Winter comes early in Bulgaria, heat comes late

AFP via BBC

We had a surprise in Sofia yesterday: snow! And another surprise, at least for this American: no heat.

Communism may be over, but we’re told it’s a state-owned company that decides when the radiators can get hot. Something about three consecutive days of temperatures below some frigid threshold. Until then, our thermostats are little more than decorative wall hangings.

All of this reminds me of a month I spent living with a French family one January during college. They, too, kept things on the chilly side.

I was never clear on whether this came via government edict or the frugal principles of my Alsatian hosts. Perhaps the Kauffmans were simply made of sterner stuff than that tender freshman. In any case, they dined late each evening, and I can recall a few nights when I spent the hours between class and supper shivering under my blankets.

Here in Eastern Europe, where countries have been known to run short of natural gas due to budget shortfalls or squabbles with the gas man in Moscow, one imagines a conservationist rationale. It’s not my right to waste precious fuel, even if I’m willing to pay for the privilege.

Perhaps that’s true. But faced with the prospect of wearing long underwear in the middle of October, I find myself thinking selfish, Yankee thoughts. I may have found another Bulgarian industry ripe for privatizing and putting under the yoke of the Almighty Dollar. I’m not too proud to say it: I’ll pay. Big Brother, if you’re reading this, I beg you: turn the heat on!

UPDATE, 8 November: Yes, we have heat. At least at night. The radiator seems to operate on a nocturnal schedule — no gurgling during daylight hours. But I’m not complaining. At least we know warmth is possible.

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