ANGRY SOFIANITES

ANGRY SOFIANITES

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:31

39 things that drive people of Sofia crazy

angry-sofianites.jpg

Not even the central Aleksandr Nevskiy square is spared the ubiquitous potholes

From job opportunities to entertainment options: living in Sofia, Bulgaria's largest city, has its perks. It also has its downsides. This is why Sofianites are an angry lot, eagerly expressing their frustration at queues, while driving and especially on social media. What specifically drives these people crazy? Like in every big city traffic, infrastructure, pollution and overpopulation play their roles. But like unhappy families, each angry city is angry in its own way. Here is a long, but by no means exhaustive list of the things that force locals off their rockers.

Slowly moving people on sidewalks

Anger rating: ***/*****

Trying to overtake someone slugging their way on Sofia's proverbially narrow sidewalks is a pain in the neck, especially when you are in a hurry. The elderly and the youngsters holding hands are the usual culprits. Move, people! Staying active is health!

Inconsiderate pedestrians in general

Anger rating: ***/*****

They push themselves to be in the first line at the crosswalk. When the red for pedestrians finally turns green, they are too busy looking at their phones to notice, obstructing less pushy pedestrians to cross. Arrrgghhh!

Cafés and restaurants taking precious sidewalk space

Anger rating: ***/*****

We know, we know. They pay the city council and all is legal. But we, pedestrians of all sizes and ages, have not yet learned to fly. Please, leave us some space!

Sidewalks in general

Anger rating: *****/*****

Sofia's sidewalks are not just bad. They are hideous. A monstrosity that frustrates people, turns them into zombies with eyes fixed in front of their feet, prevents the disabled from ever leaving their homes and forces young mothers with baby prams to develop a Navy seal set of physical and psychological skills for strength, orientation and stamina. Sofia's sidewalks are uneven, broken and splash you with mud and water in wet weather. They have sent countless people to Pirogov, Sofia's emergency hospital.

Moskovska Street, where the Sofia City Council is situated, is one of the few places where sidewalks are fine. Which has lead us to suspect that members of the Sofia City Council get out of their cars only to go to work and to do shopping in the malls. Shame on you!

Dog owners who do not clean after their pets

Anger rating: ****/*****

No need to explain. The city is studded with evidence of their presence. Bastards.

Potholes

Anger rating: *****/*****

Streets in Sofia are only marginally better than sidewalks. Potholes can be seen everywhere, from the centre of the capital to outskirts, creating daily nuisance to thousands of drivers.

Uncleaned snow and ice

Anger rating: ****/*****

Sofia has (or used to have) snowy winters. In spite of this fact of life, the city council, the institutions, and ordinary citizens are always caught by surprise when it snows. The city council is notoriously slow to get the streets cleaned up. Institutions put out warnings "Beware of icicles!" and forget about them. Citizens grumble, but do not clean the sidewalks in front of their own homes. Oh, the community spirit! Heartwarming, isn't it?

Cars parked in gardens

Anger rating: ****/*****

Sofia suffers from a severe lack of car parks and the city council does not care. But people who park in gardens, turning green areas into a moonscape of caked mud are hogs. Full stop.

Parking habits in general

Anger rating: ****/*****

Cars parked on sidewalks, street corners and crosswalks are a daily occurrence. The worst offenders are delivery vans who stop wherever they want, with the emergency lights on, for "just a second." Mostly, they are oblivious to the frustration of other motorists and the danger they create to pedestrians. Traffic police, for their part, are oblivious for delivery vans' behaviour. Sofia indeed is a city living in perfect harmony!

Sofia car towers, lovingly referred to by Sofianites as "spiders," are perhaps the fastest running "service" in the municipality

Honking while in a traffic jam

Anger rating: ****/*****

Being stuck in congestion is hardly a relaxing experience. Having a honker in the crowd makes it only worse.

Honking while the "jam" includes only two cars

Anger rating: ****/*****

The second a car stops in a narrow street, to let a child go to school or an elderly person to climb down, at least one of the cars behind will honk. It hardly helps anyone to move faster but it increases the stress level of everyone involved and of collateral victims such as the inhabitants of nearby houses.

Cyclists on sidewalks, pedestrian areas, in the oncoming traffic

Anger rating: *****/*****

Sofia has no sufficient bicycle infrastructure. Consequently, scores of cyclists have an easy excuse to bike on spaces that are not for them, like sidewalks and pedestrian areas, or to break the road code, by driving into the oncoming traffic, risking their own and others' lives in the process.

Home repairs

Anger rating: *****/*****

Thousands of Sofianites wake up at 7 am on Sundays not because they want to exercise or have dogs to walk, but because their neighbours have decided this is the best time to start breaking the old tiles in their bathrooms. If they do not do this in the early morning, they will usually choose the afternoon, when Bulgarians, especially elderly ones, have their siesta.

City council repair works and infrastructure projects

Anger rating: *****/*****

When the Sofia City Council announces they will start repairing and remodelling a street, a square or something else, the collective frustration of Sofianites skyrockets. Previous experience manifests that any infrastructure activity initiated by the city council and paid with community cash will lag for months after the officially announced deadlines, will cost more than expected, the result will be an aesthetic compromise and last but not least its quality will be such that it will need a repair, and a repair of the repair, within days after the smiling mayor has cut the ribbon.

Overflowing garbage bins

Anger rating: ****/*****

From time to time international news report on overflowing bins of garbage in Italy, the result of mafia flexing its muscles to the state. In Sofia we have it permanently. But do not get us wrong. We do not say that Sofia rubbish collectors are a mafia!

Not separated rubbish

Overflowing recycling bins

Anger rating: ****/*****

Bulgaria ranks rock bottom in the EU in waste recycling. In Sofia, those still eager to do it often have to walk for blocks before finding recycling bins. And when they reach those exotic creatures, they usually find them full to the brink. Then, these conscientious citizens face the dilemma: should they walk to the next recycling bin and pray it would be empty, or should they say "sod it," and throw the waste they have separated so carefully in the first garbage container they see.

Uncontrolled construction

Anger rating: *****/*****

"It grows, but it does not age," says Sofia's motto. It says nothing about beauty, and it shows. In the past 20 years ugly new construction has sprung everywhere in the city, without any regard of the rules of urban planning and respect for previous infrastructure. Residents of affected neighbourhoods protest against turning former gardens into new blocks of apartments and skyscrapers, but no official seems to care. The one who did was thrown in jail on rather suspicious corruption charges.

Destroying old buildings

Anger rating: *****/*****

Sofia is proud with its old history. And yet each year beautiful old houses and public buildings of historical and/or architectural value disappear. In their place monstrosities rise, defacing Sofia forever.

Listed buildings running to seed

The woman who feeds pigeons on Vitosha Boulevard

Anger rating: */*****

She probably makes decent profit from this and she probably needs the money left by passers-by. But the sidewalk is now white from the birds' guano and walking on it is hardly nice.

Tourists and influencers who photograph the woman who feeds pigeons on Vitosha Boulevard

Anger rating: **/*****

You think you're edgy. You think you're wake. You think you've witnessed something rare and life affirming, and you want to share it with the world. You are idiots. Move on and keep your phone in your pocket.

Air conditioners on façades

Anger rating: ***/*****

They dot private and public buildings, including historical ones, all over the city. But they are not only ugly. In summer, they drip water over passers-by. In winter, that water freezes, creating dangerous spots of black ice on the sidewalk. Consequently, scores of people with broken limbs get rushed into Pirogov.

Talking on speakerphone in the street

Anger rating: ***/*****

Why would you have a speaker or a video call while walking in the street? Why do you think others crave to hear both sides of your very important conversation? If you are afraid of touching your face with your phone because of Covid-19, use your goddamn earphones!

Loud laughter

Anger rating: **/*****

We understand you are having wonderful time in that restaurant or just in the street. The joke was great, we got it. But your laughter reverberates in the concrete canyon of Sofia's blocks. For the sake of collective sanity, keep the volume down.

Parents letting their children run amok at restaurants

Anger rating: ***/*****

You went to that restaurant to enjoy some good company and, hopefully, good food in a nice setting. And you did, before this family entered and their sweet, little angels turned the whole venue into a fun fair. To make things worse, while you angrily chew your steak, your fingers clenching your glass to breaking point, the little devils' parents are busy looking at their phones, oblivious to the commotion they have created.

Noisy bikers

Anger rating: *****/*****

Your rumbling bike is powerful enough to activate car alarms just passing by and you seem to be proud of it, especially when you do it at 2 am. But please try to understand. Besides you and your pal, your noisy Kawasaki impresses no one. The noise you make only shows us that you are trying to repress a childhood trauma. If you had problems with your father, seek psychological help and leave the rest of us to sleep.

Electric scooters all over the place

Anger rating: ***/*****

This is hardly unique for Sofia. But we live in a cosmopolitan city and we share some cosmopolitan grudges!

Electric scooters all over central Sofia

Loud house parties

Anger rating: ****/*****

Sofia is a tightly knit city. Spaces between apartment blocks are tiny and walls in blocks of apartments are thin. Noise is everywhere, often one can hear what soap opera their neighbours are watching. But when there is a party, noise pollution reaches fist-bumping, pillow-gnawing, 112-calling level of anger.

Lack of social distancing

Anger rating: ****/*****

Staying away from other people is, sadly, the new normal (thank you, but no thank you Covid-19). Still, some people apparently have not heard the news yet. They talk with friends in the middle of the sidewalk, leaving you no space to pass, they breath in your neck while shopping, they cough next to you without even pretending to cover their mouth (I experienced all these in the span of 30 minutes). Stop it! We do not want to spend the rest of our lives in lockdown because you do not respect others' personal space.

Buying a ticket in a bus

Anger rating: ***/*****

There was no ticket kiosk at the bus stop, so you approach the driver to purchase a ticket from them. Too bad: there are no tickets available. Your only option is to sit anxiously in the bus and to pray that a group of the notoriously predatory controllers will not appear, catching you empty-ticket-handed.

Expensive cocktails and no change

Anger rating: ****/*****

The closest you have to daylight robbery in Sofia. The mojito in the hyped bar was spectacularly bad and on top of it, when you gave the waiter a 20-leva note instead of change you received a not very polite nod and the sight of their back disappearing into the crowd.

Lack of places in kindergartens

Anger rating: *****/*****

Sofia consistently has one of the highest birth rates in Bulgaria. The city council is yet to open enough kindergartens. Instead, it has created a Byzantine system of application for available places that each year frustrates thousands of parents and is a breeding ground for corruption.

The red light wave

Anger rating: *****/*****

Large cities all over the world have green light waves to facilitate traffic. Sofia has a red wave. Enough said.

Stink bugs

Anger rating: **/*****

About five years ago, life in Sofia became harder. Out of the blue, stink bugs boomed. And boomed. And continue to boom. Now, these droning flyers are everywhere in the warm months: in your house, your plants and even the laundry you put out to dry in the open. And if you crush them, they stink like hell. Ugh!

Central heating bills

Anger rating: *****/*****

They say everything is transparent, but we do not believe it is: Toplofikatsiya, the company that runs the central heating in Sofia, is notorious for the outrageous bills it sends to its customers. This spring, for example, thousands of people received significantly higher "preliminary bills" in spite of the fact that in the same period energy prices in Bulgaria went down. The company claims all will be fine when real consumption gets compared to the forecasted one. We, customers, can only hope this will be true.

Hot water maintenance

Anger rating: *****/*****

Every summer, Toplofikatsiya stops the hot water for weeks because of what it calls preventive maintenance. Staying calm when your options are heating water with a kettle or taking a cold shower is hardly possible. Even if you have chosen the cold shower option.

Blocking the city when Levski and Tseseka have a match

Anger rating: ****/*****

Bulgaria's largest football teams and sworn enemies, Levski and Tseseka, both experience financial troubles and the quality of their game is such that few people go to the stadium. However, the aggressiveness of their fans is reason enough for the police to block traffic in Sofia's centre when the two teams play at Vasil Levski National Stadium. Consequently, what fans of Levski and Tseseka call the eternal derby, becomes an eternal nuisance for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Sofianites.

Property prices

Anger rating: ****/*****

This May, a former mayor of Haskovo put some properties for sale. One of those was a two-storey house in central Haskovo, with a garden and three covered parking spaces. The asking price was 150,000 euros. The same money will buy you a not very spacious one-bedroom apartment in central Sofia. Without a parking space.

Air pollution

Anger rating: *****/*****

Sofia is blessed with a mountain, the Vitosha, and yet every winter the capital's air becomes hard to breath and visible to the naked eye, with the tell-tale yellowish tint of smog. Why is this so? Explanations, hypotheses and conspiracy theories abound. Pedestrians, cyclists and owners of new cars blame old cars. Owners of old cars blame poor Sofianites burning all sort of trash to heat their homes. Everyone blames the city council for not doing anything meaningful. The city council blames Sofia's topography – as the city is at the bottom of a plain, winter inversion prevents fresh air from coming in. As a result, pollution continues, and anger levels rise as predictably as the change of seasons.

Local elections results

Anger rating: *****/*****

Come every election, Sofianites swear they will throw out the incompetent and corrupt politicians responsible for the city's bad infrastructure and selective application of laws and regulations. They swear they will elect new guys who will take proper care of streets, sidewalks, construction, urban environment and planning, green living, and who will make everyone abide the rules and regulations. However, come election time, Sofianites elect the same incompetent and corrupt politicians again. Stockholm syndrome? What Stockholm syndrome? 

Issue 164 Sofia
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