Archaeological aberrations, gross renovations and corruption, the whimsical Bulgarian castles

By Jean-Baptiste Chastand

Posted today at 5:00 p.m.

The Wind-loving castle of Ravadinovo. One of the false fortresses that flourished in Bulgaria.

The kitsch fountain with its flowing water on demand? “We built it, me and seven Gypsies, in thirty-two days. If Gaudí saw this, he would turn around in his grave. » The little temple adorned with gold with a ceiling painted with stars? « I did it myself, with only two Gypsies. » The wine cellar with its Empire style chairs made in Indonesia? « Me, with only seven Manouches, the stalagmites are my pride, it will last a hundred years. »

Welcome to Castle Lovers of the Wind, in Ravadinovo, a few kilometers from the Black Sea, in the east of Bulgaria. Georgi Tumpalov is making the visit. The one who presents himself all at once like « the architect, the builder, the gardener and the maestro » of this pseudo-medieval building is not difficult to recognize: it serves as a model for the large statue of a soldier in armor which welcomes visitors.

« I started building this castle twenty-six years ago, based on a fairy tale. I found this corner where it is always windy and I drew a cross in the sand with a shovel. After that, we just erected the walls according to my plans », tells the story of the strong man in his sixties, long gray hair, cigar in hand and Orthodox cross around his neck, who receives, surrounded by fake knight armor, in his bar decorated with a pseudo-Renaissance fresco on the ceiling. “The castle is now recognizable all over the world”, he assures without false modesty, listing all the online contests won by his baby.

A national concrete novel

From floor to ceiling of this building, an empty hull well wrapped and surrounded by a large green park, everything is false. And yet, at the end of June, Bulgarians rush by paying 20 leva (around 10 euros – Bulgaria, a member of the European Union has not adopted the single currency) entry to see the dream of this former cop of the the time of communism which then became, under very mysterious conditions, rich enough to erect this postman’s palace in Bulgarian sauce. His son even had the means to build a water park next door.

Georgi Tumpalov, designer, builder and host of the Wind Lovers Castle in Ravadinovo, in June 2021.

« We’re coming back for the second time », assure two enthusiastic women from Sofia. “I find it beautiful, even though I know it’s not authentic”, adds another. Because, if Ravadinovo may seem like a crazy project, it is the symbol of a very real wave in Bulgaria: the false fortresses. These last ten years have been erected all over this country – the poorest in the European Union (EU) – false castles, false ramparts or false basilicas on what were sometimes very real foundations.

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