(A shortened version of Elitsa Kandeva?s article in the 24 Hours newspaper)When somebody mentions Plovdiv, there is immediately an association with the name ?Nacho the Culture?. His real name is Atanas Krastev and he is a man who has dedicated all his life to preserving the most precious thing a city has ? its unique culture.
He is also called ?the most sociable lonely man?, but he dislikes being called a lonely person. The Old Town of Plovdiv truly suffers his illness with him now. For more than two months the man that has been giving life to the Old Town?s cobbled streets has been stuck to bed. His world has been preserved intact as always - in his beautiful porch house situated on the top of the hill, among all his books and paintings by friends and artists? His garden though, is far from the noisy inn-like place it once used to be when all the Plovdiv bohemians went in and out, drank, drew paintings? His dream has ever been, and still is, ?to make a miracle happen in the Old Town?.
He often jokes that if in the beginning he needed some 100 million dollars to make that miracle happen, now the sum has gone up to 3 billion dollars needed to make his dream come true? When asked what exactly his idea is, he explains: ?A miracle world in the Old Town ? with the archaeology, the Turkish feudal atmosphere, the houses, the people?..? He goes deeper in his dream: ?An opera, a symphony orchestra, an art gallery with works by the world-famous artists. At least two theatres competing each other? And at the Black Sea coast ? villas, with studio workshops for the artists to work in?? All his life he has been gathering pieces of that idyll picture.
When he finished his service in the army in 1953, the young man from Assenovgrad has never come to the thought that he was going to spend all his life in Plovdiv and that city would become his destiny. He took on the Science, Arts and Culture Department, and got the Natural Science Museum, the City Art Gallery and the Old Town Houses under his jurisdiction. The very first thing he engaged himself in was the restoration of the old houses ? it was then when the rumour started that the Old Town has finally ?met its match??
Years later, the journalist Metodi Danev will give him the nick-name ?The Old Town?s Mayor? ? a title that no elections could ever take away from him ?