If you ever drive on one of Bulgaria's lesser but very picturesque roads connecting Gotse Delchev, formerly Nevrokop, with Satovcha in the Rhodope (this is all in the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, near the Greek border), you are bound to come across a strange structure by the side of the asphalt. A number of flagpoles with slightly tattered banners (of Bulgaria, the EU, Greece; and of GERB, the political party currently running Bulgaria) have been arranged around a self-styled natural "mosaic" made up of white stones lying in the grass.
The stones form letters, and the letters form a slogan: "GERB, the Road to Europe."
If you were around in the Balkans prior to the collapse of Communism you might be able to recollect that such "arrangements" on roadsides or hills were popular in the 1960s and 1970s, when those doing their military service were ordered to utilise their spare time in "beautifying" the environment in such a way. But this is 2012, and Boyko Borisov, a self-avowed rightwinger, is in power.
If you hang around long enough (make sure you park in a lay-by), you will be approached by a man wearing overalls. Looking at your camera, the man will ask: "Are you from the media?"
In my own experience as a journalist for many years, the last 10 of which spent in this country, I know that this is a tricky question when asked by a Bulgarian. Usually, if you say yes, you will at best receive a brushoff, regardless of whether you are on public or private property, and lengthy discussions about the virtues and pitfalls of the media in a democracy will ensue.
But for one reason or another, I decided to answer this man in the affirmative, though I was on a private trip, returning from a holiday in the Aegean.
His reaction was odd by Bulgarian standards, to say the least. He was, well, forthcoming...
"Oh, please come on in," the man said. "We've been waiting for you. We like speaking with TV people so much. Let me show you around."
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers