Many countries just can’t catch a break.
The international E-road Network is Europe and western Asias’ answer to the United States’ Interstate highway system. It has been under development since the United Nations became involved and UNECE formed just after World War II. The EU, we were told as we entered Bulgaria, is now a source of project funding. E 4 was designed to take drivers on a superhighway almost 6,000 miles from Portugal to Greece. The section we were on was supposed to foster the economic development that would occur when a major transportation route from The Mediterranean to the Danube was in place. The completed part of E 4 from the city of Thessaloniki to the Bulgarian border was fine. The Bulgarian section is under construction and some of it still has not yet been finalized.
The quaint Bulgarian village of Bansko is surrounded by peaks that rise to 9,560 feet. A ski resort was proposed and a building boom resulted. Bulgaria bid on the 2014 Winter Olympics. The bid was unsuccessful. Bansko went bust.
Another town, Melnick, was home to 20,000 Greeks during the early years of the 20th century. In the 19th century Melnick was a European wine center. Melnick burned down during the Balkan Wars that preceded World War I. It never recovered and is now described as Bulgaria’s smallest town. Wine is sold by the jug. It’s not good. What’s left of the town is mostly ruins separated by a dry creek. There’s no ATM.
Bulgarian Boryana Dzhambazova works in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, reporting the news. One of her articles was in The New York Times on October 2, 2015. The United Nations most recent population prospects, she explained, list the 10 countries most likely to lose citizens between 2015 and 2050. Bulgaria is in 1st place. Its population is down almost 2 million people since 1990. Bulgarians, like Syrians and so many others, are trying to move to prosperous European countries in large numbers. Few of the displaced currently moving across Europe aspire to live in Bulgaria.
Ruth and I visited probably the best secondary school in Sofia. The multi-story school, seen above, was surrounded by ugly security fences, classes were large, and the teacher/presenter complained about outdated textbooks. The students, like the 2 below who greeted us with traditional bread, were wonderful.