Bulgaria 1976

This is the fourth in the series of the bearded stranger's encounters with political leaders.

‘The finest moustache in Bulgaria belonged to Giorgi Dimitrov,’ I said; and the bearded stranger duly admired the moustache.

I had found the stranger and his sister lost in the streets of Sofia last night, Dimitrov Street in fact. It’s very dark there, as the authorities don’t spend money on public lighting. I had helped them back to their hostel and agreed to meet them today.


In the morning drizzle we walked through Park no Svobodate (Freedom Park), sharing the paths with many loyal Bulgarians in their uniforms: khaki trousers with red stripe or blue trousers with blue shirt, epaulettes on jackets, peaked caps with a red band. We reached the mausoleum, which is magnificent: solid white marble with an arcade, above ground level, surrounding the monumental room containing the tomb.  Guards wore black trousers and white waistcoats with red braid, and a long feather stuck out from the hats they wore on their bald heads. And fine moustaches, every one of them. The guards kept the queue moving and it took twenty minutes for us to reach the marble room and stand in front of the embalmed body of our ex-President. The late and much-lamented leader of the Communist Party People’s Hero, Giorgi Dimitrov, our Prime Minister from 1946,  lies in state here in central Sofia – and has done so since he died, perhaps poisoned, in 1949. It was his magnificent moustache I was pointing out to the stranger.

After that I had to go to work, but I recommended they went to the Museum of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Movement. This faithfully shows the path Bulgaria took to Communism: exhibiting items like printing presses, guns and photographs of the early revolutionary heroes. The pictures showed these heroes, to a man, with their hair swept back off their forehead and fine, fine moustaches. One of the Museum’s highlights, for me, is the collection of the early heroes’ shaving brushes and moustache clippers.