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Bulgarian Communism – US Republican Communism?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

I took a ‘Communism Tour’ in Sofia, Bulgaria – meet outside the Palace of Justice at 4pm on Sunday. Twenty Five years after the fall of Communism it’s pretty clear they’re still trying to come to terms with what it was all about.

???????????????????????????????▲ The sign and logo for this old Corecom store still stands. Back in the Iron Curtain era Corecom shops sold all those much demanded and unavailable western goodies, like jeans. One problem: you had to pay with US dollars. A second problem: it was illegal to possess US dollars. ‘So we had a shop,’ our knowledgeable guide said, ‘where you could buy unavailable things with illegal money.’

???????????????????????????????◄ Right in the centre of Sofia this statue of St Sofia has taken up position on top of a tall column. Problem One: the city of Sofia is named after the venerable Sveti Sofia Church, not St Sofia. Problem Two: if she’s a saint why is she sporting these pagan symbols – an owl perched on her arm, a laurel wreath, a crown? And as for all that cleavage? No good orthodox saint would be so brazen.







St Sofia is replacing a statue of Lenin which was removed from its city centre location after the fall of Communism and for 15 years left an empty space to remind the good citizens of Sofia of his departure. You can find the statue – and much other Communist era relics – at the Museum of Socialist Art, rather inconveniently situated out in the suburbs. ►

Bulgaria’s first Communist leader, Georgi Dimitrov had a mausoleum which also disappeared with remarkable speed. Today its former position in the Sofia City Garden, where it effectively blocked the view of the old Royal Palace, is just a patch of concrete wasteland. Since 1999 there’s been no attempt to replace it with anything new, not even with some park planting, but nor is there any indication of what used to occupy the space.

Red Star - Sofia▲The Museum of Socialist Art also has the red star which used to top the Party House in the centre of town. Many Sofia citizens were convinced it was made of rubies, the reality is coloured glass.

Mound of Brotherhood◄ There’s assorted Soviet-era statuary still standing around the city, like this one The Mound of Brotherhood or Bratska Mogila. It’s looking rather secondhand with limbs broken off some of the figures. The trouble is Bulgaria was not crawling with patriotic partisans risking all to kick the Nazis out. In fact Bulgaria switched sides from the Germans only in the closing days of WW II and then welcomed the Russians with open arms. They were then Russia’s staunchest ally through the Soviet period, the Bulgarians even pushed Moscow to invade Czechoslovakia and shut down the Prague Spring in 1968. Click here for Google Images of the Monument to the Soviet Army which has been the subject of some inspired paintwork by local provocateurs.

On the other hand it’s nice to see US Republican potential presidential candidates competing with each other to see who can be the most Communist. Will it be Donald Trump, keen to replicate the Soviet-era Iron Curtain, but between the USA and Mexico? Or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who wants to imitate the old Communist game of keeping track of every foreign visitor in Eastern Europe and the USSR? Presumably Christie would like all tourists to the USA to report to a police station every day to confirm where they’re staying, just like we used to do in Eastern Europe in the Communist days.

Mound of Brotherhood

Bulgarian Communism – US Republican Communism?

30 August 2015 | Culture

I took a ‘Communism Tour’ in Sofia, Bulgaria – meet outside the Palace of Justice at 4pm on Sunday. Twenty Five years after the fall of Communism it’s pretty clear they’re still trying to come to terms with what it was all about. ▲ The sign and logo for this old Co...

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The Shard – from a 777

12 August 2015 | Transport

So often the views out the window are superb, like on Cathay Pacific CX-257 from Hong Kong to London last week. We started off by flying south out of Hong Kong, before turning north and flying right over Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. We continued north across China...

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The Warwick Writing Prize & Skyfaring

15 July 2015 | Media

I’m one of the five judges for the 2015 Warwick Prize for Writing and yes, I am a graduate of Warwick University. The panel of judges is chaired by A L Kennedy and include Robert Macfarlane, I recently read his enchanted walking book The Old Ways. It’s not my first ti...

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Lights of Mankind

12 June 2015 | Media

Lights of Mankind – it’s one of those books which you pick up as a remainder and you think ‘why didn’t this get more attention?’ Views from the International Space Station – a few years ago I went down to Baikonur in Kazakhstan to see a tourist go up to the station fo...

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Airline Seating – at the sharp end in particular

8 June 2015 | Transport

There’s constant discussion about how many seats airlines can stuff in. They all seem intent on shoving in one more across the aircraft or squeezing the ‘pitch,’ the distance between one row and the next, in order to get more passengers on board. But that’s back in ec...

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Bicycle Tracks, Bicycle Signs

7 June 2015 | Transport

▲ On a recent visit to Turin in Italy I encountered this nice bicycle warning, admonishing cyclists not to go speeding down the laneway next to the Egyptian Museum, scattering pedestrians in all directions. ◄ I posted a recent photo of something I encountered o...

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6 June 2015 | Places

I spent a couple of days in Turin –Torino in Italian – for the Salone Internazionale del Libro Torino in the Lingotto Fiere, the imaginatively restored old Fiat car factory. Complete with its test track on the roof. ▲ It’s one of those cities which underlines why w...

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The Bush

The Bush

2 June 2015 | Media

Don Watson is best known for being the speech writer and political adviser to former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. Keating is famously touchy and his book about the Keating years – Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM – led to a m...

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29 May 2015 | Places

Why had I never been to Mallorca before? I finally got around to it with a bunch of friends, we all had a great week there, staying at the Hotel Son Paulo up in the hills at Orient. We never went near Magaluf, the package tour centre often referred to as Shagaluf. ...

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Walking Broadway – New York City

3 May 2015 | Places

In New York recently I set out to walk Broadway, it’s the one street which runs the entire length of Manhattan. ▲ So I took the subway down to South Ferry. ◄ It was an expensive trip, I put my credit card into a Columbus Circle subway station Metro Card machine,...

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