On our trip through the Balkans last year, The Velvet Rocket team spent a fair amount of time exploring Bulgaria. Western Bulgaria is quite rural and provided us with an interesting social commentary on communism as I will reveal below.
Eastern Bulgaria is more developed due to its proximity to beachfront property that has attracted resorts and Britons seeking cheap vacation homes. However, Bulgaria remains the poorest member of the European Union.
If anyone wants cheap homes, they should go west, not east… In many ways, the west of Bulgaria reminded me of the area around Chernobyl. It is just empty.
The woodlands and forests, free from the presence of humans are rebounding rapidly. Is “re-wilding” a word?
Driving down these country roads, it is unusual to see more than 3 or 4 cars an hour:
And then there are the homes… The small farmers that lived in this region were supported by the Soviet state regardless of how much or how little they produced. When the Soviet Union collapsed, their way of life became obsolete overnight. Their meager, unproductive farms were suddenly exposed to globalization and industrial farming, subsidized by hundreds of billions of dollars in farm subsidies. You can see the results below:
The interior of one of the homes – you can see how modestly they lived:
I thought this calender said it all… Look at the year – 1991. This farm was abandoned within months of Bulgaria transitioning away from communism and into a capitalist democracy in 1990.
More of the same:
I could have taken countless pictures of abandoned homes, farms and villages. The above is only a representative sampling.
The young left for greener pastures in Sofia or Western Europe. The old died, committed suicide or are occasionally still scratching out an existence in some anonymous, empty town. It was common for us to drive through a village at night comprised of hundreds of homes and have the town be pitch black aside from one or two homes with lights on inside – occupied by an elderly and lonely individual. The rest of the homes would be abandoned and crumbling.