A positive glow from the snow-bound fields around Sofia as we headed east on the smooth Highway which cuts a swathe through the Balkans; then on a French-type RN to and past Veliko Trnovo (where the snow was thinner).
By then we were picking up Romanian Radio which was celebrating the birthday of Romania’s most famous poet Mihai Eminiscu (1850-1899) whose star diminished somewhat after 1989 – at least amongst the intellectuals who questioned his simplistic nationalism. But ordinary people stuck with his love poetry . Next week, all over the world, wherever there is (or has been) a small congregation of Scots, our national bard, Rabbie Burns (1759-1796) , is celebrated at dinners with poetry, whisky, speeches and music. Apparently during the Cold War one of the greatest celebrations was in Moscow – since Burns’ egalitarianism was held in high regard there. I was never into this when in Scotland – although it was de rigeur for the members of the local elites to come together for drunken ribaldry every 25th January. But since leaving the country in 1990 I have developed a respect for his poetry – and this way of celebrating it. I even had my kilt flown over specially from Scotland for the Copenhagen dinner in 1991!
As we drove, we mused about how many other poets are celebrated in this way.
Hills and small gorges took us into Targovishte where another 2-day workshop is being held –starting the final phase of this training project on EC Structural Funds after the hiaitus caused by the November municipal elections. Unlike Northern Europe, municipal elections here can often lead to personnel changes.
Targovishte has the size (and sadness) of my home town in Scotland – 60,000 people and its first traces are from the 16 C when it had the name Eski Djumaya. In the 18th century its market offered access to the Turkish Empire dealing with Austria, Germany, England, Russia and Middle East. At the time of the Bulgarian revival the first economical college was established here – as well as many churches and libraries, the crafts, trade, tobacco industry are grown. In 1934 it was named Targovishte. In 1959 the town become the administrative centre of the region. Sunday it looked totally desolate – apart from a small area some of whose traditional, revival houses have been beautifully restored.
The hotel nestles in an attractive woody and grassed park at the bottom of hills outside the town - and the architect has superbly exploited the site with the large lobby windows giving full advantage of the view. The young staff are as courteous as I always find them in this country - and the food and (famed) local wine as excellent as usual.