Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Rhodope charm again
I had hoped to be reporting on the great trip to Smolyian and Kardjali at the beginning of the week in the borderland with Greece – but was a bit knocked today by the cowboy behaviour of my Romanian village mayor. Perhaps its the just rewards for the positive Bulgarian postings I have been making! I was nicely received (as always) in the Smolyian Gallery on Monday - which has a very large space (3 floors) and a great collection but almost no money for maintenance. My colleague, Belin (who was leading the workshop) is an architect by training; now an academic; and was, in the late 1990s, a Deputy Minister for Regional development. He explained for me the ambitious agenda of the socialist government in the 1970s when they merged 3 villages there (as they did elsewhere) and created urban systems which are now tottering. He also suggested a possible reason for the very diffferent fates of villages in post-socialist Bulgaria and Romania. He suggests that land ownership was more completely collectivised in Bulgaria than in Romania – and that there was therefore no base left in Bulgarian villages post-1989 for the sort of self-sufficiency which still survives for example in my village amongst the old.
A marvellous journey on Tuesday through and over the mountains to Kardjali – quite amazing to see the isolated homesteads clinging so high up to the mountainsides! And all the minarets – most new. Kardjali has all the bustle and townscape of Turkish town. I was able, with some difficulty, to locate the art gallery – rather small and pathetic despite some great paintings - including the great Atanas Mihov (above)
and this delightful Stefan Ivanov.