A Tourist City Awaiting Tourists

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Where I stayed
Bistra and Galina Hotel

Flag of Bulgaria  , Ruse,
Friday, February 5, 2010

I must say I'm impressed with this city.
So much so that it's kinda dificult to decide on an iconic pic, there are so many options.  So here's my attempt from my first evening.

The Central Railway Station,  with its idiosyncratic mix of Neo-Classical and Socialist-Brutal architecture, provided a characterising overture whose themes resonate throughout the rest of the city. The taxi drivers, official and otherwise, were touting amongst the throng of arriving travellers in the magnificently-chandaliered , high-ceilinged, station hall. Beggars and hawkers were trying their luck with both arrivals and departees but everyone was under the watchful gaze of the burly, jack-booted, policemen patrolling the concourse with their holstered pistols conspicuously displayed.

Exiting the station I noticed the landmark of the TV tower behind me, its red and white striped mast offering a fixed point of reference for the whole city. In front of the concourse is a nice simple street map with the main places-to-visit graphically highlighted.

I now knew exactly where I was in relation to my hotel - under the underpass and follow the main road, keeping the TV tower behind me. A final taxi tout attemped to get my business - I pointed out, "I walk ten minutes and that's my hotel - you drive me I pay you one lev?". He didn't seem to think that was a very good counter-proposition.

I still managed to get slightly lost en route, having taken what I thought might be a short-cut - HA! Nothing new there then! My slight digression cost me maybe five minutes but I did note the local beer shop closest.

Check-in swift and friendly. Nice hotel.  Quick splash and straight out again to catch what remained of a gloriously sunny evening.

My hotel's location is just off the main Boulevard Borisova which becomes a pedestrian avenue leading to the main square as soon as I cross the road. This is dominated by The Monument to Freedom loftily addressing the Palace of Justice   (the courthouse may be Neo-Classical or Neo-Baroque or even Socialist-Brutal, I suppose it depends on what you are there for).

The square certainly is a "Grand Place" which is a match, in its own right, to that of any other in Europe. To the right the dual-carriageway-wide pedestrian avenue continues with the Soviet-inspired Pantheon just visible poking its gilt-topped dome above the street crowds.

Instead I went left, down a narrower, but no less grand, avenue with modern concrete and turn-of-the-century Revival architecture replacing the Baroques and Classicals. Here I came across the statue of the gun-in-hand Angel Kunchev,  the Tryavna-born anti-Ottoman revolutionary. Kunchev was the former deputy to the Bulgarian Revolutioary Committee's leader Vasil Levski, and, rather than be captured during his attempt to escape to Romania, committed suicide here in Ruse.

The sun was now setting but the feet were in wandering mode and I reckoned the river couldn't be far away and yep, a short walk further and there it was - The Danube. At this time in the evening the Danube was no longer blue, instead rose-tinted as the sun briefly paused before dropping swiftly below the Romanian horizon - one minute a full balloon, next a mere pink glow underlighting the cloudening sky.

With the sun now set and the sky darkening it was time to head back to the hotel and then and try to sort out what impressed me most.

And here's what I came up with:

A snowman with a wine cork for a nose and a fag in his mouth - MAAAN! This is my sorta city ;)
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