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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wood, Wine and....Canetti

Sofia detained us for a week and we decided to have a leisurely return (to Bucharest) taking the middle of the three routes which sprout east from Sofia – the quietest and probably most scenic which skirts the edge of the Stara Planina (otherwise known as Blue Mountains).

I had forgotten that this is the road which offers access to the beautiful 19th century village of Koprovichitsa (which played such an important role in the 1870s uprising against the Turks) and had no hesitation in veering right to see it again…..my third visit in the past few years….(the first had been in winter; the second in autumn 2013) .The wood carvings on the doors and ceilings remind me of what an art form wood can be......RIP Bogdan......and I realise, rather belatedly, that the superbly carved pulpit is an unusual feature of these older Bulgarian churches – features which are not normally seen in Orthodox churches. The friendly priest who waved us (inc the cat) into the church stressed the ecumenical nature of the congregation in those days….….
Dare I wonder that the sermons possibly played a role in the 19th century liberation??????

Karlovo and Kazanluk were on the schedule – the first to check whether any traces were left of the peaceful courtyards of the 1930s which Nicola Tanev painted so evocatively; Kazanluk, the heart of the rose valley, for possibly another visit to the municipal gallery which keeps the heart of the Bulgarian painting beating. More than 100 well-known artists grew up in this small town……

We spotted only a couple of remnants of former architectural splendours in Karlovo - and a sign for the Chateau Copsa winery soon had me distracted from thoughts of art galleries…..
Standing alone in the vineyards stretching to the horizon with the Blue Mountains towering above, the Chateau is a tastefully-created and designed modern building which offers not only wine-tasting and meals but accommodation and sauna….Two superb whites and two great roses were soon trickling down our throats – tempered with chunks of cheeses, walnuts and dried plums…..all for 6 euros apiece……one of the most delightful lunches we’ve had in some time………

And there was still a couple of hundred kilometres to go before we reached our evening destination – Russe – over the mountains to Veliko Tarnovo and then the final 100 kms….most of it by now thoroughly familiar.

We pulled in just after 18.00 to the fascinating Luliaka Hotel plum on the Danube but just within Russe’s boundaries. 
It’s rare for a hotel to attract my loyalty but I so loved the layout, atmosphere and quiet beauty of the site that I quickly booked a second night…… Their meals and house rose (from their own winery) were an added attraction which will draw me whenever I feel I need a restover on my way back from Sofia…..

And Russe has so many attractions – particularly, for us, the early 20th century buildings….I had been looking for the Canetti family house – which the Nobel prizewinner describes in the first part of his memoirs and came across it completely by accident…..pausing to photo parts of the facade and only realising when I was inside that what seemed to be an arts complex was in fact the Canetti Foundation… hosting these days something called a “Process-Space Art Festival” (this is the statue the municipality recently erected to him at the entrance to his street)
Canetti actually lived in Russe for only a few years before his family migrated to Austria and he subsequently spent most of his life in London and Zurich.
His “Crowds and Power” was one of many books written by central Europeans which made an impact on me at University and I recently enjoyed his “kiss and tell” Party in the Blitz which complements his more famous trilogy of memoirs. Clive James does a demolition job on the man here.

A more sympathetic treatment of someone who typified that genre of central European polymath we have sadly lost is The Worlds of Elias Canetti – centenary essays (2005)

Our second evening we were treated to one of the most spectacular thunderstorms….

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