Tag Archives: Communism

NEW BEGINNINGS

 Yes, it has been almost a year and many thanks to those who wrote to inquire. We very much appreciate your concern. And yes, it was a medical emergency that landed us in Split, and no, we weren’t heading there. We were on our way to London and then Austin when Ron became ill. British Airways was absolutely fantastic to us, insisting on getting Ron to medical attention after a doctor on board noted that his blood pressure had dropped to a life-threatening level. I could write volumes on what ensued – perhaps I will someday – but it must be said that the Croatian doctors and hospitals treated us with nothing but care and concern. We will be forever grateful.

I was almost rigid with fear when Ron was taken away in an ambulance and I was put into a taxi. This was intensified when it became clear to me that I couldn’t speak. Not in the usual sense, for all those who know me will tell you I have no trouble prattling on. No, I couldn’t find any words to exchange with the taxi driver who spoke no English. Why should he? I have some knowledge of a few languages but of the Slavic languages I’m mostly ignorant. Being unable to communicate aroused a primal terror in me. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

We spent more than a week there – our departure being delayed by reams of red tape – during which time we fell completely in love with the Croatian people. Croatia became part of Yugoslavia after the First World War. Its history, like that of all the Balkans, is a turbulent one. Centuries of occupations and revolutions, suffering and oppression, were compounded by the Communist takeover following the Second World War. To that must be added the horrors of the Bosnian War at the end of the last century, the aftermath of which continues to resonate.

Today Croatia is a member of the European Union. The country is forging ahead, eager and hardworking after the domination and degradation of Communism. There’s a buzz, a vibrancy, and it’s to their credit that most of those we interacted with spoke good English. This surely augurs well for the future.

We hired a charming young tour guide to take us on the long drive to Zagreb where we would continue the journey to London. He exemplified the enthusiastic spirit pervading the country with his spanking new and spotlessly clean Mercedes, flawless English and most informative running commentary.
Apparently Bill Gates spends a lot of time in this beautiful country, and we can fully appreciate why.

We spent the next several months in Austin, a busy time with family and friends but I managed to finish writing a book to be published in April, 2017.

An uncomplicated return trip and here we are again, back in Greece. We stepped out of the car, four days of travel behind us, and were greeted by this

Here is a tiny part of the new arrivals –

There’s plenty to tell, but it will have to wait. We’ve had what’s being described as the worst winter in the last 50 years. It has really been bad – it’s still very cold but at least no more snow. We’ve been a haven for homeless animals as we are the only people in the area at this time; we’ve taken them all in, never fear, and they have plenty of food and shelter. Those that are sociable have all been neutered, but those that sneak up to eat once darkness falls are a problem. This is a subject for another time, but meanwhile, in addition to our longtime pets, we have 14 cats and 3 dogs.

The garden has been pretty much destroyed by snow and ice, but spring’s putting in a tentative appearance, and the wildflowers are raising their heads to take a peak at it all.

A WINDOW INTO BULGARIA

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We recently spent a few days in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, driving up from the Pelion and crossing the border outside of Serres. We’ve travelled quite a bit through Balkan states, but this was our first visit to Bulgaria, nestled deep in the heart of the Balkans.

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It will take me time to process my impressions, to reconcile what I saw and heard with the very little I knew of the country’s history and its warm-hearted people. Of course, it can be argued that a few hours of driving through small towns en route, together with a somewhat hair-raising encounter with rush hour traffic in historic downtown Sofia, hardly qualifies one to make pronouncements, but first impressions do frequently find their mark, which in this instance make us eager to return for further exploration.

Bulgaria’s history is long, and long has its geographical position subjected it to invasion. Social turbulence, hideous conflict, unspeakable horrors have dominated the country since time immemorial; the Ottoman Occupation lasted here even longer than in Greece, and finally ended in the Independent Bulgaria of 1878.

Not for long, sadly, for immediately post World War Two Bulgaria was gripped, choked by Communism. The Soviet-era scars remain, both in the hideous concrete structures built to house the populace – visible memories of poverty, fear and repression – but also in the recollections of those who lived through it.

Plovdiv, the second largest city, is ancient. Its buildings are a fascinating mix of architecture; there’s a Roman city, there are mosques, temples and churches, museums, theatres, and dwellings of historic significance. The city was home through the ages to peoples of all ethnic groups, religions and cultures; it was a crossroads of commerce, a thoroughfare of tradesmen, a meeting point for many minds.

Bulgaria was admitted to the European Union in January, 2007. Plovdiv’s inner city is undergoing urban renewal – the inevitable signs of rapid development apparent in the many construction sites, with their scaffolding scarring the facades of graciously genteel buildings. Steel and glass modernity is juxtaposed with gems of bygone architecture, and in some cases is even imposed upon these older buildings in that the lower levels have been updated – plate glass windows and doors – whilst the upper levels remain untouched. So far.

The wealth of architectural detail and ornament still to be seen is quite stunning. Many are the photographs I took while ambling in a very small area, some of which I’ll share with you in the next few posts.

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