Bulgaria: Heavy Snowfall and Chauvinistic IdiocyEditorial |Author: Ivan Dikov | February 19, 2009, Thursday // 00:00| views
Photo by Nadya Kotseva (Sofia Photo Agency)
If on a snowy February day in the Bulgarian capital Sofia you are trying to get to work or to honor your national hero, chances are both of these will turn out to be prohibitively difficult tasks.
For one thing, Sofia, for all I know, is a city designed for horse carriages at the end of the 19th century.
As the Latin American-style sporadic pseudo-urbanization waves of the post-communist transition brought Sofia's population to almost three million, it is now pretty hard in general to get around in this overly congested city. Horrifying traffic jams happen at any time of the day, or of the year.
Then there is, or rather, there isn't, the Bulgarian project of epochal dimensions - the ever-delayed and never-completed Sofia Metro with its functional half a line, clearly insufficient to relieve the terrible traffic.
Winter is always a nice season in the Bulgarian capital because it is full of surprises. And it is usually the concessionaire companies supposed to clean the snow off the streets and roads who are most often surprised.
It's almost as though these people were born in Australia, and don't know they live in the moderate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, i.e. apparently they don't associate the Bulgarian winter with snowfall.
Then, one can try using Sofia's public transport - trams, buses, and trolley buses - to get to work. Those vehicles are always nice, and have nice drivers. They do have certain flaws - their schedule is just a little haphazard, and it might be snowing more inside than it is outside the vehicle - but who doesn't?!
The tip of the iceberg, though, comes when one suddenly realizes that the stupefying traffic jam they've been stuck in is not the result of the regular congestion but is caused by a couple of hundred fans of the extreme right and chauvinistic "Ataka" ("Attack") party.
Apparently, someone told those weird (to use a neutral term) people and their party leadership that February 19 was the day when the holiest Bulgarian hero, Vasil Levski, was hanged by the Ottoman Turkish authorities for his revolutionary activity in 1873.
And these guys thought, "Hey, there is a chance not only to wreak more havoc in Sofia's traffic but also to desecrate the remembrance of the execution of the greatest Bulgarian hero!"
And so they did it. By blocking the downtown "Vasil Levski" Blvd in front of the Turkish Embassy building, shouting anti-Turkey slogans, and waving flags.
It is too bad these people can never comprehend that if one is concerned with Turkey allegedly interfering in Bulgaria's affairs, with a potentially disruptive role of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms party in the country's domestic policies, or even with actually demanding an apology for the Ottoman yoke from the contemporary Turkish state, hanging out and shouting ethnic slurs in front of Turkey's Embassy is hardly the way to achieve that.
The way these or any other goals can be achieved is clearly to use one's brains. If one has them, of course. But there they are, on the day to remember the greatest and holiest Bulgarian - a grotesque, Balkan-style 21st century smaller-scale reincarnation of Mussolini's fascist-like squads.
It is almost like one can hear their leaders saying, like Mussolini, that they "will make the trains (and the city transport, for that matter) run on time again".
Snow blizzard causing traffic chaos in an overcrowded city, aided by far-right extremists (or just confused regular people), effectively spoiling the remembrance of a national hero with their ethnic slurs and racial epithets... Sofia in February can really make one feel sad and distressed.
It is about time any sane and prudent people in Bulgaria got together, and put their brains to use in order to make the trains run on time, and defend the nation's integrity in any other way...