If you are looking for an eccentric railway station in Bulgaria, try Sofia's Central station. From 1888 until 1974 the capital had a nice, friendly neo-Baroque railway station. It is no more. When the station was thought to be to small for the increasing traffic, it was knocked down and replaced with a new one.
This huge new station is chilly in winter, full of pigeons all year round and is so appallingly planned that even experienced passengers
get lost in its dim and dingy underground level.
The logic of movement in and around Sofia Central railway station is of Escheresque quality. Imagine you have arrived by tram and want to buy a ticket and take the train to, say, Plovdiv. To fulfil your quest, you have to climb down the dark, steep and stinking stairs to the subway, negotiate its menacing and echoing void, cross the circular, open-air plaza with the towering ugly concrete statue and you will find another stinky passage and a new set of steep stairs to climb up. This is not the end of your quest, however. You are now standing at the main entrance. Turn your back on the cowboy cab drivers offering you a ride and enter through the "Exit" gate, as people going out of the station usually do so through the "Entrance" gate and vice versa. Then go to the far end of the huge hall, buy your ticket and climb down your third steep set of stairs in the last 10 minutes. It will lead you back to the very same underground level you have just left. Go straight, find your platform and climb up you-know-what. Then you can take your train. This is not an exaggeration. We have just described the best-case scenario, skipping altogether the circles of hell you need to go through if you are looking for the international ticket bureau or the toilets, for example.
The name of the man who created this mess was the architect M. Bechev. You might think that it would be impossible to make things worse here, but in the early 2000s Sofia Municipality accomplished it. The round, open-air space in front of the station was covered with white plastic sheets copying those of the Munich Olympic stadium. Sofianites immediately nicknamed the structure "Sofiyanski's Underpants," after the then city mayor called Sofiyanski. There is some good news here, though. The "underpants" are not anymore. When in February the heavy snow on them began to melt, the construction collapsed by its weight. Luckily, no one was injured.
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