Spring bears in Sofia, and an atrocity recalled

Sofia spring-clean

I took the metro to the city centre, on a day that smelled of Spring. As I emerged from the underground station, the breeze was still cool, but the sky was a patchwork of blue and white. Pedestrians were slowly abandoning their monotone black or grey winter clothes, and dressing in brighter colours.

The streets and parks on my route were noticeably cleaner than usual. Sofia is in the middle of its annual spring-clean, an initiative led by the city administration, supported by numerous businesses and with an estimated workforce of 40,000 volunteers. Plus some army teams, and a group of motorbike rockers!

In our suburb, several people were out, diging over and clearing their garden patches, carefully hoeing around the brilliant bursts of primrose and other small spring flowers. The flower beds in the central parks have received a similar makeover; bright green buds contrast with the almost black, freshly-turned earth. The chess players are out in force in public spaces, enjoying the sunshine while passing rude comments on the game in hand.

The clean-up initiative will go on until 21st. April.

And then what?

It’s a simple choice, and I’m not usually a person who bets. We’ll either keep the streets and gardens litter-free all year, or – we’ll go back to our usual habit of chucking our rubbish and fag-ends in the roads, on the pavements, in the open parks.

A few days ago, the BDZ railroad company cleared a 600-metre stretch of track that runs through a particular quarter of Sofia. They apparently collected 30 tons of trash, thrown there by the resident (Roma) community. Interesting, though: despite the safety factor that restricts trains to a speed of 25 kph in a stretch normally limited to 90 kph, this was the first time since 2008 that BDZ had bothered to do any clearing of rubbish. That really got me thinking about the costs of, and tolerance of, the rubbish problem that affects the whole of Bulgaria – not only specific communities or sectors of society.

The cheapest course, and the most effective, is not to throw litter in the first place. But that assumes a personal feeling of responsibility, and implies some ordered and effective social structure to see to the .regular collection and (dare one mention it?) recycling and safe disposal of waste.

We are still waiting… for both.

One favourable “plastic straw” in the wind: in a couple of months, there will be the first of a series of tax increases on the price of the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags that deface our streets, trees and shrubs. A small step, maybe, but it’s progress.

The assault of St. Nedelya, 1925

My walk took me past St. Nedelya, one of the most historic Orthodox churches in central Sofia. Today (16th. April) is the 86th. anniiversary of the worst bombing atrocity in Bulgaria. At the funeral of General Konstantin Georgiev , who had been assasinated two days earlier by the same movement, and in a church service attended by hundreds, a bomb placed in the dome was detonated by members of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

Over 500 people were injured, and 150 killed, most of them members of the military and political elite, but also some 25 women and children. By chance, no members of the government present, died. Neither did Tsar Boris III, who should have been present but who was, instead, attending a separate funeral for colleagues killed in a recent attempt on his own life.

The atrocity was part of a savage campaign against the ruling government, following the failure of the September Uprising of 1923. Both sides seem to have behaved ruthlessly with their opponents. Following the incident, martial law was declared, and the perpetrators of the Nedelya bombing were all caught, liquidated or condemened to death by the courts . The church, almost completely destroyed by the bomb, was re-built and extended, as it appears today.

St. Nedelya, following the 1925 attack. Source: Wikipedia

As I walked past, the peal of the cathedral’s 11 bells began ringing out, a little before 5 o’clock on a deceptively peaceful spring afternoon. And an unexpected, delightful sight on the southern square of the church – an exhibition of brightly painted Buddy Bears, 1.4 metres tall, and about 140 of them. The kids were loving it, but it was amusing to see how many adults were also enjoying taking a peek as they passed – including me!

Suddenly, a flashback took me only 50 metres away. I was standing outside the Sheraton Hotel, waiting for a colleague. Looking up, I was startled to see a man leading a massive dancing bear on a chain. It was in 1992, so I had no pocket camera; but I’ll never forget that incongruous sight.

Performing bears are now outlawed in Bulgaria; proof we can all change our social perceptions and conduct. Rubbish, next?


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One Response to “Spring bears in Sofia, and an atrocity recalled”

  1. landstakes Says:

    Wouldn’t it be cool if picking up litter was not only a ‘thing’ to do in the Spring, yet even in the Summer, Autumn & Winter?

    Never let anyone stop you from imagining a clean environment.

    Health is a result of environmental signals to your DNA.

    Every time you make a good choice against litter, positive chemical reactions happen instantly in your body & brain that make you more

    healthy and alive.

    In other words… Picking Up Litter = Free Drugs created by your brain.

    Future generations will not tolerate litter.

    Feel free to contact me if you want a free link from my website. http://LandStakes.com

    In hope of Peace & Synergy & Holo Pono

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