It’s been two years since my last journey to the Wild East, and my home country – Bulgaria – in particular. The last time before that also dates two years back. Each time, I discover new sides of what I came to know as the home of anarchy, misery and radical contrasts. This wasn’t always my opinion. I used to have a very misty-eyed and romantically idealized view of the place of my origin. Given that my childhood was one of relative poverty but great happiness and I felt part of a social network that gave me a sense of belonging and meaningfulness, I used to come home every time I set foot on Bulgarian ground. Over the years, the homecoming gradually turned to a going away and eventually to a being abroad.
Today, as with so many things, I see Bulgaria with different eyes, the eyes of the analyst who scrutinizes the environment with the unbiased attitude of a distant observer. What strikes me as most interesting is the obvious clash of different societal levels, cultures and realities. There are no words to depict the extreme discrepancies between the big cities and the rural regions, the richest and poorest inhabitants, the political intentions and harsh facts, the snobbish arrogance of urban population and the hearty hospitality of simple country people, the modernity and openness of views and the traditional narrow-mindedness as well as arbitrary mixtures and combinations of these characteristics.
And despite the very particular experience of feeling a bit Bulgarian again, there is the far more important finding that transcends all differences of space and time: cultural heritage might be severe, but generations change and a new dawn is breaking on this country that faces all the issues of fast-paced transition and the extremes that go with it. There will be societal progress, there will be legitimate prosperity, there will be the rule of law – as long as there is someone to believe in it and as long as there is…time. Time and time again will make the difference, when new generations take the lead and leverage the incredible potential of this beautiful, fertile and fascinating realm called Bulgaria.