Sislitra. The name of the town that became our home for two years. On the bus timetables and maps, it looks like “Силистра.” The town curves around the Danube River in a half-circle and borders Romania by water and land. We lived in a block “na goray”, or “uptown” – maybe that’s not the best translation, but literally it means “to/on up.” That’s our block in the first picture. Silistra is a town of about twenty to thirty thousand people. It seemed like no one was really sure about the size of this town. At one point this town used to be much bigger, around fifty thousand people. However, since the fall of communism and the ensuing changes, people have been leaving for larger cities in search of work.
As far as Bulgarian cities go, Silistra has a fairly typical center with government buildings, shops, banks, a newly remodeled park along the river, and Turkish and Roman ruins scattered throughout the city. There is a border crossing that is serviced by a ferry, which costs about the equivalent of about 50 cents to cross the river into Romania. The Danube River Garden is a peaceful and beautiful spot to spend an afternoon, sitting on the benches, watching the river and people go by. It was rebuilt with funds from The Beautiful Bulgaria Project, which is funded mainly by the European Union.
This city used to be called by another name, “Durustrum” when it was once a Roman garrison. There is a museum in the center that has many artifacts left from that time. Sarcophagi, small statues, tablets, and other Roman odds and ends have been found and collected in this area. Up on the hill, on the southern end of the town, is the Turkish fort that, at the time we left, was being remodeled into a tour-able site. It was once a museum, but after the changes 12 years ago, it was stripped and left. When we first arrived, it was left wide open and was vandalized. About a year later we were given an impromptu tour by one of the people who was restoring it. All of the rooms had been cleaned out and were ready for further restoration. Our students have told us that there is a tunnel that runs from the top of the hill down to the river for a quick get-away, though we have yet to see it. That would be a very looong tunnel.
Our schools are both in the same building, just down the street from where we lived. Kate taught in the elementary language school and I taught in the language high school. Because both schools use the same building, it is used from 7:30am until 7:30pm. Depending on the semester, one school has seven classes in the morning and the other has seven classes in the afternoon. The building itself is in need of much repair and windows have been known to fall out randomly. Regardless, it’s the building for our schools and most students leave being able to speak fluent or nearly fluent English, Russian, Spanish, French or German. The teaching styles weren’t what we were used to as Americans and we had to adjust. Dictations seemed like punishments when we first got here, but I used them. Our teaching supplies were chalk and a blackboard. We were able to use the copy machine, but not too often.
Silistra is, on the whole, a quiet town. Life happens at a predictable and manageable pace. Most of my students wanted to leave Silistra at the earliest moment – usually to go to University or take advantage of any opportunity to leave the country. I wish there were more opportunities for them to invest themselves there, but they soon recognize that opportunities are not abounding in Silistra. However, businesses and signs of improvement had arrived within our short time in Silistra. Foreign investment, including gas stations and an office supply store, mobile phone stores, an increase in transportation options to and from Silistra (mostly by private firms), and a travel agency have all popped up here. These are good signs and hopefully signs of a city that is opening itself up and willing to take the brunt of change now for a brighter future.
Sites About Silistra:
Picture and information about the “Pegasus” sculpture in Silistra. Sadly, it’s been vandalized over the past ten years . . .
This is located about four blocks away from our apartment. It is rarely opened for visitors.
Can you see us? We’re waving from the other shore!
A brief history of Silistra and some interesting pictures.
A little information about an orphanage in Silistra.
A long download, but worth it – all the “official” info on Silistra. You can change it to English. It’s good lookin’, too.
Web page about the beautiful, but threatened, nature preserve west of Silistra.
Information about Silistra’s own traditional folk music and dance group.
Copyright 2000/01/02, Josh and Kate Miller.