My Fellow Traveler: I am Sorry but I Do Not Want You Here!
Novinite is publishing another travelogue by Yoav Chudnoff, who recently visited the Buzludzha, who recently visited the Communist-era Buzludzha Momument, often referred to as "a flying saucer" in foreign media.
You can read more by - and about - Yoav Chudnoff here.
Several years ago, I received an email from a Puerto Rican University student who has a fascination on raptor migration. She wanted information on raptor migration in Europe in order to see if there were similarities between migratory habits of new world and old world raptors. I obliged by providing her with material so she can teach school children as part of an educational program: '?cterus?.' This is a Socio- Environmental Initiative which works on educating the people of Puerto Rico on the importance of birds using the arts as an educational tool.
Last year she sent me an email telling me that she wanted to visit Bulgaria as part of her Master of Fine Arts program at the City University of a New York. I put her in touch the appropriate people here in Bulgaria as well as suggesting that she should meet my colleagues in Turkey as well. To cut a long story short, she applied for a Graduate grant and received funding for her visit. I will be interviewing her more intensely for another article as this is not the subject of my observation. I received another email from her telling me that she wanted to visit the Bulgarian 'Flying Saucer.' I have never heard of the Bulgarian 'Flying Saucer' and asked around. They had no idea what I was talking about. I sent an email back to her; “Can you send me more information on the Flying Saucer.” She responded with a photo, which I passed around. All of my friends responded in kind “Buzludzha.” They also said that it was closed, you cannot enter. Why do you want to go there.Many people associate the place with everything that was wrong with the country before the 10th of November 1989. I relayed this back to her, but she said that she REALLY wanted to go. Who am I to say that she cannot go. Honestly, my interest and curiosity got the best of me.
On a rainy Friday morning, off we went. I told her that we had to first go to the Monument of Freedom on Shipka Peak before visiting the Flying Saucer. It was here that the most important four battles took place in 1877-1878 during the Russo-Turkish war leading to the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. Initially there were 5000 Bulgarian volunteers, known as Opalchentsi and 2500 Russian troops who were able to repulse an attack by the Ottoman army. Over the course of four hard fought battles in which over 13,000 Opalchentsi and Russian soldiers were either lost or wounded whilst over 24,000 Ottoman soldiers lost or wounded. This battle marked the turning point in Bulgaria's road to freedom. The first foundation stone of the monument was laid in 1922 and was inaugurated in 1934 by King Boris III. We were just but a few people visiting the Monument of Freedom in the rain and fog. About a dozen other people were there; all from Turkey.
From this historical site, located twelve kilometers away we are off to explore the 'Flying Saucer.'But first I extend my apologies to those that might be offended to what you will now read, but, this is my imagination working. Imagine this, driving in a heavy downfall, clouds, fog unable to see no more than 10 meters in front of you, searching for a particular monument which you have never seen. There is a sense of excitement and yes an even an adrenaline rush. We stop and look at Google maps. It tells us that we are there. But we see nothing. We drive a little more. The map says that we are there, yet we see nothing. We reach the end of the road. The map tells us that we are under it. We get out of the car, look up and, in the dense fog, one can just make out the outline of the mystery that awaits us.
Officially known as the Дом-паметник на партията (Dom Pametnik na partijata – Memorial House of the Party). It is the largest ideological monument in Bulgaria built on top of Hadji Dimitar Peak, better known by its old name - Buzludzha Peak. It was also built in honour of the Buzludzha Congress which was held here in 1891. Construction of the monument began in 1974 and was finally opened in August 1981, just in time for the 1300 year anniversary of the founding of the First Bulgarian Kingdom in 681. Over 60 artists were commissioned to create mosaic murals. Many of these murals, someone pointed out, reminded them of the socialist inspired murals of the great Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. From 1944 to 1989, each year in August, Buzludzha Peak and the Dom Pametnik has been the gathering place of the Bulgarian Communist Party and after 1989, the Bulgarian Socialist Party . In 2013, it made the list of “The 33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World” coming in at number 25.
I want you to understand that what you will now read is what my imagination tells me to write. I will not write, or rewrite history, rather, allow my imagination to take over.
This is holy ground for the Bulgarian Communist Party. This peak and its temple, metaphorically speaking, has become a Mecca; a Jerusalem or a Ganges River. Each of these places play an important role in that one must visit during their lifetime.
This is surrealism. An ode, if you like, to nihilistic idol worship of a religion which has twisted and turned so much that its fantasy has become the perversion of reality.
This is not a Thracian ruin, or necropolis of a culture that prospered in this region so many centuries ago and can be found nearby in Kazanlak.
This is not a place that the commoner tends to visit. I think that there are many memories which can never be understood by an outsider including myself.
The weather foretold what will be. An omen that provides suspense. The weather has become our oracle. The dense fog which coldly welcomed us made sure that what we were after remained beyond our reach.
There was nothing, we couldn't see… we felt a presence… the howling spirits were calling us through the dense fog, yet told us that there was something.
It was there in all its glory, yet hiding from those who do not seek its eternal knowledge. It does not want you, but if you must and you so dearly want, it just might let you in.
Even inside this cathedral, the fog and rain has entered along its howling noises of eternal decay that have come to life. It's decaying spirit calls upon you to explore her. I and the few others that were there were in awe. We were speechless and only can say... Nothing.
The place is now boarded up... telling you: 'Go away, don't dare to enter this holy ground! I was not made for you. I am the keeper of secrets of what was. You walk up the dark, mysterious steps into the main rotunda. The few rays of light which has managed to cut through the fog casts a light upon the mosaics that surround the rotunda. They are there: Georgi Dimitrov, Dimitar Blagoev and the outline of a missing Todor Zhivkov looking down, disapprovingly, from their heavenly position. You try to look to other side, and through this gray darkness, you see Engels, Marx and Lenin. You look up at the ceiling, there you find its god; the Hammer and Sickle. I was told that it was surrounded by the saying “Workers of the World Unite!” Yet now, only the Hammer and Sickle remains. I wonder to myself. 'Is it that the workers left, disunited and in decay like this building?'
Walking along the outer rotunda with its blown out windows, I can see more murals: some partial, some whole. Depicting scenes of Workers, Women, Athletes, Birds (I like birds). My friend was correct in saying that there is a similarity to one of Diego Rivera's works that is found at the National Palace in Mexico City: Class Struggle.
In 2011, under the first government of Boyko Borisov, the monument was handed back to the Bulgarian Socialist Party so that they may continue to beckon the faithful on their yearly August pilgrimage to “Hadji Dimitar” Peak.
I recommend that you visit this place under the same weather conditions that we came. Sunlight and brightness does not seem provide the proper ambiance for visiting.
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