The man proceeds to show me his own blond, beloved, four legged dude. He tells me the Ancient Greeks held dogs in high esteem because they posses almost divine-like attributes.
The sound of a vehicle crawling down the dirt track lifts us. It’s the farmer’s neighbour and he jumps out to add his shoulder to the effort. One, two, three, push. The wheels spin. No traction.
There’s something spiritual and holy about this place: the craftsmen turning the wood with love; the fugitive hiding in the monastery; the hermit living in a cave.
Vestiges of the ancient city are still visible: Thracian walls, Hellenistic towers, a Roman staircase, a reservoir dating from the Middle Ages. We pick our way across strewn boulders to stand on the crumbling walls where lie some of the best views of the modern city and its 350,000 inhabitants.
I get up at dawn to photograph the site. It’s very windy and I expect to be alone but I instead bump into a small film crew. They are students making a documentary about how this building reflects Bulgaria, how it symbolises the plight of their country. The young man behind the camera is Bulgarian, a student of Architecture in Paris. He applied to get access to the inside but was refused by the authorities.
He fires off a flare high into the Bulgarian sky. It echoes around the valley and lights up the pale blue sky. Simple pleasures, redolent of youth and the promise of a life yet lived.
There’s a punchline, quipped by locals and adopted in a high-profile media campaign in 2013 that is part self-deprecation, part self-promotion. It was lovingly quoted to me on multiple occasions when I sought advice on the beautiful sights to visit: You know you’re in Bucharest, not Budapest don’t you?
I’m not Royalist but I am with Prince Charles on this one when he says that “We, the rest of the world, have something to learn from this cultivated landscape of Transylvania. They have a spiritual but also social, economical and ecological significance.”
Imagine the national response should a motorhome-driving Romanian legitimately come to UK to use our health services and accidentally set his van on fire.
The Great Hungarian Plain, an area of 50,000 km² East of the Danube, forms over 50% of the country’s landmass. But don’t let this fool you. Here in the north of the country, the land rises to meet the Slovakian border where lay rolling hills and small mountains.