Elon Musk ignites all of Bulgaria. From ministers to Internet users, some are already imagining the richest man in the world treading the Bulgarian rocks of Belogradchik, which overlook the poorest region of the EU. A photo of the impressive fortress, under threatening clouds, caused the whimsical boss of Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter to react in November. “Pretty sure it was in Elden Ring,” he wrote in reference to one of his favorite video games. Without suspecting the shock wave he was going to cause in this Eastern European country, rarely in the spotlight. “Dear Elon, it’s in Bulgaria. I invite you to come and visit this site”, launched Ilin Dimitrov, the Minister of Tourism, quickly imitated by another member of the government. The politician even assured that he had sent the American billionaire, “through a Bulgarian”, an official request accompanied by a rhyton, an ancient drinking vessel testifying to the Thracian civilization which is the glory of the country.
The chef of a high-end restaurant in the village Stakevtsi, 20 km from Belogradchik, has added fuel to the fire by publishing a so-called email from the SpaceX team in view of a stay of Elon Musk in April 2023. On social networks, rumors have awakened the creativity of Internet users. Collages showing the billionaire in traditional Bulgarian clothes or drinking rakia, a popular aperitif, immediately flourished. Others are worried: “He will come and buy our land”, comments a woman. A frenzy that rejoices the author of the photo, taken more than five years ago and recently republished. “It is rare that good news from Bulgaria arouses so much interest”, reacts Vladislav Terziiski, welcoming “the wave of reactions, jokes, anecdotes, expression of national pride”. As for a visit from Elon Musk, “I’m rather skeptical but keep hope in my heart,” the photographer told AFP.
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The fortress awaits its “messiah”
Immersed in mist on a cold day in late November, the fortress of Belogradchik awaits its “messiah”, analyst Dimitar Ganev quipped on television sets. Far from the hustle and bustle of the Web, a small film crew and a handful of tourists roam the natural site which stretches over more than 300 hectares. Among the 5,500 inhabitants, it is rather sarcasm that dominates. Like a Bulgaria that has been depopulated since the end of communism, this pretty town has lost half of its residents since 1991. Musk “does what he wants, why not come and see a pretty site and a region poor”, blows a fifty-year-old, Svetoslav Zahariev, construction worker, “annoyed to find the same misery” on his return after 16 years of work abroad. More than 40% live below the poverty line in this part of Bulgaria, itself the poorest member of the European Union.
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At the town hall, we dream of a real government policy rather than ephemeral expressions of interest. Already in 2007, the selection of rocks in the controversial Seven New Natural Wonders competition caused a sudden influx of visitors. “They left disappointed by the lack of infrastructure and reception capacity,” recalls Deputy Mayor Rossen Mladenov. “What is this state that is counting on a tweet from Musk to develop its tourism!”, he says indignantly. Mayor Boris Nikolov also regrets “the absence of a national strategy”. A visit from the entrepreneur “would only be a three-day miracle, unless he invested in tourism”. Elon Musk has so far ignored the many tweets asking him to confirm his stay or not. But if he had to venture into this neglected region, be careful not to drive a Tesla given the many potholes and the difficult access, warns a Bulgarian daily, advising him instead to come … by space shuttle .
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