AFP, published on Wednesday 7 December 2022 at 11:33
A simple tweet from Elon Musk and Bulgaria ignites: From ministers to internet users, some are already imagining the richest man in the world stepping onto the Bulgarian cliffs of Belogradchik, which overlook the poorest region in the EU.
A photo of the imposing fortress, under threatening clouds, prompted the quirky boss of Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter to react in November.
“Pretty sure it was in Ring of Fire,” he wrote, referring to one of his favorite video games.
Unsuspecting the shockwave he would 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 tourism minister, 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 that testified to the Thracian civilization, which is the glory of the country.
– “National pride” –
The chef of a high-end restaurant in the village of Stakevtsi, 20 km from Belogradchik, has added fuel to the fire by publishing a so-called email from the SpaceX team with a view to Elon Musk’s stay in April 2023.
On social networks, rumors have sparked the creativity of Internet users. Collages showing the billionaire in traditional Bulgarian clothing or drinking rakia, a popular aperitif, immediately flourished.
Others are worried: “He’s coming and buying our land,” comments one woman.
A frenzy that pleases the author of the photo, taken more than five years ago and recently republished.
“It’s rare that good news from Bulgaria arouses so much interest”, responds Vladislav Terziiski, welcoming the “wave of reactions, jokes, anecdotes, expressions of national pride”.
As for a visit from Elon Musk, “I’m pretty skeptical, but keep hope in my heart,” confides the photographer to AFP.
Immersed in fog on a cold day at the end of November, the Belogradchik fortress is waiting for its “messiah”, analyst Dimitar Ganev said on TV sets.
Far from the hustle and bustle of the internet, a small film crew and a handful of tourists roam the nature area, which stretches over more than 300 hectares.
– “Three Day Miracle” –
Among the 5,500 inhabitants, it is rather sarcasm that dominates. As a Bulgaria that has been depopulated since the end of communism, this beautiful city has lost half of its inhabitants since 1991.
Musk “does what he wants, why not come and see a beautiful place and a poor region,” blasts fifty-year-old Svetoslav Zahariev, a construction worker, “annoyed to find the same misery” when he returned after 16 years with working abroad.
More than 40% live below the poverty line in this part of Bulgaria, which is itself the poorest member of the EU.
At the town hall, we dream of real government policy rather than fleeting expressions of interest.
Already in 2007, the selection of stones 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 counting on a tweet from Musk to develop its tourism!” he is indignant.
Mayor Boris Nikolov also laments 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 were 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.