9th of June, 2018. An exploration of Communism’s legacy in Romania and Bulgaria.
Now and then, I attempt all-nighters that discourage me from taking up proper sleeping/resting arrangements. Of course, after a long day on the saddle, it’s not viable to stay awake for a whole night. Over the years, I have developed my own power nap regime designed to prevent REM sleep and ensure that I go that little bit further on the road without falling into microsleep. I don’t recommend the substitution of proper sleep with a nap regime, for reasons of accumulated fatigue which is easily built up but extremely difficult to alleviate without having at least 2 or 3 days off from a motorcycle.
My power naps have usually occurred either in a carpark or behind a shop. I have really low standards when it comes to my sleeping arrangements. From the top of my head, I’ve slept on the streets in cities such as the following: – Bucharest, Romania (last night) – Thessaloniki, Greece – Vladimir, Montenegro – Innsbruck, Austria – Calais, France – Stockholm, Sweden – Hell, Norway. Using the power nap method to go the extra distance has allowed me to arrive at destinations as planned, albeit sometimes at odd hours of the day, and on time in other instances but heavily worn from such a lengthy journey.
I arrived at the heart of Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, before the morning traffic grew closer to its peak hour. In the centre of the metropolis is a system of wide avenues boldly crowned with the heaviest building in the world: Palatul Parlamentului. The 1100-room communist-era building, also known as the Palace of Parliament, weighs a mammoth 4 098 500 000 kilograms and is extravagantly built with tonnes of crystal, bronze, marble and gold. One of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s most prominent lasting project to this day as Romania’s general secretary from 1967 to 1989, it stands as a reminder of the country’s dictatorial leadership.
The rest of the metropolitan areas of Bucharest, called București in the Romanian language, are segregated in sectors. The sectors appear on maps, whose road networks are shaped approximately like a pie graph. There are 6 sectors in the city, each governed by their respective mayor and municipality.
After Bucharest, my journey led me further towards the southern border to Romania’s neighbour: Bulgaria. Also a former communist state, the Buzludzha peak in the Balkan mountains was my only destination in the country before proceeding to Greece. I was not going to spend any further time off the direct route to Greece as I really wanted to have my tyres changed in Athens, and did not wish to force the tyre shop to wait a day longer than necessary for my arrival.
The Buzludzha monument, sitting tall on the peak of the mountain range, can be said to symbolise the dramatic rise and fall of communism in Europe. When the Bulgarian Communist Party built the structure that is reminiscent of an extra terrestrial flying saucer, they sincerely must have believed that they created heaven on earth and that they had reached the final and most superior stage of sociopolitical evolution. Will history repeat itself within our lifetime to prove that real Communism had not yet been applied and practised properly as a political ideology?
The answer to that question will never be clear-cut, but the magnitude of the structure and the natural beauty that graces the mountains is a matter that is undeniable. This historic part of Bulgaria is truly a spectacle to witness in person. The structure remains untouched and there is no maintenance to preserve the monument. It would be only a matter of time before it crumbles and end up in ruins unless major work is done to it. Glad to have had seen the monument for myself.
I’ve tried searching online for the complete English translation of the large slogans which are displayed in Bulgarian Cyrillic characters at the front of the monument. I couldn’t find the whole translated content, but this one which was on a news site: “On your feet, despised comrades, on your feet, you slaves of labour!” I’d imagine the other slogans to mirror a similar narrative that invokes the rise of the working population for the glory of a communistic nation.
By the time I was done with my visit at the Buzludzha monument, it was quickly getting dark, but I was over an hour away from my intended overnight accommodation at MotoCamp Bulgaria, where I had left half of my belongings and washed clothes earlier in the day.
Hoping to make it back as early as possible, I looked to Google Map’s suggested alternative routes. The journey that was to take me directly back to MotoCamp was going to take approximately 15 minutes faster than the main route that was a slight detour as it make visits to larger towns on the way. I decided on the quicker route, thinking that I just wanted to be back as soon as possible.
I was so wrong to have chosen the allegedly faster route, because it took me through the most patchiest roads through the bushes that I’ve ever encountered in Europe! I mean, if I was going to go on a “spirited and adventurous” day time ride through the sticks, then yeah, it would have totally made sense. Unfamiliar roads, dodgy signs, suspicious looking buildings and machinery and absolute night-time darkness were a lethal combination against a tired body, empty stomach and a filthy Dave that urgently needed some TLC in the showers.
After over 2 hours, which was almost an hour over the intended ETA of the journey, I made it to the camp, where the hosts and guests were ultra relieved to have seen me back safely. That Bulgarian grog was the best thing at the time, as I sat back with home-made cooking, and fellow riders who were eager to share their own stories. What a day!