After receiving the contract, the original title was “Walking on the streets of Europe” or “European Experience”, but I rejected it:
Nowadays, it is impossible to “walk” on the streets of Europe. The COVID-19 epidemic is raging, and walking at home is a luxury;
As for “seeing and hearing”, let alone – most countries in Europe have implemented a certain degree of closure, and most people spend the time at home, with nothing to see, wearing masks, and nothing to smell.
Of course, there are still some emotions.
I visited Bulgaria, a small Eastern European country, twice in 2003 and 2006. In August 2020, I set foot on this land for the third time. In this less than four months, the most intuitive feeling is that Sofia is old.
From the moment I got off the plane, I found that the airport is still the same, the church is still the same church, and the road is still the same.
From the airport to the residence, the scenery on both sides of the road can be basically copied and pasted compared with 14 years ago, reminding the saying that “Time seems to freeze here.”
However, if the scenery is “solidified” by time, then the road is ruthlessly “winded” by time. The urban road surface is seriously pulped, and black and white uneven asphalt patches can be seen everywhere.
While experiencing a roller coaster-like feeling on the pothole road, I listened to the taxi driver leave me with a heart-piercing “stalk”.
“Have you been to Sofia?”
“Come here, fourteen years ago.”
“Oh, then you have to pay attention to the road ahead.”
“It might be a little tossed, because the pit was still there 14 years ago.”
The taxi man in front of him, with gray hair, should be more than 60 years old. Compared with 14 years ago, taxi drivers seem to be aging.
Bulgaria’s population has maintained a negative growth of about 0.7% for three consecutive years. In 2017, the total population was 7.1 million. At the end of 2020, it has shrunk to 6.95 million (not as much as the population of Wuhan), of which 1.5 million are people over 65 years old, and more than 100,000 people have been lost in three years, basically annual. Light people. Due to the economic downturn, a large number of young people are looking for opportunities in other parts of Europe, and there are many people over 65 years old who are still working. From the beginning of leaving the airport, the customs, security inspection, and taxi drivers are all taken on by uncles.
When I got off the taxi to pick up my luggage, the driver waved his hand repeatedly and insisted on bringing my luggage from the trunk. He didn’t forget to teach me a proverb: “Have you heard this sentence? The older you get, the stronger you will be!”
The older you get, the stronger you become? Is it really so?
Since late September 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area has reached a record high for many consecutive days. Since October, there has been exponential growth, and the capital Sofia has become the hardest hit area.
On March 8, the first case of COVID-19 infection was found in Bulgaria, and by July 25, the number of confirmed cases there exceeded 10,000. However, from July 25 to November 17, the cumulative number of confirmed cases exceeded 100,000 in less than four months.
As of December 30, according to the data released by the health protection department, the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the area has reached 1994,941, with a total of 8,803 deaths. Among the infected people, patients over 60 years old reached 62,213, accounting for more than one-third.
According to health department statistics in early December, Bulgaria’s death rate due to COVID-19 infection reached 27.7 per 100,000, second only to Slovenia (20.7 per 100,000) among EU countries.
Moreover, the shortage of medical resources caused by the epidemic has also made the health of the elderly worse. According to the latest statistics of Bulgaria’s National Bureau of Statistics, the number of deaths in the local area has surged since mid-October 2020, especially in the four weeks before December 20, and the number of deaths in a single week has doubled compared with the same period in 2019.
Trees have a symbol of life in the locality. Whenever someone dies, an obituary will be posted on the tree near the residence, hoping that life will rest in peace. There are lush forests and grasses. Generally, only one obituary is posted on a tree, but since the epidemic, I have seen three different obituaries posted on a tree.
On December 27, several EU member states officially launched coronavirus vaccination. In most countries and regions of the European Union, the vaccination amount of the first vaccine is limited to less than 10,000 doses, and large-scale vaccination is expected to wait until January 2021. Sophia and Europe as a whole, at the cost of losing a generation of health, finally waited for the dawn of the vaccine and got a respite.
In the first eight months of 2020, I fought against the epidemic in China, witnessed Wuhan’s blockade from lockdown to lifting, experienced a large-scale inspection after the outbreak of the epidemic in Beijing, and witnessed the leadership of the Chinese government, the implementation of society and the self-control of the whole people. Nowadays, in Bulgaria, where the government’s ability to respond to the epidemic often makes me sweat for them.
At the beginning of 2020, there was an outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan. There were two or even three briefings on the epidemic in a day. Sometimes the last one has just ended, and the next one has begun immediately. When the people hope, there will be an echo.
In October, when Europe peaked with the second wave of coronavirus infection, the Bulgarian National Assembly still insisted on holding a regular meeting once a week to discuss next week’s epidemic prevention policy.
In late October, there were successive infections by the Prime Minister of the government, the Minister of Economy and parliamentarians. Some members of the National Assembly were quarantined and the National Assembly was held online. For this reason, some members questioned the validity of the video voting and asked for the reorganization of the on-site voting in the National Assembly.
While lawmakers are still squabbling about whether the video vote is effective, more than 10,000 new confirmed cases have been confirmed in the area in three days.
Those European democracies that were once flaunted as advanced civilizations did not help the country fight the epidemic, but became a constraint on the implementation of epidemic policies.
Europe, like a staggering old man, is always half a beat slower in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, and can only be led by the nose.
Just a few days ago, Christmas passed, which meant that the year was coming to an end.
Dania, who runs a bookstore downstairs, told me that 2020 seems to have never been there. I used to feel the passage of time on various holidays and parties. And in 2020, all this is gone. Christmas alone is no longer a movie plot, but a real scene. However, to her delight, not only did the number of people who bought books decreased, but also increased. “The children always have holidays, so read more.”
Europe, in our opinion, is it not a book? When I was a child, I felt like a fairy tale book. When I grew up, it was a textbook. Now I read it like a case selection.
Has the book changed?
Perhaps the book in Europe itself has not changed, but a book reader.
In the small bookstore downstairs, I bought a book about the city of Sofia. Sofia’s city emblem is engraved with the sentence, “Sofia, always grows up, will not grow old…”
Can Europe come back in 2021?