Sunday, June 10, 2012

Forget Your Past

On our recent road trip through Central Bulgaria, Kiril, Laura, Sydney and I stopped off at what has become a popular off-beat tourist attraction: the space-like Bozludja monument near Shipka. This monument, built in 1981 to commemorate the founding of Bulgaria's communist party a century earlier, was once a proud symbol of the ruling government. Today, it sits crumbling atop the windy mountain where it was built over thirty years ago, and is very likely to fall apart completely if nobody steps in to preserve the structure.

Up until about a month ago, visitors could (illegally) enter the building because although there was a sign warning that the structure was unsafe, there was no lock on the gate. When we went there was a very sturdy lock and chain on the outside doors- comforting to me, because let's face it I am just not that adventurous. I'd rather not have pieces of ceiling tiles falling onto my head or breathe in the toxic asbestos that surely insulates the walls. Anyways, the building itself isn't very interesting, except that it looks like a giant spaceship perched on top of a hill. There's even a tail section with the socialist red star painted on either side. All of the letters on the outside are falling away, the roof is leaking and birds inhabit the upper floors. There is some graffiti scattered around the sides, but it's mostly just poorly drawn scribbles, with a few exceptions.

This message (intriguingly written in English- begs the question of who actually put it there) proclaims one current attitude towards the recent past. Or maybe it's supposed to challenge the complacency with which many choose to forget painful, although important, memories. One thing is certain: this structure has been forgotten by those in charge of its maintenance. Even the attempts to bar access are laughable at best- besides the aforementioned door lock, the only other effort to prevent people from visiting the monument is a road block with a warning sign. Taking a closer look, however, one sees the tire tracks where many cars have simply gone around the road block, onto the grass and back on the road again.

Whatever the future may hold for Buzludja, it is definitely a distinctive landmark for Bulgaria in more ways than one. If it wasn't for its remote location, I'd say it would make an excellent extension of the Sofia Museum of Socialist Art. For now, it's just another roadside attraction, although quite far off the beaten track.

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