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In the beginning it was fun. The Balkans still had all the trappings of Communism, and although dull and dreary for most ordinary citizens, I was having a great time. It was just before the changes, and I was having drinks in the Sobranie in Sofia. Some members were laughing at the poor state of the Bulgarian economy, and along with various MPs; together with my chum Villie, who ran Balkan Holidays in London, we all agreed it was very nearly over.
People who had reached the top of the greasy pole never complained, because they had it all, and the rest of the population were regarded as irrelevant. The mantra then was “The state pretends to pay us, we pretend to work, and we all steal the rest,” and for a while the system worked well, because that was what everyone believed.
Now, Sofia has changed, looks like any other part of the EU, is bright and inviting, but for me it is no longer where I want to be. I liked the grayness and the intrigue, it was like a mini Russia, full of delightful conspiracies, and totally unpredictable. But, after twenty years living in an Eastern European circus, Greece became an easy and comfortable alternative. So, here I am.
Who needs excitement, when you can look out of your window and gaze in wonder at the little patchwork of fields, the chats with the locals about…… err, tomatoes. Okay, it’s not exciting, but it is quiet, as cheap as chips, and I can write in total peace; something I have been happily doing for the last ten years, in this charming and hospitable country.