Friday, October 14, 2011
Grim times for forgotten people
The house in the past week has been busy with guests – so not much chance to blog but lots of good conversation….wine and rakia. All of which needed in the colder and damp weather now being experienced here. So yesterday saw a trip to Teteven, nestling in the heart of the Balkan mountain range with the crucial aim of picking up local rakia from an old friend of Sylvie – my ex-landlady. After a speedy 80 kilometres on what must be the most scenic highway in the Balkans, a 3rd class road took us 18 kilometres through a lovely plain marked by signs of decline – but the industrial dereliction of Teteven still shocked us. The town straddles along a river and must have about a dozen derelict plants – of which the picture is typical. The only sign of economic activity is an Italian furniture factory. And a sad story of hopelessness emerged over the superb lunch which awaited us. Elections are in a few weeks – but the political class is seen as irrelevant and venal. I got the impression of a return to Hobbesian conditions – with youngsters having neither jobs nor hope; old people expected to live on a pension of 100 euros a month; and the European Union’s agricultural policy having shafted much of the rural self-sufficiency which produced such superb food in the past.