Author: Anelia Slaveikova
Source: Pressa Newspaper, September 8t, 2012
Vidin confuses the notions of men about the world once they set foot in the old capital. Every guest of the former kingdom, which was the last one to fall under the Ottoman rule, gets the lovely delusion that the sun here rises from the North and the DanubeRiver flows south. This is the first beautiful abnormality of the city full of fabulous legends and rich in history. Actually the DanubeRiver, which is the only European river that flows from West to East, at Vidin makes a beautiful curve – hence the illusion of reverse sunset. Confusion brings also the three religions, which Vidin shelters without any belief-related upheavals whatsoever through all the centuries of existence of this magnificent city. Just a few meters and a road separate the Vidin’s Holy Bishopric from the Mosque built by Osman Pazvantoğlu and only 300 meters ahead near the medieval castle Baba Vida still lives the semi-dilapidated synagogue – the largest Jewish temple on the Balkan Peninsula.
Once Vidin was a state within the state. To emphasize his independence from the Sublime Porte, Pazvantoğlu put a heart instead of a crescent on top of the mosque. He made this guided by the voice of his heart – he was madly in love with a beautiful girl from Vidin for whom he put his feelings above the religion, or rather turned the love into his religion. It was this same independent ruler of Vidin’s idea to build Turkish army barracks in the shape of a cross. And that from a military point of view is also unique because it allows exits to the yard of the barracks to be made from four independent directions and thus to undertake surprising military actions.
The second largest Christian church in the Balkans rises in the centre of Vidin, which was named after the spiritual protector of Vidin St. Demetrius. But few people know that a student of Repin was involved in the painting of the church. Unique for the Bulgarian painting art are also the images of Levski, Botev Karavelov, Rakovski and Todor Alexandrov painted as saints.
The European analogue for humanity, which however has no other parallel in our own history, is the Grieving Warrior Monument – in memory of the victims bereaved in the Serbo-Bulgarian War. Instead of glorifying the winners it expresses the grief and sadness because of the fratricidal battle between Bulgarians and Serbs. When after World War I a commission of the Entente arrived in Vidin for the purpose of allocating Vidin and Vidin’s region to pass into the territory of Serbia, and having seen this monument, the English representative cut short: “A nation which can present its history in such a way while having won a victorious war, is not barbaric. A city with a work of arts of such scale can not be taken away from the Bulgarian lands.”
Vidin is one of the few Bulgarian cities with railway station situated across the rail tracks. The impressive architecture of the station, leading from the train straight to the feet of the grieving warrior for a bow, leaves an unparalleled sense of beginning and end. To the start, which might as well be an end, and to the end – the next beginning.
An example for this is the only medieval castle preserved in the country – the Baba Vida castle. Its foundations were laid in the late tenth century AD on top of a Roman tower, which guarded the north-east corner of the old Roman castle Bononia. The castle was the shield of the city in the Middle Ages and today it attracts the tourists.