Friday 2 October 2009

Heritage destroyed - and a missed opportunity

The destruction of the ancient heritage of Bulgaria is a tragedy not only for Bulgarians but for all mankind. The devastation is highlighted by Ivan Dikov, a journalist involved in an Australian TV documentary.

Bulgaria has an enormous archaeological heritage from many cultures and nearly all of it is being looted at an alarming rate but the Roman city of Ratiaria (Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria) is "the ultimate example of the carnage that has been going on in the last 20 years".

"... Ratiaria, once a symbol of the glory and might of Rome, has been reduced to a huge field of 20 hectares covered with craters and hills. The sight is unbelievable: the land has been overturned again and again, by machines and by hand. [...] At one particular time there were 17 bulldozers plowing Ratiaria at the same time!"

While the TV team were there, a busload of tourists arrived and Dikov comments sadly that "The poor people really believed that the craters they saw were what Ratiaria was supposed to look like; they had no idea that 20 years ago it had standing walls and everything else". Ratiaria had looked very different only a couple of decades ago.

Bulgaria has been blighted by unemployment and widespread poverty since the fall of the communist system, and the tragedy (and irony) of places like Ratiaria is not only the destruction of heritage for the sake of short-term profit but a sickeningly missed opportunity for a real money-spinner - a project that would have preserved the heritage and provided far more financial gain in the long term.

As the Australian journalist, David O'Shea, noted: "The real tragedy in a place like Ratiaria is that the people searching for treasure are looking for a couple of bucks here and there, where what they could be doing is sitting in a thriving tourist center. There could be hotels, and bars, and restaurants, and tourists everywhere just like there are in Rome, or Athens. That's the real tragedy."



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