle against fascism ; the sculpture is a woman

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Not a sculpture; but a lovely book shop clerk, very fluent in English and where they sold English language books.

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Port Tomas, Constanta, Romania

Salut

So Sad about Robbin Williams.  In 2005 we were in San Francisco for a family wedding.  One night an old college buddy of my sister’s took us to a sushi restaurant.  At one point I heard a voice behind me and I knew instantly who it was.  Robin Williams had come in for his take out Sushi and beer.  I had my camera and he graciously posed.  He was shorter and better looking in person but so very willing to smile for me and my photo. 

   I have been having a heck of time doing these emails lately.  It’s hard to find info to go with my photos.  And today my outlook email won’t send so luckily we have a free wifi that Rick’s super antennae found so I can attempt to send this.  We’ve met some lovely people here in Port Tomas which has a lovely old “Old Town.”  We’ll be here about a week putting up the mast and getting things ship shape. 

Hope these photos are worth 1,000 words because I really don’t have much else.  I loved Vidin and I’m really liking Port Tomas.  Ruse, even with its Lipnik connections was only Okay.  Had there been a walking tour I’m sure I’d feel differently to have learned more.  So it goes. 

Ru

Ruse Architecture

http://paintingz.wordpress.com/ruse/  discusses the history/architecture of Ruse

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The path from the road to the Ruse Yacht Club

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The white building had a very basic toilet, a roomy but basic shower and a washing machine. 

Usually Randal and I shower and do laundry on the boat, but there was a water problem so we couldn’t refil our half empty tank so we showered and did laundry in the Yacht Club building. 

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Our friends Ernst and Erika on our left and the boat Celestine on our right.  We’d been in Novi Sad with both boats and with Celestine in Belgrade and again here in Ruse.  Celestine had two Jack Russel type dogs you barked hello but that was about it.  They weren’t yappy at all. 

The main street of the city is Aleksandrovska, it is an architectural ensemble of buildings in Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo and other architectural styles.

http://bgtourinfo.net/ruse.html talks about the architecture with some photos.

Some of these photos are the town center and some further away on our way to Lipnik Boulevard. 

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More “modern” Ruse

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Soviet style buildings

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Mixed

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A lovely crumbling old building in the park.

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Sulina, Romania

Salut

   So we are now at marker 0 on the Danube.  Tonight we will be in the Black Sea on our way Port Tomas also in Romania.  It will be an overnight passage which thrills me no end but so it goes.  In Port Thomas we will put the mast back up, clear out from Romania and get ready to head back to Varna Bulgaria.  From Varna we’ll go on to Sozopol, Bulgaria where we’ll clear out and from there to Istanbul.  In this email we’re back in Ruse with its Lipnik connection.  So next email from Port Thomas

Ru

Ps  These train photos are for everyone but especially Cousin Ernest and our Boat Builder Bill, both train aficionados.

Ruse is a large port city on the Danube River in Northeast Bulgaria and an administrative center of the eponymous municipality and region. Located 75 kilometers from the Romanian capital of Bucharest, the city is a strategic intermodal and logistic center of the country. With a population of 147,817 (according to National Statistical Institute data as of 2013) it is the fifth largest city in Bulgaria. Unemployment in the region of Ruse is 10.7% (as of March 2014), compared with an average unemployment rate of 12.2% in the country.

The proximity of the Danube River has always been important for the city’s development – ever since ancient times. This is the place where the Roman fortified military camp of Sexaginta Prista, meaning “the city of 60 ships”, was established in the 1st century AD. Since the 16th century the city has been known under its Ottoman name of Ruschuk. Under the Ottoman rule, Ruse was one of the major cities of the Ottoman Empire, which influenced its economic and cultural development. Ruse was first in many respects: it is the place where the first railway station in Bulgaria was built, a modern printing house was opened, a newspaper was started. The city was the seat of many consulates too.

      After 1878 Ruse was the largest city in the Bulgarian Principality; its economy developed rapidly and that changed the overall look of the city. The connection with Europe that the city provided through the Danube River was beneficial to its development. Due to the beautiful architecture and interior of its buildings designed by Italian, Austrian, German and Bulgarian architects Ruse is called “little Vienna”.

One of the symbols of the city is Dohodno Zdanie (meaning “profitable building”): a beautiful public building in the center of Ruse. It was built in 1901-1902 and impresses with its magnificent façade and seven sculptures on the roof. Other landmarks include the Regional Historical Museum and the Urban Lifestyle Museum, which is also known as Calliope’s House. One of the most interesting landmarks in Ruse is the remains of Sexaginta Prista fortress. Ruse is home to Bulgaria’s only National Transport Museum, which is located in the building of the first railway station in Bu

lgaria. The beautiful Nature Park of Rusenski Lom is situated 20 kilometers southwest of the city on an area of 3,408 hectares.

      The city’s location is particularly advantageous in transportation and geographical terms. Besides being a busy cargo and passenger port, the city is also a border check-point of Bulgaria’s road and railroad connections with the whole of Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe.

The main industrial sectors in Ruse are machine-building and metal processing (40% of the total volume), followed by the chemical, food-and-beverage and textile industries.

      Ruse is the biggest Bulgarian port on the Danube in terms of import, export and passenger traffic. It is the seat of Bulgarian River Shipping Company, which services three passenger lines: to Vidin, Svishtov and Silistra. These lines have 19 ports. A big cargo, passenger and tourist flow passes through Druzhba Bridge, which connects Ruse and Giurgiu.

http://jessicafund.bg/en/category/projects/ruse/

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When reading about Ruse I saw a Lipnik Nature Reserve just nearby.  We didn’t make it there, but did walk to find Lipnik Boulevard.  Both seem to be connected to the Lipa tree or Linden tree. 

Slavic mythology

     “In old Slavic mythology, the linden (lipa, as called in all Slavic languages) was considered a sacred tree.[15] Particularly in Poland, many villages have a name "Święta Lipka" (or similar), which literally means "Holy Lime". To this day, the tree is a national emblem of Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and the Sorbs.[citation needed] Lipa gave name to the traditional Slavic name for the month of June (Croatian, lipanj) or July (Polish, lipiec, Ukrainian "lypen’/липень"). It is also the root for the German city of Leipzig, taken from the Sorbian name lipsk.[16] The Croatian currency, kuna, consists of 100 lipa (Tilia). "Lipa" was also a proposed name for Slovenian currency in 1990, however the name "tolar" ultimately prevailed.[17] In the Slavic Orthodox Christian world, limewood was the preferred wood for panel icon painting. The icons by the hand of Andrei Rublev, including the Holy Trinity (Hospitality of Abraham), and The Savior, now in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, are painted on linden wood. Its wood was chosen for its ability to be sanded very smooth and for its resistance to warping once seasoned. The southern Slovenian village of "Lipica" signifies little Lime tree and has given its name to the Lipizzan horse breed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilia#Slavic_mythology

http://www.poloniamusic.com/Folk_Lipka_Zielona.html  more about the Lipa tree and some Polish folks songs that tell about it.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/polcrt/Linden.html  THE LINDEN TREE - Lore and Significance

Written by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska

Ode to a Linden Tree

Dear Guest, sit down beneath my leaves and take your rest.

The sun will not strike you there, I do insist,

Though it beat from its noonday height, and its direct rays

Should pierce such scattered shade as a tree bestows.

There, a cooling breeze is always blowing from the field;

There, nightingales and blackbirds their tuneful tales unfold.

It’s from my fragrant blossom that the timeless bees

Take the honey, which later ennobles your lordly feasts;

Whilst I, by my soft murmurs, can easily contrive

That gentle sleep should overtake the unsuspecting fugitive.

It’s true, I bear no fruit; but in my master’s eyes

My worth exceeds the richest scion of the Hesperides.

Written by "Squire of Czamolas" - a vernacular poet

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/polcrt/PolNobility.html

Липа  lipa = Linden Tree

The English suffix -nik is of Slavic origin. It approximately corresponds to the suffix "-er" and nearly always denotes an agent noun (that is, it describes a person related to the thing, state, habit, or action described by the word to which the suffix is attached).[1] In the cases where a native English language coinage may occur, the "-nik"-word often bears an ironic connotation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/-nik

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Lipnik Boulevard…. But no trees at all now, but maybe once upon a time. 

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I noticed this sign which says Lipnik in Cyrillic though I have no idea what the top word is.

One day we set off for the Transportation Museum because that attracted Rick and Randal. 

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The city of Rousse is the place where you will find Bulgaria’s only transportation museum. The national museum of transport was created to commemorate 100 years since the existence of railway transportation in Bulgaria. It is located in the building of the first city railway station and opened doors for visitors in 1996.

     Rousse’s railway station, where the museum is located, was constructed from 1864 to 1866. The railway station functioned until 1954. Today, the station has been recognized as historic monument.

The three museum sections present the development of railway transportation, shipping and communications.

Communication technologies, photographs, documents, personal belongings of transportation workers and slogans will show you the history of transportation in Bulgaria.

Some of the exhibit items are unique. You will see Sultanie, the special car that sultan Abdul Aziz specially ordered in 1866. The car impresses with its rich decorations. Its color is blue and the exterior is covered in ornaments.

Another interesting exhibition items is one of the first locomotives imported in Bulgaria. It was created in Newcastle in 1866 and was used for the transportation of passengers from Rousse to Varna until 1901.

You will also see the car that tsar Ferdinand ordered. The museum also preserves the first movable television station in Bulgaria.

The museum library contains tons of information about transportation in Bulgaria through the years.

The national transportation museum is situated on the bank of the Danube, at Bratia Obretenovi 5 street. It welcomes visitors each day apart from Sunday from 9 am to 5.30 pm.

http://www.bulgariainside.eu/

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Another interesting exhibition items is one of the first locomotives imported in Bulgaria. It was created in Newcastle in 1866 and was used for the transportation of passengers from Rousse to Varna until 1901.

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I think I can, I think I can….

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Some of the exhibit items are unique. You will see Sultanie, the special car that sultan Abdul Aziz specially ordered in 1866. The car impresses with its rich decorations. Its color is blue and the exterior is covered in ornaments.

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We had to knock on the door of the museum to gain attention of the custodian who looked to be living in part of the museum.  She waved to us from her window, changed her clothes and then came to let us in and give us a tour.

Here she is showing us how tea was served to Abdul Aziz and where he and his guests could relax and smoke their water pipe.

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Not so private but here’s the tollette and wash basin.

I had some coins so dropped them into the bucket in the sink.  Our guide motioned for me to take them back out so I did.  Then she motioned for me to put them back in.  So I did.  Then 3 times she poured water from the pitcher over my hands  which went down the drain ( coint bucket had been moved.)

I have no idea why but there you have it.

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You will also see the car that tsar Ferdinand ordered.

The discrepancy between rich and poor may be in part what caused some of the problems leading to WW 1.

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Oriental,  Central (time in Europe) and Occidental time.  The Occident is the west so both have the same time showing on the clock.

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Air pressure gage for the brake on the side of the car

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I always wanted to do this.  Rick and Mary pulled one way down the short piece of track and Randal and I pulled us back. 

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Very useful clock in the station museum

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Men connected to Bulgarian transportation history.

I thought these caricature plates were quite funny though I’m not sure they were intended to be seen that way.

We all enjoyed our visit to the museum.  And that was after a really long hike trying to find it as our map made it look someplace it really wasn’t.  It was also mid-afternoon and really hot.  But the blog below is probably correct.  The writer actually wasn’t lucky enough to rouse the guide so never got into the museum or had the tour.”

“The museum is hosted in the old railways station of Ruse, and it was formerly known as National Transport Museum, founded in June 1954. However, this denomination was clearly ambitious, as railways was basically the single subject of the museum. It was appropriately renamed National Museum of Railway Transport and Communications on the 26th June 1996, commemorating the 100th anniversary of railroads in Bulgaria, and by then the building was declared a historical landmark.

Among the exhibits outside the building are more than ten steam engines, including the oldest steam engine preserved in the country, built in England in 1865, and various railroad carriages, including the personal carriages of the Kings Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Boris III of Bulgaria, as well as the carriage of the Turkish sultan of 1866.

Sadly, as of 2007 the museum is underfunded, the heritage engines and railcars are stored in the open air without almost any maintenance, and the humid air from the nearby Danube accelerates significantly their decay. “ http://www.waymarking.com/

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Republica Restaurant

Tulcea, Romania

Salut

    As I sit here typing I can hear the restaurant diners just next to the boat.  They’re up on flybridge level so not looking in our windows or having us watch them eat.  It’s 10 pm but I guess people wait for the heat to abate before going out to dinner.  A ferry docks just behind our boat at a small terminal.  Noise and motion aren’t bothersome, but the fumes are a bit.  So it goes.

   We left Vidin and stopped next for the night in Oryahovo which led to more question I’d like to answer some day when I have A REAL LIBRARY.  Stopping at places off the tourist map are really the most interesting in some ways. 

Ru

Oryahovo

“ High up in a picturesque landscape of cornfields and vineyards, the town of Oryahovo (km 678) is an agricultural center.”  JPM Danube Guide.   Rick and Mary said the town was once a coal loading station under the communist.  Ships would bring the coal which would then be loaded onto trains.  But the coal wasn’t wet down so the coal dust  maybe be what forced the people to leave the homes closest to the Danube.  I haven’t been able to find info about that online there are lots of abandoned buildings along the river.

But I did find this about neighborhoods threatened by landslides. 

In Bulgaria, losses of water come to 57 per cent. Refuse sites take up more than 200 000 decares of territory. More than 900 landslides have been caused. I can give you an example. The town of Oryahovo was one of the worst damaged by last year’s floods. In the town, although there was a lack of funding, the state managed to build a drainage system 50 years ago. The system was so effective that for many years Oryahovo had no problems with floods and landslides. Until 1990. Then the unit that maintained the system was closed. A few years later, the problems deepened, and last year a whole neighborhood was threatened by a landslide. This is only one example and there are thousands.

http://sofiaecho.com/

So I don’t know but the roads closest to the river at the bottom of the town all seem to be empty or overgrown. 

  We went for a late afternoon walk, stopped for a cold drink, bought a few groceries, and returned to DoraMac.  Oryahovo isn’t a place cruise ships would stop but it was a lovely place to spend the afternoon.

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When we arrived at Oryahovo, a Dutch couple we’d met several stop along the way was already there.

We paid the “tie up fee” and then took a walk up into town to stretch our legs. I have no comments to go with most of the photos.  It’s just what we saw during our walk.

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Both of these photos were taken just up hill from the Danube.  All were abandoned.

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Higher up-hill were small homes with big gardens.

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Lots of lovely gardens alongside most of the houses closer to town.

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St. George’s Church (1837) in the National-Revival style, where old printed church literature from Russia is preserved.   http://trakia-tours.com/oryahovo-guide-70.html

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We stopped for a cold drink.

I went inside to pick out my drink not being able to read the menu at all.  Mary thought she ordered lemonade but received a Rattler which is beer and lemonade mixed.  Randal and Rick got the beer they ordered.  But we couldn’t figure out how to order any snacks.  I should have had my trusty picture dictionary which now is in my backpack.

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Once upon a time it must have been quite lovely

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Big and concrete and blah = Communist era architecture for the Administrative Center

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We were broiling but these men were running around playing “football.”

We took this lovely road back down the hill from town

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Before Oblivion Comes, a book by BNR journalist Rumen Stoichkov 

“ The asset of the new book is that it takes readers astray from traditional tourist routes. ….

In the foreword to the book Rumen Stoichkov writes, “In my reports I have always tried to single out a problem that troubles a certain village such as unemployment, bad roads, poverty, a church about to collapse, a cultural center, school or nursery school about to close doors, etc. This entails depopulation, and eventually, the disappearance of the place from the map of Bulgaria. Well, as I traveled to make my reports, there was positive information too. It came from legends, the local natural scenery and traditions, the folklore and the wisdom of the local people.”

http://bnr.bg/

(Oryahovo is one of the places visited and it would be interesting to know if it was a positive or negative.)

Often getting from the boat to land is an interesting process.  These photos show us returning to DoraMac from town.  We walked into the official port area and then over a ramp to the barge.  Then we walked carefully along the barge edge before climbing back onto DoraMac.

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Republica Restaurant

Tulcea, Romania

Salut,

The final Vidin email but in some ways the most important.  It shows the people of Vidin.  I truly wish them well.

Ru

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These teen boys looked like members of a track team out for practice

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Time Out!  He kept looking toward a lady near-by but not in a worried way, rather in a, “I’m still mad but isn’t this long enough.”  He was standing in the shade and looked well cared for and quite stylish so I didn’t worry.  Sometimes you just need a time out!  Or maybe he took himself over there tired of waiting for his mom or grandmother, the two women talking just near where he was standing. 

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The older brother was quite bored but the younger seemed entertained just being with his older brother.  They were sitting in the park just across from where we’d stopped for a cold drink and a snack.

The next bench had an older woman and young girls who seemed to be enjoying a chat; the boys were a bit restive but very well behaved.

The boys probably would have loved this contaption which we’d seen earlier on our walk.

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Not me; not in a million years!

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They had been holding hands but I missed that shot.

We saw lots of families strolling along in the park.  We saw teens and older people.  All age groups seemed to be together.

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A lovely sculpture was part of the art museum’s collection. 

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Traditional wood carving was being done by this man just next to the fortress ticket booth.  There was a small stand selling “traditional” items.  Randal bought 2 bars of rose soap.  Bulgaria, like Turkey, is a big exporter of rose based products.

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This couple was enjoying dinner at the restaurant barge next to where we were tied up.  It was owned by the same man so we went for dinner.  My fish soup was excellent!  Luckily DoraMac was close by so when it started to rain Rick walked back to close the hatches.

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Emilia who attends the prestigious National Academy of Art in Sofia and the ladies from    Sofia University "Saint Kliment Ohridski",  conducting a survey for the mayor of Vidin.

Life under Communism and how people look back at that sometimes with nostalgia.  Article below…..

“The Germans have a great expression for life in a competitive, dog-eat-dog country. They call it an “elbow society.” People in capitalist countries have sharper elbows, and they use them more readily.

     In Bulgaria, some people look back on their time during communism, the time before the introduction of the elbow society, as the “calm life.” You generally didn’t have to work hard. You didn’t have to worry about losing your job. Life was simpler. There was only one kind of washing powder. You could count the number of television channels on one hand.

     In retrospect, the calm life has a certain appeal. If you’re out of work or going crazy because of multitasking or feel the hot breath of a competitor on your neck, the old days begin to feel almost like a holiday: boring perhaps but not so stressful. Of course, as with all nostalgia, these memories are selective. The painful memories tend to be suppressed.

Petya Kabakchieva is a sociologist who has done research on a number of social issues in Bulgaria. One of her first topics was social status associated with work

“People knew that their salary didn’t depend on their effort,” she told me over dinner at a very good restaurant in Sofia with an old Art Nouveau interior. “They worked, but they didn’t invest a lot of effort. In my research after the change, a lot of people told me, ‘Now we will work with pleasure, because we are working for ourselves. We will not depend on the state salary.’ At the moment the opposite is happening — a lot of people are feeling nostalgic about the fixed salary, because there is a lot of unemployment and poverty. This means that something in the so-called ‘transition’ went wrong.”

She has done research on a number of fascinating topics: on the construction of memories, on temporary migrants, on Roma integration. We talked about her sociological investigations as well as her own personal experiences and her evolving understanding of “the People,” from her time in Leipzig in 1989 to her view of Bulgarian society today.

The Interview

When you look back to 1989 and everything that has changed between now and then, how would you evaluate that on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being most dissatisfied and 10 most satisfied?

     Those are the questions I hate the most! It is very difficult to evaluate your memories, experience, and feelings on a scale…Anyway, I’ll try to answer. Usually, at least in Bulgaria, people say  5. But you cannot interpret this number, because it means, simply, “I don’t know.” So, I would say 7.

Same scale, same period: how would you evaluate your own life?

10.

When you look into the near future, where do you think Bulgaria will be in 1-2 years, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being most pessimistic and 10 being most optimistic?

     That’s not an easy question. There are different scenarios. In one scenario, Bulgaria’s future place would be 6-7. But in another scenario, I would evaluate it as 2-3. It depends on how the politicians cope with the situation. The main factor to support the positive evaluation is the European Union. I strongly hope that this current crisis will not lead to a terrible collapse of the EU. The EU is a disciplining factor for Bulgaria. The other factor for positive development is reforms in education. A lot of our children are now not compatible with the job market.  The migration factor is also very important: young people are leaving Bulgaria. If we invest in people, young people will stay here and we’ll have a new generation of politicians and bureaucrats to rule this country. If this does not happen, then I’m afraid I’d give the lower grade.  (In Silistra we were told by the young manager of the Hotel Dustra that many young people have left Silistra because they want better opportunities.)

Deep down in your heart, which scenario do you think is more likely?

Something in the middle. Democracy is already a norm in this country. It doesn’t function very well, but it doesn’t function very well anywhere in the world. I don’t think we’ll go downward; I don’t believe in the worst-case scenario. A lot of things have happened already in Bulgaria. Even if we have an authoritarian regime, which could happen, I’ll stick with 4.5

Do you remember where you were when you heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what feeling you had, and whether you started thinking about its implications for Bulgaria?

     I’d been in Leipzig, and I’d seen the large demonstrations there. I suddenly understood what “people” means. Until then, “people” was just something very abstract, like in the textbook. I saw those thousands of people on the square, and I was very enthusiastic. Later I learned about the fall of Todor Zhivkov on the train back to Bulgaria. In a way I expected it because I’d seen what was happening in Germany. It was an enormous joy.

     At the end of 1989, everyone, even Communists, believed that something would change and we were going to another stage of our society. Unlike the Soviet Union, which had passed through glasnost and perestroika, the late 1980s were very hard for Bulgaria — like Romania where there was hunger and Ceausescu was totally mad. We didn’t have hunger like in Romania, but there were problems with electricity, with food. In Bulgaria, in the late 1980s, Zhivkov didn’t even pretend that he was making something like glasnost and perestroika.

     The repressions were severe, starting with the so-called “Revival process.” One of the most important events in modern Bulgarian history was the forced re-naming of Bulgarian Muslims and Turks. This was the sign that this state was still totalitarian. The main thesis of this “Revival process” was that the ethnic Turks were Bulgarians who had been turned into Turks during Ottoman rule. That’s why the name “Revival” had been invented – as a return to their “true” identity. No one thought about how the ethnic Turks might feel about this in the 20th century. It was a terrible aggression against the very personality of these people. I call it “symbolic genocide,” an attempt to delete the names and identities of 800,000 people. I wonder how the people who carried out this “Revival” imagined that it could happen.

     It was the late 1980s. Most Bulgarians, including me, didn’t understand what was happening. My son was born during that period, and I was busy taking care of him. The Communist Party started to understand that it’s not so easy to repress so many people. And the repressions started to grow. There was resistance, mostly carried out by ethnic Turks who resisted this renaming.

     But some Bulgarians also started to talk about these issues in Sofia, in Plovdiv. Zheliu Zhelev’s book Fascism came out in 1982. No one can call this a dissident book now, but back then people treated it as a revolutionary act. The Communist Party and the Secret service were searching for signs of resistance and tried to control our minds all the time. But a new world had started to appear. It was mostly in people’s imaginations, and it was not so easy to control. We started to believe that we could live a different way. Everybody perceived this change in November 1989 as something that would change our lives,  that would push society in a totally different direction.

     It wasn’t expected. It was wanted, but it wasn’t expected. It was a very strange feeling. It wasn’t like Poland. In Poland they knew it would come since the early 1980s. But in Bulgaria, it wasn’t expected. Some people said that we should die with Todor Zhivkov in power and Lili Ivanova singing. I’m glad that Lili Ivanova is still singing, and Todor Zhivkov is no longer in power!

You mentioned that the path of development for the countries in the region was very different after 1989. I’m curious whether it pushed you personally onto a different trajectory.

     Definitely. Actually, my career started after 1989. Before 1989, we had no freedom to write. When I was working at that institute for youth studies, our main job was to conduct research and write reports in a way that didn’t provoke the interest of functionaries in youth activities. We tried to present the situation as normal: yes, the youth have subcultures, but they’re not dangerous. This wasn’t real research. We had a lot of parties. We drank a lot. But we didn’t really work.

     Only after 1989 did I understood what work meant. That’s when we started to make serious surveys and to write what we thought and not just cite party documents. That’s when we began to work for ourselves.

     One of my favorite topics is what I call the “ideological construction of social status.” The Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) manipulated status, because the salaries had been fixed according to the BCP vision about the priority of one branch over others and some occupations over others. My study showed that the most prestigious professions were low-paid, like doctors and teachers. The well-paid professions like those of construction workers and miners, had low prestige.

     I did some sociological research on that. People knew that their salary didn’t depend on their effort. They worked, but they didn’t invest a lot of effort. In my research after the change, a lot of people told me, “Now we will work with pleasure, because we are working for ourselves. We will not depend on the state salary.” At the moment the opposite is happening — a lot of people are feeling nostalgic about the fixed salary, because there is a lot of unemployment and poverty. This means that something in the so-called “transition” went wrong.

     Fortunately, this is not my case. I started to travel, go to conferences, meet people from different countries. The comparisons between countries were very interesting. Travel: that was one of the biggest changes. I can’t say that I was poor before the change. My family was part of the elite. I can’t complain about the conditions of my life. But what was lacking for me before 1989 was the feeling of freedom: to talk about what you think, to write what you think. Yes, after 1989 work became a pleasure for me.

You mentioned that your students have difficulty imagining what life what was like before 1989. Can you give me examples?

     Take the example of the renaming of the ethnic Turks. When we had a meeting at the university, where party functionaries explained to us the “important” meaning of this process, the bravest thing some of the university professors had done was to ask a question: what’s happening? Why are you doing this? The students can’t imagine this. “Why didn’t you protest?” they ask. “Why didn’t you go out on the street?” They can’t imagine our fear and self-censorship.

     They can’t understand that people were sent to labor camps because they had listened to Western music and dressed a different way. The situation here was not as bad as in the Soviet Union, but we had such camps, Belene being the most famous. The students can’t imagine that someone could be punished for dressing differently. They can’t understand the hidden, Aesopic language used in the works of artists and dissidents that was perceived by us, people who had “lived socialism,” as a kind of resistance.

     There is a very good book by my colleague Pepka Boyadzhieva called Social Engineering – about higher education in Communist Bulgaria. She studied the papers written by the Fatherland Committees concerning the admission of students to higher education. There were sentences in those reports like: she has a “bourgeois look,” he has a “bourgeois gesture.” This is unimaginable even to me. How can someone decide if you should be a student or not because of your gestures? This was the late 1940s and early 1950s. After that, it was not so strict.

Do they see any relevance from that period of time to their lives today? Or is it just ancient history happening in a different country?

     They cannot imagine this life, but at the same time — and we conducted research on this — they believe the family stories. Their perception of communism is mostly from these family stories. A lot of Bulgarians, mostly from villages and small towns, now have a growing nostalgia toward the Communist regime. It’s based on the memories of the security of their lives back then.

     My son did some research on the memory of the renaming of ethnic Turks. Even some of those who suffered this humiliation remember with some nostalgia the security of life: “we had jobs then,” they remember, “We could go to the seaside then. Yes, we did not have lots of opportunities to travel and eat different types of food, but we had a calm life.” The following phrase had become a cliché: now there is everything in the shops and lots of opportunities, but we don’t have the money to take advantage of them, so we feel worse than in the Communist time.

So, yes, they can’t imagine that life. On the other hand, they have this quite simplified notion of communism presented to them by their grandfathers and mostly by their grandmothers, and probably by some of their parents. It’s true that Bulgaria went through a very heavy deindustrialization. A lot of people are not living so well right now. The bad things are forgotten. That’s normal from a psychological point of view. They’re forgetting the lack of freedom, the poor life, the long queues, seven-year wait to get a car. They just remember the security of yesterday compared to the insecurity of today.

You gave the mark of 10 when talking about your own personal life. But are you ever tempted by this kind of nostalgia?

     No. I do insist that I had an excellent life before 1989 compared to the life of a lot of people. We lived really quite well. My father got good money. He was famous as an actor. I studied in good schools: due to my efforts, not due to my father. After the changes, some of my schoolmates said to me, “You can’t imagine how poor we felt compared to you.” That’s when I reflected on the inequalities under communism. I had a very good life before 1989 and I do not regret my life before the changes, but I do feel better now because of the feeling of freedom, how I feel about my work, the sense that something depends on me.

    The number of young people leaving Bulgaria is quite large. Is it just a question of economic opportunity, or are there other factors behind people leaving?

     One of the problems of the liberal model is that everything is calculated in money. Especially social scientists, in my field of sociology, believe that money is a very important push-pull factor. I don’t think this is so. Research shows that the people going abroad have middle status. It’s not the wealthiest or the poorest but, rather, the people who have a relatively good salary and even belong to prestigious professions. A lot of teachers, for instance, are going abroad; even ex-mayors have gone abroad.

    My research is on temporary migrants. According to this research, it looks like people are going abroad in search of a better life but also to prove themselves. Bulgaria is too small to prove one’s self. They want to measure themselves in other countries, to try their strengths and capacities in different situations. This is their narrative. When I went abroad, I also rediscovered myself when I suddenly found that I could manage quite well. Young people are going abroad looking for better chances, better self-realization. Another important factor is that people want to live in a more regulated environment where the law means something and institutions work well.

     Recently I found another motive among my students. They want to live in a more tolerant environment. I wonder whether Austria is really an example of tolerance, but my students feel that way. They want to live in a more multicultural environment. Bulgaria is very provincial. It’s like a small village where everyone knows everyone else, and different people are rejected. They want to live in a mixed and more colorful environment.

     But Bulgaria is starting to open up to different people. And we will get used to living with different people. My son throws parties in the very small town where my grandmother’s house is located. He invites lots of friends. The noise is unbelievable until early morning. When I go to the town after these parties, I expect that I’ll get attacked because the party was very noisy, the neighbors couldn’t sleep. But they said, “No, no, it’s okay. It’s just young people. But Petya, do you know who they invited? A black man!” They saw face to face an African-American. So, you can imagine how closed this society was and still is. For people who are used to traveling, to going to different universities, Bulgaria now looks too white, filled with white people.

Tell me about the research you’re doing now.

     I’ve just concluded some research on Roma integration. But that’s a long discussion. I dream of doing research on the children of temporary immigrants. Usually migration is viewed through the eyes of those who left rather than those who were left behind. I’ve found terrible cases of children who stayed here and made great efforts to attract the attention of parents who had gone to work for money in other countries. Those children stayed here, and some of them — or most of them, we don’t know how many — engaged in criminal acts. For me, it’s very interesting to look at the fates of these children. The striving for upward mobility, the attempt to make a career, often comes at the price of the downward mobility of your children. Here money is not the only thing. Caring for your children is also very important. I haven’t started this research because I haven’t found the money for it. But this is my dream.

     I’ve done research on nationalism, attitudes toward Roma and foreigners, discrimination, migration issues. Before, I did social inequalities under communism and the memory of social inequality during communism.

I’m most interested in the studies on nationalism, discrimination, and attitudes toward Roma. But let’s start with your research on nationalism.

     I was looking at the type of national identity Bulgarians have, whether ethnic or civic. So, I was looking at the feeling of nationalism versus the feeling of citizenship. Our education and the public debate should concentrate on civic national identity, on political national identity, on civic participation. Unfortunately, national identity for ethnic Bulgarians, not Turks or Roma, is built around ethnic identity — historical notions about our glorious past, which presupposes the enemies we fought against. It’s quite worrisome.

     This has two important consequences. First, if you think of the nation only in ethnic terms, you exclude Roma, Turks and all the people coming here from other countries. In this multicultural environment, this is quite old-fashioned, and it could become dangerous.

     Second, it’s commonly accepted by Bulgarians that our country is very beautiful but our state is corrupt and bad. I’m afraid there is some truth in this statement. But it is also dangerous. This belief that our state is nothing and should not be respected leads to people not wanting to participate in public life. They don’t think anything depends on them. If the state is corrupt, we should try to make a life only for ourselves and our family. There is a large disappointment in the functioning of democratic institutions. And when they think of Bulgarian statehood, they imagine the glorious state of the khans of the 9th century or the glorious dreams of the fighters for independent Bulgaria who wanted a strong and large Bulgaria.

     This dream for the strong state is usually associated with a strong person. It worries me that the political is becoming more personified, that people are thinking about politics in terms of persons. This combination of ethnic nationalism and the desire for a strong state personified by a strong figure is not a good path for the future.

In Russian there are two words for Russian — russky and rossissky — to distinguish between ethnically Russian and Russian citizens. And in Bulgarian?

     There’s just one word: Bulgarsko. Before, our politicians spoke in terms of “people.” Populism plays with this notion of people: ein volk, ein fuhrer. I do not accept the word “people.” There is no collective body. There are different persons, with different interests. In English, there is “we, the people,” and there is a feeling of diversity in “we.” In Bulgarian, like in German, there is no “we.” People are one collective body — narod.

     Now our politicians are starting to use the term “citizens.” It’s a good sign. But I’m afraid that it’s a bit of a political manipulation to pretend that their parties are not parties but civic movements. Again it’s a matter of trying to convince us that they are representing all the citizens. So, the word “people” as in the “people’s republic of Bulgaria” has changed to: “we are working for you, all the citizens of Bulgaria.” In one way, it’s important to have this word “citizens.” On the other hand, it’s not good that citizens are thought of as one unity, not as different citizens.

It’s interesting that you say you don’t believe in “people.” But one of the first things you said is that after Leipzig, you understood for the first time what “people” meant and you were enthusiastic.

     Yes, you’re right. You got me! Yes, I understood what “people” meant and I was enthusiastic about it. But I was also frightened. It means revolution. It means people coming together to destroy something. Revolution is a little bit dangerous. I’m more of a pacifist. I understood what “people” meant at that moment because before “people” was a cliché, an abstraction: all of us believing in the bright future of communism. Suddenly this abstraction came alive, all rejecting the communist “here and now.” Thousands of people shouting on the square “Wir sind das Volk” — Das Volk or Narod or the People – and acting as a fist is quite frightening. It’s preferable to have different groups with different interests with different religions, different skin colors, who can sit and talk together. I prefer differences that can be negotiated or at least debated. The essence of democracy is in this. We should try to resolve our differences by trying to understand each other.

I’m curious about the conclusions of the Roma and discrimination study.

     A lot of what we found was evidence of racist attitudes. About one-third of respondents answered that they could not accept for a colleague or a boss a person of Roma origin or African-American origin. So, it’s not good. There are strong discriminatory attitudes toward Roma. But what is new is that Roma are now starting to be perceived as a privileged group, due to the fact that there is a lot of talk about strategies for Roma integration. That’s quite a paradox: for a vulnerable group to be perceived as a privileged group.

     It is true, that there are a lot of public strategies about Roma integration, but nothing is happening. There are only words. At the moment any talk of affirmative action is not helpful. We should talk in terms of everybody having equal rights. This libertarian discourse is very useful here because Bulgarians do not believe that Roma are discriminated against in their normal lives, in their basic human rights – in employment, housing, health care. We should speak of ensuring a normal quality of life for poor people.

Usually Roma are associated with criminality. But people forget that organized crime, another hot issue, is the most important problem in Bulgaria. And organized crime is not related to Roma.

     It’s a cliché to say that we should start to do something, not only to talk about things. But in a way, this is the case. I think we need to start with education. Roma children should be in the schools and they should receive a good education to overcome poverty.

Sofia, September 25, 2012 http://www.johnfeffer.com/remembering-the-calm-life/

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Republika Restaurant

Tulcea, Romania

Vidin had a mix of architectural styles and some interesting food choices.

Ru

Vidin   The Town

Vidin was big enough to be entertaining but small enough that you could do it all on foot.  Not that we did it all.  I’d like to be able to click my heels together and be back for one more day to explore the park that is on the far side of town. 

Some recent Vidin developments.

The New York Times

June 14, 2013

New Bridge Over Danube Helps Dissolve Old Enmities

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER

      VIDIN, Bulgaria — The European Union hardly basks in popular favor these days. But in this isolated corner of the bloc’s poorest periphery, leaders and locals on Friday celebrated a tangible benefit of membership — a $340 million bridge spanning the Danube that should help strengthen trade and ties between two impoverished members, Romania and Bulgaria.

     Despite much history and present poverty in common, these two Balkan nations had to be prodded into negotiating the construction of the bridge, which began in 2007. Both prime ministers and the European Union’s commissioner for regional policy, Johannes Hahn, attended the opening ceremony, where Plamen Oresharski, the head of Bulgaria’s new government, joked: “I am sorry that this bridge has such a long history. We heard that the Romans built faster.”

     Romania, population roughly 22 million, and Bulgaria, about 7 million, share a 290-mile border along the Danube that, until Friday, had just one bridge connecting them.

     Under Communism, neither country was rich, but the collapse of their state-run economies deepened the impoverishment on both sides of the river and hastened depopulation. Vidin, which in bygone Ottoman days was a thriving river port, shipping agricultural produce along the Danube, has suffered the worst depopulation in Bulgaria, losing 16 percent of its residents in 2012 alone.

     Across the river, the Romanian town of Calafat, population 18,000, has fared little better. Its central pedestrian street, recently fitted with new paving stones, remains sleepy.

     Yet it took until 2000 for European officials to coax the two very different Balkan nations into talking about the bridge, largely because they could not agree on a location for it.

     Romanians speak a language they prize as descended from Latin roots; Bulgarians are Slavs and in Communist times were derided as being so close to Moscow as to be the virtual 16th republic of the Soviet Union. Each country adheres to its own Orthodox church, and for decades were simply disinterested in each other.

     Their shared status in European development post-cold war has gradually brought them closer, as they have discovered more in common.

     Both joined NATO in 2004, and the European Union in 2007. European Union officials have since criticized both nations, the bloc’s poorest members, for corruption and organized crime — some of which originated in the Vidin region in the 1990s, when criminals helped smuggle oil and other goods into neighboring Serbia, which was under United Nations sanctions for its role in the Balkan wars that broke up the former Yugoslavia.

     “The illusions we created about what enemies the Romanians are and how different they are have disappeared into dust,” Gergo Gergov, the 35-year-old mayor of Vidin, said in an interview in the 15-story, Communist-era municipal building, by far Vidin’s tallest.

     “We have stopped acting like we are locked up alone,” Mr. Gergov observed. “We have seen that there are other people around and have started to get to know them, to interact, trade, travel and work with each other.”

     The bridge, he said, is “the biggest event in the modern history of the region.”

Vidin — which has a population of 63,000, down from 90,000 during the Communist era — could use the help. Its center, replete with decaying architecture from 19th-century glory days, offers some exotic sights for visitors who disembark every summer day from luxurious Danube cruise ships. A balmy river breeze spreads the sweet smell of linden through the city. But Vidin remains the poorest city and region in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest member state with average monthly wages of 400 euros, or about $574.

     The common market offered by European Union membership has catalyzed trade and business: trade between Bulgaria and Romania totaled 3.5 billion euros, or about $5 billion, in 2011, up from 900 million euros in 2005, about $1.09 billion at the time.

     Ovidiu Cernatescu, 45, a Romanian from Craiova who started a metal construction business in Vidin two years ago and sells 90 percent of his product in Romania, is confident of further expansion and relishes the protection offered by European Union trade rules rather than capriciously applied local justice. “I’ve been waiting for the bridge like the coming of Jesus Christ,” he said.

     Ten years ago, Mr. Cernatescu said, Romanians had heard only negative news about Bulgaria as a country where former Communists still held sway. Now, Romanians enjoy it as a cheaper, nice place to visit and trade, he said.

     Bulgarian businesspeople in the region like Kostas Grivov, who employs 100 workers in two factories processing nuts and dried fruit, are expecting a short-term boom in tourism, shopping and investment.

     Mr. Grivov, who is also Romania’s honorary consul in Vidin, said the bridge would halve his transport costs and greatly increase the speed and reliability of supplies and deliveries. The sole way to Romania had been an unreliable ferry that crosses only when it fills with cars.

     In Calafat, the deputy mayor, Dorel Mituletu, sits in a restored late-19th century mansion that might be the envy of his Vidin counterparts. He welcomed the bridge, but said he feared merchants in his town would lose out to Vidin, where prices are 20 to 25 percent lower.

     He also voiced concern about what he saw as difficult and complex procedures required to secure European Union financing for local projects — processes that have become stricter because of concerns about corruption and mismanagement.

     “Romanians are not accustomed to begging,” he said. “Despite what the rest of Europe might think of us.”

http://www.nytimes.com/

Interestingly we couldn’t get to Calafat because the ferry stopped running when the bridge was completed but there were no buses across.  You had to take a taxi.  We opted to stay in Vidin instead of making the trip across. 

http://dunavision.eu/  is a story about two people making a change for the better in Vidin.  I’m so sorry we didn’t eat in the café mentioned but I only just read about it now.  But if you are ever in Vidin…..

12 March 2014

The Britons who swap the UK for the poorest part of the EUMatthew Price

By Matthew Price

What’s it like to live in the poorest part of the poorest country in the European Union?

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26324564

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DoraMac is the orange bit on the water.  We pretty much stayed between the water and the orange line. 

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Chicago hot dog in Vidin Bulgaria.

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Served in a thick sort of pita with fries on top.  Rick and Randal each ate one.  Mary and I took a pass because it was after lunch and too early for dinner and too big for a snack. 

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Thanks to our Alternative Art/Street Art walking tour in London we’re all more supportive of street art.  I found it interesting that the message was written in English.

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There was a EURO store where things cost a Euro.  The building next door was more interesting to me.

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Lots of lovely detail now falling to bits.

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You saw lots of this lovely architecture just waiting for some help.  They need an influx of Yuppies with money from somewhere.

After some walking around it was time for a cold drink break.  Mary ordered a white frappe but Rick, Randal and I ordered iced coffee.

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Amazingly this turned out not to be the strangest iced coffee of the trip.  This was a cup of strong hot coffee with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream floating in it.  So far it is the iced coffee in Silistra that wins the prize; at least as I’m typing now.  That was a blob of frozen iced coffee crystals floating in Coca Cola. A total sugar and caffeine shock.  I had a few bites of the “iced coffee crystals” and Randal drank the rest of the Coke that was served with the “iced coffee.”  Randal had ordered cappuccino but it tasted more like hot chocolate.   You just never know.

There was a small mall with a grocery store in the town center.  We went in for the basics : bread, fruit and vegetables and wine and cookies.  We’ve been eating out more because the dollar is strong against these currencies so restaurants are much more reasonable than they were further west.

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Varieties of what looked like caviar and oddly we bought none.  If we see it again, I will.  At least it looks like caviar?

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City Hall is the tallest building in Vidin.

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Obviously built without central air.

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I think this is the municipal building and the law courts in Bdintsy Square.

Somewhere in here is the Mihalaki Georgiev Regional Library,  but I couldn’t find it. 

The stairwells were dark and each room was closed to the hall way to keep the AC  in.  I walked up all of the flights and finally met a woman who tried to find someone who spoke English/ or wanted to come help.  No one did so that was that. 

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The second part of the word ends in teka and it looks like a book so I guessed the library was inside someplace.

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Some newer buildings mixed with old.  But all of it looks a bit down on its luck though it’s hard to look totally upbeat when it’s broiling hot out.

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Republica Restaurant Barge

Tulcea, Romania

Salut,

We’re really getting close to the end of our passage to the Black Sea.  Tonight we’re in Tulcea, the largest town of the Delta.  This email is part 2 of Vidin, Bulgaria so many stops back now that I’m never sure what country I’m in after a bit.  As I said in the first email, I really liked Vidin. 

Ru

Historic Vidin 

“Vidin was conclusively liberated from Ottoman authority on March 25/April 6, 1878,”  says my Municipality of Vidin Monuments of Culture Guide. 

A bit of Bulgarian history…

“The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans, but by the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy in 1878 and all of Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People’s Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.

Bulgaria, a former Communist country that entered the EU on 1 January 2007, averaged more than 6% annual growth from 2004 to 2008, driven by significant amounts of bank lending, consumption, and foreign direct investment. Successive governments have demonstrated a commitment to economic reforms and responsible fiscal planning, but the global downturn sharply reduced domestic demand, exports, capital inflows, and industrial production. GDP contracted by 5.5% in 2009, and has been slow to recover in the years since. Despite having a favorable investment regime, including low, flat corporate income taxes, significant challenges remain. Corruption in public administration, a weak judiciary, and the presence of organized crime continue to hamper the country’s investment climate and economic prospects. “

https://www.cia.gov/

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A rose garden behind the lovely sculpture just near the Baba Vida Fortress.

Bulgaria is a major exporter of roses.

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“The Babini Vidini Kuli fortress, also known as Baba Vida Fortress is situated on an area of 9.5 decares on the bank of the river Danube, in the northern part of Vidin.

The fortress was raised upon the remains of the ancient town of Bononia. The construction of the medieval castle began during the second half of the 10th century, but during the Second Bulgarian Empire (the end of the 12th – 14th century) the basic construction was performed. The last Bulgarian king before the falling of Bulgaria under the Ottoman dominion, Ivan Sratsimir (1324– 1397) had lived in the fortress.

According to a legend, Vida had been the eldest daughter of a wealthy Bulgarian boyar. Due to the unsuccessful marriages of her sisters – Kula and Gamza, Vida rejected all of the proposals for marriage, built the castle and remained in it for the rest of her life.

During the Ottoman rule, the warehouse premises for food and ammunition and guard-rooms were separated in the fortress. And after the Liberation (1878) the access to it was forbidden because the site was used by the army.

The first excavations in the fortress from 1956 to 1962 uncovered remains of the Roman, Byzantine, early Bulgarian, late Bulgarian and Ottoman age.

Baba Vida was opened to visitors in 1958 and a museum was arranged in the fortress.

In 1964 the medieval castle was declared a monument of culture, having national significance.

The fortress is surrounded by a moat, which was sometimes filled with water from the river Danube, and the bridge was mobile. Baba Vida had nine corner and intermediate towers with the walls and the towers ending with loop-holes.

The grounds of a chapel from the 13th-14th century were found during excavations in the fortress.

     At the moment two of the towers are accessible for visiting. There is a prison in the fortress, in which torture devices can be seen. The figures of an executioner and a prisoner with which the tourists often take pictures are attractive. Cannons and gallows are exposed on one of the terraces.

     Baba Vida is among the most preserved medieval fortification constructions in Bulgaria, which is why it is not accidentally often chosen as a set for shooting movies. The summer theatre of Vidin where concerts, theater performances and other shows are conducted, is also situated in the fortress.

     Post cards, souvenirs and information materials can be bought for a memory of the fortress.

http://bulgariatravel.org/en/object/21/Krepost_Baba_Vida

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Lots of stairways up and dark stone spiral stairways down.

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Captain Randal in armor with his shield and trusty steed.

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Who could resist?

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We made a guess that the holes  were made by the prisoners counting days and maybe even months or years! 

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Pretty gruesome display though the Bulgarian travel website describes it as ‘attractive.”

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Stambol Gate

     “Stronghold walls “Kaleto”

“Because of the necessity of additional strengthening for the town of Vidin that after 1718 became a borderline territory for the Ottoman Empire, for a period of 30 years (1690-1720) the so-called “Kale” was constructed – stronghold walls surrounding the town at all sides. They are a semi-circle with a diameter of 1600 meters along Danube river and double stone wall facing the river. A ditch was dug at the side of the shore with depth of 5-6 meters and width of 18 meters, faced with stone and filled with water in the past. “Kaleto” had 9 entrance gates (doors). The preserved equipments today are parts of the stronghold doors, the Northern half of the ditch and small part of the walls. The preserved gates are Florentin gate, Enichar gate, Pazar gate and Stambol gate (the main gate of the Vidin Kale). They are arched passages with guard premises inside the walls. They used to get closed with two-leaf gates of oak girders cased with iron. One could pass above the ditch along wooden bridges as one part of them was mobile. The exit to Danube river was also possible via other 5 doors: Aralak gate, Top gate, Saray gate, Telegraph gate and Syurgyun gate (the first and the last of them are bricked up). The stronghold wall is preserved next to Telegraph gate.

After “Kaleto” was constructed Vidin has never been conquered by an enemy during whatever military actions.

“Kaleto”, together with the preserved gates (doors) is a cultural monument of national significance.“

http://www.culturaltourism-ipa.eu/portal/?q=en/3.5.7e

The Osman Pazvantoglu mosque with the arrow instead of the crescent…..

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Two men were just starting afternoon prayers so I didn’t enter the mosque though they invited me to join when they noticed me looking in. 

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“The town’s heyday was in the 14th century when, under the name of Bdin, it was capital of the principality of the same name, but it fell to the Ottomans in 1396.  The Turkish feudal lord Osman Pazvantoglu took it as his own personal fief from 1793-1807.

……..If you visit the town be sure to see the interesting mosque and mausoleum-like library (ca.1800) of Osman Pazvantoglu, who had rebelled against the Sultan.  The mosque is built in typical oriental style but instead of the crescent moon that normally tops the dome, here it is an arrow-head – eloquent  testimony to the builder’s insubordination.”  JPM Danube Guide

“The struggle of the Bulgarians for a church independent from the Greek clergy was crowned with success in 1868.  Later on 1872, Antim, the Bishop of Vidin, was elected the first Bulgarian exarch in the second half of the 19th century.”  Municipal of Vidin Monuments of Culture booklet

The Metropolitan Complex including Saint Nikolai Mirlikiiski Church

The full name of the church is “St. Nikolai Miracle Worker”. It was built in 1926 after the design of arch. Kosta Nikolov, who also managed the construction works. The church was erected in the place of an old bell-tower and an extension to the “St. Panteleimon” Church. That extension had been used as “St. Nikola” temple”. /1799/. Today “St. Nikolai” Church is part of the complex including: the “St. Panteleimon” Church/1634/, the residential building of the Metropolitan of Vidin /1924 /, the mausoleum of Antim I /1934 / and the eparchial school /1926 /. It is of the three –nave cross-vault type of churches, with one apse, narthex and towers. Besides a rear gallery for the people, it also has two side galleries. The walls are all painted.   http://vidin.bg/?page_id=691&lang=en

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“The main religion in Bulgaria is Bulgarian Orthodox. There are also Roman Catholics, Muslims,

Protestants, Jews etc.  Around twelve percent of the people are Muslim.

The Eastern Orthodox Church emerged as a result of disagreements between Greek speaking

eastern churches and Latin speaking western churches over doctrine and ecclesiastical authority.

During the Ottoman rule it was placed under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople.

However, with the demise of the Ottoman empire many independent churches emerged in eastern

Europe. Remaining in communion they retain their independence. “  http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/

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Just across from the main square.

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Happily some things don’t change!

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Municipal Theater  :  Vladimir Trendafilov Drama Theater

Vida Charity Theater Society was established in 1879. The first performances were held at the National Cafe in the Bolyarska neighborhood. The Vida Theater was built in 1891 with funds collected by a steering committee. This is the first building in Bulgaria that was built to be used as a theater.

Today, the Vidin Drama Theater has an extensive repertoire and has performances two seasons every year.

State Puppet Theater  (Very sorry not to have seen any performances.)

The Vidn Puppet Theater was established in 1976 as a section of the Tsvyat Community Center. In 1980 it became a state theater under the Ministry of Culture. Since 2000, the puppet theater is co-financed by the Municipality of Vidin and the Ministry of Culture. At present, the staff is 24. The actors are 9, with their own director, art studios, technical staff and administration. The performances are mostly for children but there are some for adults as well. 3 to 4 new performances are staged every year. Annually, the theater has about 200 performances in the city and the neighboring communities, as well as all over the country.

The actors utilize different systems of puppets but show a consistent interest in the theater of shadows.

The Vidin Puppet Theater is the only Bulgarian theater that is a member of the Art for Children and Youth European Association in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The Vidin Puppet Theater has participated in many national and international meetings and festivals and has been awarded many prizes, such as: first prize of the National Puppet Acacdemy; the Special Award of the Jury at the International Puppet Festival in Botoshani, Romania (1996); the Most Theatrical Team Award at the International Puppet Festival in Subotitsa, Yugoslavia (1997); the award of the Dutch Embassy and the Projects: East West Dutch Foundation at the International Puppet Festival in Pleven (1999 and 2000).

The Vidin Puppet Theater has successfully performed in Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Mongolia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary and Albania.

http://www.vidin-online.com/eng/cluture-and-art/

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Konak or Town Hall  Closed when we stopped by.) The top of the building is hidden behind the tree and in the haze. 

     “The building is a unique architectural and cultural monument of local significance. It was built up in the 18th century and served as a (Turkish) police station. Because of the good visibility the central tower part served as a fire-tower.

After the Liberation from the Ottomans it was reconstructed and Bulgarian Renaissance architecture elements were introduced. It has been a museum since 1956.  The exposition traces back the history of the Vidin region from the remote past to the Liberation.

     The foundations of the museum activity in Vidin region were laid in 1910 when the Archaeological Society was established and the first museum collection was arranged.  When the wars from the mid 20-ties of the 20th century were over Bononia Archaeological Society activated its collecting activity and under the guidance of the teacher Vasil Atanasov arranged an exposition of numismatic materials and Bulgarian embroideries in the old Turkish post-office building.

     Vidin history museum has strengthened its positions in the national museum network by its successfully arranged museum expositions, structuring of the departments and achievements in the science and research domain.

http://museum-vidin.domino.bg/eng/index2.htm

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Town Hall Stairs

As soon as we arrived in the town center, this dog joined us for our entire walk.  Thankfully it didn’t follow us back to the boat because it was so sweet I would have had a hard time not getting “too involved.”

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Art Museum, a 5 minute walk from DoraMac so I took myself one day.  When I got there, the posted hours said it would be open but it was closed.  I looked around for a bit and peered into the window and then started to walk away.  A man called to me and then walked over and unlocked the door and flipped on the lights.  It was really sad.  The building smelled musty and the floor was uneven as if it had been flooded and dried badly.  I found maybe 100 paintings on the walls and didn’t see any way to go anyplace other than the first floor.  No one came to check on me and the signage was all in Bulgarian.  So my experience definitely doesn’t match the description below.  They need to have someone from the wonderful art museum in Silistra come and help them.  But I’m sure, like the Synagogue, it’s partly a matter of money.  And I believe Silistra is a good deal larger and supports 2 “5 star” hotels.  It definitely looked to have more money. 

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The Regional Art Gallery in town of Vidin was founded in 1962 by the initiative of the local cultural and public figure Angel Budev. The current name Nikola Petrov is since 1976, when was the 60-year anniversary of the death of the great Vidin artist - Nikola Petrov. The gallery is housed in a building dating-back to 1892 (former Military Club), which has very beautiful and exquisite architecture and is located near the Danube Park. In the courtyard of the gallery are placed several beautiful stone sculptures and a monument of Nikola Petrov, whose name bears the gallery.

In the Art  gallery Nikola Petrov are exposed more than 1300 works of famous Bulgarian and foreign artists, arranged in three specialized divisions: Graphics, Painting and Sculpture. Among the most famous Bulgarian artists are Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Ivan Mrkvicka, Vladimir Dimitrov - Maystora, Nikola Petrov, Sirak Skitnik, Svetlin Rusev and others.

Besides its permanent exhibition the gallery houses temporary exhibitions from Bulgaria and abroad.

http://visit.guide-bulgaria.com/a/573/art_gallery_nikola_petrov.htm

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I don’t know the artist or the subject but it seemed so life-like and the hands seemed 3 dimensional.  But it looks as if the canvas is deteriorating.

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I liked this painting too and a couple others.

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Braila, Romania

Salut = hello in Romanian

   We checked out of Bulgaria and into Romania yesterday, both longer processes than elsewhere along the way.  No problem,  just longer waiting while everyone who needed to authorize our exit and entrance - authorized, signed and stamped everything that had to be authorized signed and stamped.  Rick and Randal went off to get this all done and Mary and I stayed on the boat where it felt like an even longer process.  That always happens when you are just waiting.  Last night we stayed overnight in Hirsova after a long 124 kilometer day which included the check in and check out stops.  Tonight we’re in Braila.  In this email I’m back in Vidin, one of my favorite stops in smaller places.

   I have to say that moving along fairly rapidly has made my head spin about.  That’s partially due to my wanting to understand and then pass along enough past and current history to understand why life is as it is in Eastern Europe.  Some of these Vidin emails contain lots of text along with the photos.  I thought it was all interesting.

Ru

Vidin Bulgaria

Poor but not downtrodden is how I would look at Vidin.  Downtrodden were the people in the Philippines we saw.  The Bulgarians seem upbeat.  The women dress up.  People are out and about.  But the library and art museum all need a huge infusion of municipal money. 

      Meeting Emilia and the young women from Sofia University “Saint Kliment Ohridski” was a real treat.  A high school student we met while out in the city was quite self-possessed as he told us about his summer internship working with computers.  He too was quite positive about America.  People in general seemed friendly. 

    I want to tell those who could to invest in Serbia and Bulgaria, because for many historic and recent global economy reasons the area is an economic mess.  Hopefully the economy will improve; you just have to root for the people. 

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Checking into Bulgaria in Vidin

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Tied up to a restaurant barge. 

We had power  and water.  To get water we had to attach our hose to the faucet in the restaurant kitchen.  Even turned on full force it took a good while to fill our boat.  But they were very accommodating about it.  Rick had to figure out how to get it all attached and I had to hunt around under our settee for the bag of clamps Randal said were there.  I found the clamps and Rick rigged the hose up to the faucet and it all worked.

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Lines and steel beams held the barge in place.

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We had to climb off DoraMac onto the barge and walk through the “outdoor” cafe to get to the street.  The owner of this barge also was a partner in the restaurant barge just down river from us.

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A park promenade ran along the waterfront.

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Some enchanted foxes in the park.

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You can see where their ears have been rubbed: I know I rubbed them. 

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An even slower way to get water; but clever.  Several straws were jammed together extending from the fountain to the empty bottle.  You can safely drink from all of the fountains in Eastern Europe and Turkey too.

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Not sure what this building is but we passed it on our way to the Synagogue which was on our way to Baba Vida Fortress.

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The Synagogue

The second biggest synagogue in Bulgaria and once considered the most beautiful. Now it’s derelict.  Emilia said many Vidin residents are ashamed of its condition.  But there’s no money for the library or schools which I think need to come first if there’s ever to be enough money for the extras such as the synagogue or art gallery.  Rather than try to rebuild it I think they should clean out all the debris and anything dangerous and just turn it into a restful green area like they did in London with Saint Dunstan  in the East. 

“Built in 1894 in the neo-Gothic style Vidin was Bulgaria’s second largest synagogue, a testament to the wealth and pride of the local community that had flourished for more than five centuries after its arrival from Spain in the fifteenth century. The synagogue contained a narthex, prayer hall. And lofts all of which were decorated with a combination of classic architectural forms and ancient Jewish decorative symbols, illuminated by stained-glass windows.

Today, the Vidin Synagogue with its four towers stands as a ruin, roofless and forlorn. Seized by the communist government in the wake of WWII, the synagogue was subsequently appropriated by the state. During the 1970s the Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Monuments developed a plan to restore the building. Work began in 1983 and continued until 1989, when the collapse of the communist regime lead to the abandonment of the project, just as workers had removed the roof. Exposed to the elements for more than a decade the synagogue is now a ruin. Complete photo documentation of the synagogue and its interiors took place prior to the restoration attempt and could be used as the basis for a new restoration program. The Bulgarian national Jewish organization, now the owner of the site, wishes to see the building restored as a concert hall for use by the community, and also as a monument to its forebears.

Last update: 2004”  http://www.wmf.org/project/vidin-synagogue

A Ministry Letter Slowing Down Restoration of the Vidin Synagogue

Author: Tsvetomir Tsvetanov, Lilia Dimitrova, Plamen Kotsev

Source: BNR, Radio Vidin, 07.03.2013

http://severozapazenabg.com/

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That could be framed and saved with some kind of historical explanation.

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Part of the barbed wire fence had been pushed open so we crawled through. There was somewhat of a beaten path but it was mostly overgrown waist-high brush. 

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Photo in the small museum in the Fortress shows it had once been surrounded by a low stone wall.

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This is the first street artist I have found who had painted an image of the local synagogue.  The street artist in Budapest we saw had none of the Great Synagogue and most tourist offices had nothing.  Interestingly Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria seemed more proud of their synagogues and had information in the tourist offices. 

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A memento of the synagogue that one day might not be there

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Monument, raised by the Jewish community of town Vidin, Bulgaria

It’s in Bulgarian so I’ve only been able to find bits about it but the nuber 49,000 is engraved in the text.  That’s about the number of Jews who were sved by the Bulgaria during WW 2.

May 14, 2002

Salvation of the Bulgarian Jews during the last world war

Beatriz Rosanes de Samuilov

http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/others/salvation-bulgarian-jews/

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Hotel Drustar

Silistra, Bulgaria

  добро утро  dobro utro = Good Morning

We’ll spend today in Silistra mostly to stock up on “fizzy water” from the supermarket and a few other things, see about checking out of Bulgaria this afternoon (or have to wait until we leave tomorrow depending what the officials say.)  Our next stop will be Cernovoda in Romania.  This email is about final night in Serbia.

Ru

Negotin  Serbia (just near the Djerdap 2 dam) our final stop in Serbia just before our final lock of the river trip

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The small town/yacht club nearby was too shallow so we tied up here.  A guard told us we couldn’t.  We said we had no place else to go.  Two fishermen told the guard we had no place to go.  So he let us stay for the night.  Randal sent Mary with some beer for the fishermen.  They spoke no English and we no Serbian but it all worked out.  There really was no place else to go and no one else needed the dock, so logic and common sense won out.  And good will.

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Down this road was a small restaurant.

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Kafé bar Laguna located 10 km from Negotin on the banks of the Danube, on Kusjak beach just  near (but not too near) the hydropowerplant “Djerdap II.”  They also run a guest house.  You can borrow a boat for fishing on the Danube.  And it’s located on the international bike route that follows along the Danube. 

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Grape arbor

Randal and Rick ordered white wine.  When asked if they liked it, the owner said he’d made it himself!  Maybe from these grapes.  Randal wasn’t so fond of it though managed to drink several glasses.  Rick liked it.  I tasted it and thought it was pretty good actually.

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We were early

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Laguna’s owner posing with us

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The woman standing was originally from Negotin and was back visiting family.  She has a brother who lives in Chicago.

Derdap 2 OUR FINAL LOCK OF THE JOURNEY!!!!!!  From Vlissingen in The Netherlands until Derdap  2 near the Serbian/Bulgarian border we’d done about 57 of then.   Praise the inventor of the floating bollard where you tie on and it does the work rather than Mary and me chaning hooks the whole way up and one lock that went down. 

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I didn’t draw this but it’s certainly how I felt!  It was on the side of the floating bollard chamber.

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Life jackets became mandatory in Austria so we continued to wear them the rest of the way.

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Checking out from Serbia: we showed up but no one was there.  Finally someone called us and said they would be back to the office as soon as they’d dealt with the big barge ahead of us. 

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Hotel Dustra

Silistra, Bulgaria

добър ден  dobŭr den Good Afternoon

   Randal and I explored a little of Silistra this morning, one place being the Art Museum which was WONDERFUL.   Price of admission was 1 lev = $.68.  The catalogue of the permanent collection with English text as well as Bulgarian text was 5 lev.  I took a bunch of photos of the current exhibition which I’ll share when I write about Silistra. 

This email is about our passage along through the gorges of the Danube to Iron Gate.  Really dramatic scenery. 

Ru

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From its headwaters in Germany’s Black Forest, the Danube winds its way through ten European countries to drain into the Black Sea. For much of its course, the river moves lazily through wide valleys, but as it enters the border region between Romania and Serbia, its banks narrow into a series of high cliffs. Here, the river carved a passage through the lower Carpathian Mountains to its north and the Balkan Mountains to its south, creating a series of four steep gorges. These gorges are known as the Iron Gate. Within the last of the four gorges is the Danube’s second iron gate: the Iron Gate Dam. Both of the Danube’s Iron Gates—the lower gorges and the dam—are shown in this image, taken by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Much of the image is red, where plants and trees cover the land. Tan rocky outcrops snake along mountain tops too high in altitude to support trees and emerge in the steep cliffs that line the river. Signs of human habitation are visible, too; the silver area on the north shore of the river is the Romanian town of Orsova.

The Danube cuts a wide, blue ribbon through the center of the image. The river’s narrowest point as it passes through the gorges is at Great Kazan gorge, shown on the left side of the image. Within the gorge, the Danube shrinks to 150 meters in width and is flanked by limestone cliffs that reach to about 300 meters. The cliffs are a darker shade of red on the east bank of the river and are accented with dark shadows. After exiting the gorge, the river widens again as it enters the Orsova Valley. A “u” bend brings the Danube into the last gorge, the Sip Gorge. Though the land’s wrinkled appearance suggests rugged terrain, the cliffs here are not nearly as severe as in the Kazan gorge.

The Danube is a major waterway for international trade, but the Iron Gate gorges created rapids and whirlpools that made navigation difficult. Control over this section of the Danube was gained with the construction of the Iron Gate Dam in the Sip Gorge. The dam, the white line across the river on the right side of the image, began operation in 1972. As the Danube deepened behind the dam, its expanding waters covered at least seven towns, including old Orsova and the island town of Ada Kaleh, a Turkish enclave.

Apart from Orsova and a few very small towns, which form tiny silver dots on the north shore of the river, the region is notably free of signs of human habitation west of the Iron Gate Dam. The square grids of vegetation created by agriculture are missing, as are sprawling silver cities. The land on both sides of the river is protected. Djerdap National Park lines the south shore of the river in Serbia, and Portile de Fier National Park forms the Romanian shore in the north. Both parks protect the natural environment as well as significant cultural and historical sites ranging from Neolithic settlements to a medieval fortress.

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=6819

The Djerdap National Park is the largest national park and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Serbia. It was established in 1974 to protect and improve the unique natural and cultural values of the area. 

The Djerdap National Park stretches along the right bank of the Danube River, spreading over 640 square kilometres. The Danube forms a huge part of the Djerdap National Park. The main attraction of the Djerdap National Park is the Djerdap gorge - the famous Iron Gate - the dramatic gateway of the Danube through the Carpathian mountains. At 100 km, this is the longest gorge in Europe. The cliffs of the canyon here are 300 meters high while the riverbed in this part is narrowed down to 150 meters.

     The territory of the national park is filled with a series of other important features: abundant animal and especially plant life, attractive surroundings and landscapes, including a lake formed by the building of the hydroelectric power plant "Djerdap" (Iron Gates).

http://danube.panda.org/wwf/web/search/details.jsp?pid=13

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Golubac Castle

It is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the Balkans where the Danube is the widest and nature is the greenest. It is believed to have been built in the early 13th century as a border stronghold of strategic importance. It consists of irregularly shaped narrow walls that connect nine massive towers. Octagonal Hat Tower, formerly used as a pier of the Fortress, nowadays is the symbol and trademark of Golubac. Archaeological research revealed over a hundred ceramic artefacts, iron tools, axes, scraping irons, pick axes, door latches and spears, which are proof of the rich past of the Golubac fortress.

There are many interesting legends about the origin of fortress name. According to one of them, once upon a time, a gorgeous princess Golubana lived in a palace. She had refused Turkish pasha’s love and thus was chained to Baba Kaj rock and left to die. After pasha’s screams: “Babo, pokaj se” (“Women, repent”), the rock was called “Baba Kaj” and town was named Golubac after Golubana. With the aid of strong chains, town was connected to Baba Kaj rock allowing total regulation of water and road traffic through Iron Gate.

Golubac fortress is under protection of the National Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments since 1948 and in 1979, it has been categorized as the cultural heritage of exceptional importance.

http://www.serbia.sab.travel/fortresses/golubac-fortress

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“Along the Golubac Klissura or Gorge (km 1040-km 1026) a plaque at km 1036 commemorates Baross Gabor.  As Hungarian minister of transport from 1886 to 1892 he introduced the necessary adjustments for the dangerous Danube rapids. “

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Not all of the landscape along the way is protected

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Km 1016 The fortress (ruins partly visible in the middle of the river) was built by Hungarian Kingdom in 15th century. It was flooded by the Iron Gates I Dam’s waters

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?p=98440248

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Tunel through the mountain

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A fairytale farm

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Teepee shaped haystacks

Our overnight stop was Poreka Reka where we anchored for a quiet night away from noise, music, bright yacht club/restaurant security lights…

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“Porecka Reka rural property for rent 113

Porečka Reka rural tourism Donji Milanovac - PANACOMP rural property for rent 113

Should you seek for the pure nature, birds’ songs and peaceful ambiance, this is the best choice for you : the house is located in the Porec River Bay, close to the Danube waterway and the beautiful river beach, 2 km far from Donji Milanovac. The house enables full privacy and comfortable vacations providing accommodation on two floors. There is one three-bed apartment with equipped kitchen and additional bed, bathroom and the balcony over the Porec River Bay. The second apartment includes two bedrooms with two beds each, equipped kitchen, a bathroom and the balcony overlooking the Danube River. The house is surrounded with broad garden full of greenery comprising the place for grill and cooking facilities for unbeatable fish-soup of freshly caught fish.

Places of interest : Rajko’s Cave, Lepenski Vir archaeological site, Djerdap National Park, Veliki and Mali Kazan/ Great and Small Basin/, "Hajducka vodenica" natural oasis, Golubac Fortress, Vratna Canyon, Danube Iron Gate. “  http://panacomp.net/

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Randal washing down the chain and anchor which was covered with thick mud

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Km 967 Mraconia Church

     “In western Romania there is a place where the Danube cuts a beautiful gorge into the mountains as it crosses into the country. The area is called Cazane, which means The Cauldrons, and it is the site of the huge hydroelectric plant called The Iron Gates I. The plant was built in the 1960s, and is right now the biggest hydro power plant on the Danube. Building it has taken a lot of sacrifices: the geography was changed and many communities wiped out.

     The best-known example is Ada Kaleh, an island surrounded by the waters of the river, inhabited by a flourishing Turkish community, which was forcibly evacuated from the now underwater island. Another building which was swallowed by the rising waters was an old monastery called Mracunia. Now a new monastery stands not very far from the original site bearing a variation of this name, Mraconia. It lies 15 km away from the town of Orsova. Father Viorel Vladucu, a spokesman for the Severin and Strehaia Bishopric, told us about the history of the place and the new monastery.

     Father Viorel Vladucu: “Mraconia, or Mraciunea, means ‘secret place’. It has had a troubled history, being plundered by invaders and having to pay tribute to foreign rulers before its final demise when it was covered by the water. It was destroyed during the Russian-Turkish-Austrian war of 1787-1792, rebuilt, and once again razed in 1968. Even though this place of worship has been destroyed several times along the centuries, we now find it once again, and it is beautiful. In 1967, as the Iron Gates hydro plant started being built, the old place was demolished, and its ruins are now covered by the Danube. As the monastery could not be built in the same place, after 1989 the Metropolitan Bishopric of Oltenia took the initiative of restoring it in a new location.”

     The old monastery was first mentioned in historical records in 1452, the year of the fall of Constantinople, when the monks of Mracunia took refuge in Orsova, as mentioned in a chronicle of the time. The church was subordinated to the bishopric of Varset in 1523 by Nicola Garlisteanu, the governor of the border region of Caransebes and Lugoj.

     Father Viorel Vladucu: “The church at that time was dedicated to St. Elijah and chronicler Nicolae Stoica of Hateg wrote in a chronicle dated 1829 that fleeing Turks, after the unsuccessful battle in Varna and after the fall of Constantinople, the monks of Mraconia had taken refuge in Orsova. The monastery decayed in time, but it was still inhabited in 1788 and its interior plaster was still visible around 1800. In 1823 they found among its ruins the stamp seal of the old church with an interesting inscription in Slavonic. Another interesting discovery was made in 1835 when an icon of the Virgin Mary was found, which was later displayed in an exhibition in Vienna by a painter from Munich. The first plans to rebuild the monastery date back to 1931, but the works did not start until 1947.”

     This time, the new monastery only lasted for 20 years. However, in 1995, the Bishopric of Oltenia made the decision to rebuild the monastery close to its original site. Located on a cliff close to the Cazane gorges on the Danube, the church was very difficult to reach in the past. Things have changed in recent years, as father Viorel Vladucu explains.

     Father Viorel Vladucu: “While access to the church was very difficult in the past, now there is a road linking Orsova to Moldova Noua, a picturesque road running along the Danube, so many pilgrims can now visit this place easily. A large number of pilgrims have been coming to the church in recent years, also because the Cazane gorges is one of the most beautiful places in Romania. Besides, Mraconia Monastery today lies on the site of a former observation and guiding post, from where navigation on the Danube used to be monitored. The strait is very narrow allowing for the passing of only one ship at a time.”

     Several tourist sites are close to Mraconia Monastery, such as the statue of Dacian king Decebalus carved in stone, as well as an inscription reading TABULA TRAIANA, which is actually on the Serbian bank of the river, reminding of a time in ancient history when the invading Roman troops crossed the Danube on their way to the former kingdom of Dacia.

http://www.rri.ro/en_gb/the_mraconia_monastery-16542

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km 967 Decebalus Head at Mraconia – The Romanian Mount Rushmore

     “If your steps take you to Mraconia, about 15 km West of Orsova, be sure not to miss Decebalus’ head, considered to be the tallest sculpture in Europe. It is carved directly into stone and it represents the last king of the Dacians, the indigenous people that lived in the territory of modern Romania before it was conquered by the Romans, and one of the forefathers of this nation.

     Decebalus’ head stands 55 m tall and, inevitably, reminds of the famous Mount Rushmore from the United States of America. The eyes are 4.3 m long, the nose is 7 m long and 4 meters wide. This dimensions and its almost inaccessible position are arguments why so many people come to admire it every year. Some calculations reveal that it is only 6 m shorter that the Statue of Liberty and 8 m taller than Jesus’ statue from Rio de Janeiro.

      The place of the statue was not accidentally chosen, because on the other side of the Danube, on the Serbian shore there is an ancient inscription, carved in stone, named “Tabula Traiana”, celebrating the Roman’s army march against the Dacians and emperor Trajan’s victory against king Decebalus in 105 A.D.  This section of the Danube’s course, called Cazane (between Dubova and Ogradena, including, of course, Mraconia) was always considered one of the most dangerous and spectacular. Dangerous because the river’s crossing between the mountains caused the appearance of water swirls that had claimed many sailor lives, spectacular because the landscapes and the experience of fighting the waves are truly breathtaking. Mraconia itself is a testimony as the name can be translated as ”hidden place”, or ”dark waters”.

     Just as the monument from the USA, Decebalus’ head dates from modern times, extremely recent actually. The initiator of this project was Iosif Constantin Dragan (1917 – 2008), a wealthy Romanian businessman, who was very much in love with the Tracian and Dacian civilizations and who wrote a couple of books about them, asserting that their role in universal history was more important than that from the official versions. His ideas are still controversial, but no one can deny that investing more than a million Euros to realize Decebalus’ head was an extraordinary gift to the Romanian people. Of course, he had to take as much the credit as it can be for this – at the base of the monument it is carved `Dragan Fecit – Dragan made it`.

      He had also promised to the mayor of Cluj that he will build an identical replica of the Column of Trajan from Rome, that depicts the story of the war between Dacians and Romans. His death in 2008 left this promise unfulfilled.

      The sculpture was executed between 1994 and 2004, by a team of 12 men, led by the Romanian sculptor Florin Cotarcea.  As a comparison, Mount Rushmore took 14 years (1927 – 1941) and 300 men, until it was revealed to the public. The rock where Decebalus’ head stands now is a place only accessible by boat. Dynamite was indispensable and not very sophisticated eqiupments could be used, and they were carried to the top by foot, in bags of almost 50 kg each. The climbing sculptors worked in two shifts every day, from March until October every year and had to face the incredible heat of the summer, the danger of falling into the deepest waters of the Danube and the menace of the vipers. One worker was bit by such a creature one day, but was immediately taken care of.

     Decebalus’ nose was the trickiest part of the project, as one big piece of rock fell apart, and the Dacian kings’ nostrils had to be straightened with iron armature and concrete.

http://romaniaonyourtravellist.blogspot.com/

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km 965 Tabula Trajana

http://www.panacomp.net/tour-packages?mesto=srbija_tabula%20traiana

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“On the right bank, look out for the weathered marble Trajan’s Plaque (km 965) set here in AD 101 in honour of the Roman emperor. In a few unpretentious words, it commemorates the construction of Trajan’s Road along the Danube, a great feat for the time.  The plaque was actually moved a little further up the bank from its original position when the reservoir was built.”

JPMM Danube Guide

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We went through a double chambered lock here at the big dam

Abstract

The Djerdap 1 and Djerdap 2 Hydro Power and Navigation System (HPNS), also known as the Iron Gate HPNS, are among the largest in Europe. Its purpose is to utilize the considerable hydropower potential and improve the conditions for navigation in the formerly very dangerous section of the Danube. During operation period HPNS has completely fulfilled its intended purpose. The average hydropower production per year is 13 TWh, and covers an important share of power demand in Serbia and Romania. Also, a permanent solution to the centuries-long problem of navigation along the Iron Gate stretch of the Danube River is provided. The Iron Gate HPNS generated considerable modifications of the natural river regime and raised a number of questions concerning water management decisions, such as: the reduced sediment transport capacity, followed by sediment deposition; the raising of the groundwater table, the endangerment of many communities and industrial, municipal and transportation facilities, as well as agricultural production in the riparian belt; the inadequacy of the existing flood control structures; the decrease of the ice transport capacity at the end of the backwater zone; etc. Over 40 years of system operation, most of the initially recognized water management problems were addressed by comprehensive protection works and measures. The environmental impacts and effects of the protection measures were investigated within the scope of a multidisciplinary and complex monitoring program, conducted by Jaroslav Cerni Institute. It is composed of 9 sub-programs, which thoroughly investigate all the possible river impoundment impacts and consequences for the social situation and the environment. This paper gives an overview of the activities and results of the Iron Gate HPNS monitoring, carried out by Jaroslav Cerni Institute on behalf of the Iron Gate Company, between 1974 and 2012. http://www.wrmjournal.com/

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Ruth and Randal




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