Of Wartburgs and BMW’s

A Wartburg

A Wartburg

Thirteenth in a series

August 25, Ruse, Romania — With the tour directors’ comments in mind, I walked around Ruse, Bulgaria’s fourth largest city and a major port on the Danube.  The “Commie condos” were there, as well as many beautiful examples of late 19th century European architecture, most of which were in poor repair. New luxury homes and apartment buildings were interspersed here and there, signs of that Wild West capitalism.

Cars, too, told the story of pre- and post-Communism. A Wartburg, a tinny looking car with a three-stroke engine formerly produced in Russia, was parked in front of a grand ruin. But I also saw many luxury cars: Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, BMW, and more.

On almost every corner, there seemed to be a statue of a revolutionary hero. The revolution in question was the one that created the Bulgarian state as an independent nation in the 1800s. “Babatonka” was especially revered: a mother who lost all five of her sons in the conflict, and said that she would gladly sacrifice even more if it would bring freedom. What statues might be erected to this last revolution?

Memorial with Babatonka

Memorial with Babatonka

With our local guide, we learned that the town is proud of its history museum. If I returned to the area, I would try to visit some of the archeological sites in the area. Or a nearby town, where, in November, a battle against the Turks by the Christian Crusaders is re-enacted by hundreds of volunteers to mark the 1444 Battle of Varna, which “doomed Bulgaria and all of Southeast Europe to remain part of the Ottoman Empire” according to archeologyinbulgaria.com.

The tour made a stop at a restaurant with a historic peasant theme where we had a local savory that tasted like a cross between a cheese soufflé and potatoes au gratin, served with a sparkling Bulgarian wine. Our group broke off from the tour and made for the giant central plaza where we drank beer and cocktails at “Happy Bar.” The giant gin and tonic with curls of lime and orange made me happy indeed.

At Happy Bar in the plaza

At Happy Bar in the plaza

A very cool series of sand sculptures dedicated to Olympic sports:

Next: Of the Death Canal, Lucky Snakes and the Black Sea


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