extracts from a report by Jan Essing, UNICA General Secretary
In April 2011 the UNICA Committee visited our Bulgarian friends in Ruse – the Bulgarians write it “Pyce”, the French “Rousse” and the Germans “Russe”. It is one of the major cities in the north of Bulgaria and will host UNICA 2012.
The UNICA Committee and their companions arrived at the airport in Bucharest, Rumania. This airport in the Rumanian capital is the nearest international airport to Ruse. Our watches had to be put forward one hour in this very eastern part of the EU. We were met by Vladimir Iliev, president of the Bulgarian Federacia Alternativno Kino, and a team of five people. We set off on a luxury bus tour to Bulgaria. Because the bypass around Bucharest was closed for reconstruction, the fastest route towards Bulgaria was right through the city. Along the way we were amazed by the signs of the megalomania of the former dictator Ceausescu and the consequences of that for the economy of Rumania.
After a trip of about 75 km. some of it over poorly paved roads and crossing a spectacular, but not very well maintained double layer bridge across the Danube River, we reached the centre of Ruse and our hotel. The Danube Plaza Hotel is a three-star hotel on Liberty Square. It is equipped with 75 rooms and has a distinguished charisma. As you often find in these countries it is not up to the latest technical standards and has lost some of its former grandeur, but in Ruse it still is the centre of good taste.
That evening we were all invited to a meal by the Bulgarian Federacia. In the attractive ambiance of the traditional-style restaurant Ciflika. We were served a typical Bulgarian dinner. It tasted excellent as did the Bulgarian red wine (Merlot). Between the dishes we were asked to join in traditional dances – an opportunity we are sure UNICA delegates will be offered. It was a challenge that Jean Claude Lejosne and Ineke Essing couldn’t resist. Later that evening Mr. Alexander Donev joined us. He works in the National Film Institute in Sofia and is co-organizer of the Ruse Congress.
The next morning a reception had been organised with the lord mayor of Ruse, Mr. Bojidar Yotov. In the round meeting room at the Town Hall, the UNICA Committee was able to share ideas with Mr. Iliev and Mr. Donev about the UNICA Congress before the mayor arrived. At that point, Georges Fondeur, president of UNICA spoke about the organisation and its goals. At the conclusion, the mayor promised his support and offered the Congress building free of charge, a gesture much appreciated by the participants.
The Committee’s next visit was to the city’s theatre. It was erected in 1902 as commercial building but is nowadays adapted as a theatre. The interior has been mostly renewed. It contains a large conference hall, a 600 seat theatre, a large stage, modern technical equipment and a lift for handicapped people. To the accompaniment of a philharmonic orchestra rehearsing, we inspected all available rooms and were satisfied.
The UNICA committee always tries to combine a business meeting with such inspection tours, so we commandeered an office for that purpose.
Next we met our companions and strolled after lunch towards the Danube, where the ship “Rojen” was waiting for us at one of several piers. The Big Band of Ruse’s municipal Philharmonic had boarded to entertain us with especially rehearsed music from films. So with the sound of Jazz, Bebop, Blues and Swing the voyage went smoothly. Despite being in a cramped area of the deck, the band played outstandingly.
At 4:30 pm a meeting took place with the members of the Ruse film club in the cultural building, where the club has its own room. We were shown a selection of their films. The club demonstrated much organizational strength and technical talent, which will be very useful for the UNICA Congress. Afterwards the committee met to discuss other issues.
The next day, Saturday, our meeting continued for a couple of hours. A little later a bus took us to the National Museum of Transport, where we admired the Royal Trains. After another short bus trip we visited the Abbey in the Rocks St. Dimitri of Basarbovo. The Abbott welcomed us heartily and gave an elaborate explanation of the monastery’s history. Afterwards we explored the complex of church, cell and other spaces.
A rather longer bus trip brought us to a restaurant for lunch in the village of Krasen. We already knew that lunch in Bulgaria equals a three-course dinner in western Europe, but the quantity of entrées, main courses, desserts and drinks were for western stomachs at this point of the day really too much. After lunch we tumbled into the bus, little knowing that just a few hours later dinner was waiting for us. In between we visited the church of Arbanasi, a jewel of architecture from the 17th century, decorated from top to bottom with icons, that are fit to be nominated UNESCO world heritage . A four man group of singers under the name Quartet Orthodox-VT sang, an extraordinary experience for everyone listening to orthodox church hymns for the first time.
After just nibbling at a huge dinner, we were rushed by our coach driver to reach the city of Veliko Tarnovo in time to go on a tour of a panoramic view, followed by a sound and light show. We watched this show playing over the Citadel of the city. It started at 8 pm and lasted for twenty minutes. Using hundreds of floodlights, flashlights and laser beams it told the history of Bulgaria up to its liberation from the Turkish empire.
Our visit to Ruse came to an end on Sunday. At the farewell president Georges Fondeur announced that the 74th world congress of non-professional film makers would indeed take place in Bulgaria in the city of Ruse. There could hardly be a better compliment for Vladimir Iliev and his team.