Friday, May 6, 2011
Hungarian ambitions and Bulgarian gentility
The Hungarian Spectrum blog continues its amazingly penetrating analysis of political developments in Hungary by a piece on the background to an event which I (and, I supsect, all non-Hungarians) had missed in all the comment about the recent Constitutional changes there – the renaming of the country from „Hungarian Republic” to „Hungary”.
From such promising beginnings in 1989, this small country is turning out to be a real pain in the arse. I was struck with the arrogance of its people in 1993-95 when I worked there – and, looking at the size of their houses (and this was in North-East Hungary, their poorest part hard up against the Slovak, Ukrainian and Romanian borders), I wondered why on earth they needed European money then. Even then, all sorts of municipal developments were in evidence – something which you don’t even see here in the capital of Bulgaria 15 years later!
I have never seen such a poor state of pavements as here in Sofia. I wonder what the statistics of broken ankles are here. Unfortunately the internet offers no real treatment of Bulgaria – there was a rather inconsequential piece recently on an Economist blog about the corrupt state of the media here but, as one of the discussants rightly said, they have been set a very good example by the anglo-saxon world!
I have always seen Sofia as have an old-fashioned gentility – mainly from the tiny shop and gallery units you fiind in its centre with both young and old eking out a fragile existence but at least one whose rhythm they control. Since hearing the buskers in the nearby park playing early 1960s jazz and rock, I realise that Sofia, in many ways, could market itself as the retro-capital of Europe. You still see Trabis (although generally vegetating on the sidewalks); and, at leats round my area, the old folk are always out in strength and not marginalised as in so many other capitals. Of course, this is a stark reflection of the poverty of the economy – indeed I just don’t know how the economy here manages even to tick over.
Romania has at least one good news outlet in English which I came across recently
Today I came across this very evocative clip of poet John Betjeman celebrating Philip Larkin's poetry.
Apparently today is both St George's Day AND the Day of the Bulgarian Army. So I'm using one of Ilia Petrov's pictures.