Trip to Елена (Elena)

This weekend (Friday and Saturday) I was invited to join an excursion to some villages in the surroundings of Елена (Elena), a small town with some 6000 inhabitants in the centre of the country. The next larger town is Велико Търново (Veliko Tarnovo), the former capital of Bulgaria before the occupation of the Ottoman Empire in 1393. In Елена the 3rd-year students of architecture exercise planning. So I was again confronted with some new students, but we got on quite nicely. Some always kept translating me the most important things, because the professor who guided the trip only speaks Bulgarian and French.
There was not a lot of time for sight seeing in Елена, as we spent most of the time travelling or in the villages. On Saturday morning I got up early and had time to have a walk around town. Although it was foggy, I could make some nice pictures. Most of the town looks pretty normal to me, but near the city centre, which is crossed by a small river, are some roads which let you forget that the last fifty years or so have happened.

The villages showed a poor image. Many houses are deserted, you seldom see people, especially young people. The age group 15-35 years was missing completely. What really stroke me was the absence of cars. I often have the problem that cars spoil possibly good images, especially these modern large SUVs.

These villages are really beautiful places, so tourism could get interest in these places soon. Some houses have already been sold to international investors and a few new buildings have already been constructed, which doesn’t fit the regional style. It’s a job for the governments to find a way to develop regions like this without destroying the landscape. Too many disasters happened around the world because of uncontrolled development of tourism. I don’t think that the Bulgarian government is capable of handling this job, I heard too much about corruption. There must be a reason, why ‚city planner‘ is the 5th best paid job. By the way, I’m just reading a scientific book about tourism, but that’s content for another article.

Миковци (Mikovtsi) – the first village we visited – is surrounded by some little wooded mountains. The evening-sun provided some great pictures. Here we could also see an example for new development – an apartment-house which looks somehow traditional, but it’s not typical for this region.

In Марян (Marjan) it was already getting dark, so the pictures aren’t very good. Марян is famous for having a monastery where a legend tells said that the remains of Tsar Boris I, the first Christian tsar of Bulgaria, have been found.

Of Чакали (Tshakali) I can’t tell you much, because the group separated and I followed to the next village. The name origins of the jackals which lived there in former times.

Каменари (Kamenari) is named after the stone plates around the city. They make construction very difficult. Here I had the impression, I’m no longer in Europe, so different was the atmosphere. Here too the children we saw have no future, the school has closed down some time ago. The only amenities are a shop and a health care centre.

Майско (Majsko) was our last stop. The only developing village we saw, which is due to the fact, that the population consists mainly of Gypsies and Islamic people. Which raises even more problems, because they don’t want to be assimilated by Bulgarian culture. Although one of the main roads between northern and southern Bulgaria is passing through this village, there was not a lot of traffic.

All in all this was a very interesting trip with a lot of alien experiences and beautiful views, but also a lot to think and worry about.

One more thing happened. I met one of the students on the trip who is responsible for the Erasmus-students. I thought there are no such students at this university, because I asked at the international students office that I like to meet the other foreign students. The woman there promised to organize a party when everybody is here. Now I learned, that they already had several parties and meetings. I had also asked what organisational stuff I have to do – The answer was No. Which was not correct, I should get an ID and cheaper tickets for public transport. I’m a bit angry about this office.

Hope you enjoy my pictures!

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