Greetings from the Danubian city Ruse: by Gergana Marincheva

The Bulgarian Crew present to you a guest feature written by one of UCL’s very own, Gergana Marincheva. Read on to explore a personal experience of an individual who has arrived in London from one of the most culturally rich parts of Bulgaria, Ruse. 

Water has always been the key element of life. Whether we talk about the earliest origin of life or earliest forms of civilizations, water has played a crucial role for these developments.

My story begins in a similar way – I was born in a Bulgarian riverside town called Ruse, which is small compared to London, but the largest on the Bulgarian bank of Danube. The river has played an important role to the development of the city, which is signified by its rich history – Ruse had huge influence on shaping the country’s infrastructure and trade relations with Europe, as well as the world. Its beautiful Neo-Baroque and Neo-Rococo architecture impress tourists from all over the world and has won its title “Little Vienna”. In fact, some historical landmarks date as far as the Roman empire, when Ruse played a pivotal role as a Roman military and naval center – “Sexaginta Prista”, or “city of 60 ships”.

When I was a kid I admired the river – with its slow and magnificent flow, the Danube brought me tranquility and inner peace. Some of my most profound childhood memories bring back cozy feelings of meeting my dearest friends on the pier – only to sit and admire the picturesque scenery over long talks. But my city is not just beautiful and peaceful, right outside of it is one of the biggest transport links in the country – The Danube Bridge, which connects Bulgaria and Romania. Also within the city, you can find buzzing squares where the people of all ages meet. On some evenings, tourists from all over Europe cruise down the Danube to explore Ruse’s rich culture and monuments.

Almost 4 years ago something great happened to me – I was accepted into a university within the heart of the biggest English-speaking city in Europe, in London! Needless to say, I had my doubts and concerns about moving to such a big and multicultural place. But what I found, was actually something I had longed for all my life – a richer mixture of cultures and lifestyle. At first, the size of the city and the variety was a bit overwhelming, but ultimately I found that this is an even better fit for me than my small peaceful hometown.

Although, both Ruse and London are situated on a river, the feeling you get when you’re living in a river town or city is of a quite different magnitude and nature. When you are in London, you get used to crossing the Thames daily or just admiring the beautiful city from one of the bridges. You get this warm sensation of exploring something new, but still familiar, still within the city vibe – the river brings together both sides and ties London into uniformity. On the other hand, in my hometown, it’s totally different. Looking across the river you get a sensation of difference and bewilderment – on the other bank is Romania – another country with its own history and culture. The Danube has always been the border which divides, so the occasional boat ride brought an unknown feeling of joy, together with a different view of the two cities on both sides of the Danube.

Moving to London almost 4 years ago was one of my best decisions. London never seizes to amaze me; every neighborhood, every park, every square has something new to offer, something beautiful to admire! And let’s face it – all the different people you meet here, is the best experience you can get from the city. Everyone has their own, unique story which eventually ties together with the spirit of London – in the same way that mine does. And in this way, Thames not only brings together people of the entire city, but people from all across the world.