In glory or disrepair many street clocks tick away the time in Bulgaria's capital
Issue 49-50, October-November 2010
by Gergana Manolova; photography by Anthony Georgieff
They measure the passage of time and the heartbeat of the city. They are an institution and a mark of civilisation. The city clocks still tick away in their public places around the city, reminding people that the duration of the second is the same as a hundred years ago – it's only what they do with it that has changed.
Sofia has its share of city clocks, some well-maintained and some falling into disrepair. The advance of public clocks in towns and cities of Bulgaria throughout the 19th Century was hailed as a welcome Western influence at the time when few people had personal watches. As time speeded up in the beginning of the 20th Century, the influence of the clocks became even more pronounced. People consulted them as they went about their business in the city centre, as there was always at least one nearby. The adage that time is money has never had that much conviction behind it as today. The ability to organise yourself into neat little squares of time has become a sign of dependability. Timetables rule our lives from the setting of the morning alarm to bedtime. It's no wonder that the city clocks still have power over us, despite the mobile phones and wristwatches. Whenever we look up in Sofia's centre, there loom the implacable judges that tell us that it's time to get a move on. With the pictures of clocks from all over the city, go in search of lost time – and discover hidden pieces of Sofia's history.
Ministry of Agriculture
This Baroquesque building stands out in grey downtown Sofia at 55 Hristo Botev Blvd. It was built in 1920 to be a Commercial Palace. An international jury selected this design by Bulgarian architect Nikola Lazarov. He had studied in France and so stuck to his favourite style, with a curved façade, two towers and a dome with a clock. Nowadays the building houses the Ministry of Agriculture. It is preserved in the original, having been declared a Monument of Culture – and that includes clock maintenance.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers