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New Europe

Day Thirty-five: Plovdiv

The Gypsies of Plovdiv 
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Faces in the crowd. The Gypsies of Plovdiv.
Michael Palin - New EuropeThe buildings are stained and the paintwork blistered and peeling. Uncollected rubbish is piled up, and stagnant puddles of sewage overflow the gutters. Between the blocks the occupants are sitting around in groups with waste, blown by the wind, drifting around them. Silhouetted against the strong evening sun they look like survivors of some apocalyptic disaster.

The party is getting under way in a yard between the blocks. A loud and brassy band is playing, massively amplified of course, and the floor is taken by a dozen or so elderly Gypsy women who gyrate rather gently to the cacophonous music. One of them has a gun, which she waves about her as she dances, occasionally taking aim at someone and grinning broadly. No-one seems to bat an eyelid.

The menfolk look on, unimpressed, rolling up their T-shirts to reveal large and rounded bellies which they stroke from time to time as if they were much loved family pets.

Even our friendly organisers don't encourage us to stay on too long. Once darkness falls and the drink takes hold they can't ensure our safety.

For the moment I'm content to be the only man on the floor, with the undivided attention of a swaying harem of Gypsy matrons, some of them armed.
The Gypsies of Plovdiv 
click to enlarge 
file size
Faces in the crowd. The Gypsies of Plovdiv.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Thirty-five: Plovdiv
  • Country/sea: Bulgaria
  • Place: Plovdiv
  • Book page no: 87

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