Sofia

151020-28446.jpg

SOFIA'S PARTY HOUSE

"Where is the parliament?" A couple of months ago anyone asking this question in Sofia would have been pointed to a butter-yellow neoclassical building at one end of the Yellow Brick Road. Imaginatively, it resembles the Paris Opera House and has the Belgian national motto, "Unity Makes Strength," above its main façade, looking onto the statue of a 19th century Russian tsar on horseback. This was the place where Bulgarian MPs used to gather to do whatever they were supposed to do.

Fri, 10/30/2020 - 11:48
0 comments
eagles bridge.jpg

EAGLES BRIDGE

In the summer of 2020, a bridge in Sofia has persistently been in the news. Bulgarians demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev barricaded Eagles Bridge, disrupting traffic and attracting media attention.

Why this particular bridge?

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 07:45
0 comments
lions bridge sofia 5.jpg

LIONS BRIDGE

Unlike most great cities, Sofia is located neither at a sea, nor near an important river. The Perlovska and the Vladayska, the two rivulets that skirt the northern, eastern and southern boundaries of the city centre, are too small to count. In spite of this, the two bridges that span them, Eagles Bridge and Lions Bridge respectively, are deeply embedded in the life and fabric of Sofia. Besides presenting photo ops, they each have their own history and are conduits for much of the traffic into the city.

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 11:24
0 comments
angry-sofianites.jpg

ANGRY SOFIANITES

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.

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 18:31
0 comments
Magdalina Stancheva.jpg

WHO WAS MAGDALINA STANCHEVA?

Walking around Central Sofia is like walking nowhere else, notwithstanding the incredibly uneven pavements. A mixture of buildings in a range of time periods and styles define the Bulgarian capital: Roman fortifications and early-Christian buildings rub walls with medieval churches, former Ottoman mosques and fine fin-de-siècle residential houses. Over these loom monstrous buildings in the Stalinist Baroque style and soulless glass-and-concrete concoctions built after the 1990s.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 08:45
0 comments
winter sofia.jpg

WINTER SOFIA

In winter, as anyone who has ever spent this season in Sofia knows, it is super easy to complain about life in Bulgaria's largest city. Air pollution peaks. The notoriously bad pavements become even more impassable because of snow, or ice, or mud, or rainwater, or any combination of these. Congestion is magnified. Descending the uncleared steps of the subways is at your own peril.

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 11:21
0 comments
1300 years of bulgaria monument.jpg

FALL OF 1,300 YEARS OF BULGARIA

In the summer of 2017, after years of debates, projects and protests, Sofia looked as though it would finally part with one of the most controversial monuments of the period referred to as Mature Socialism (roughly, the 1970s and 1980s in Communist Bulgaria). Everyone knows the monument in question: it is the 35-metre-high angular construction of granite plates and metal, crowned with ghostly statues and disintegrated slogans, in front of the NDK in central Sofia.

Ironically, the name of the monument slated for demolition is 1,300 Years of Bulgaria.

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 15:24
0 comments
national palace of culture_0.jpg

NDK, COMMUNIST-ERA MONSTROSITY OR CULTURE PALACE TO SHOW OFF WITH?

On its vast square, teenagers skateboard and flirt, elderly people have coffee with friends and mothers stroll with their children, while buskers and icecream sellers vie for customers. In the evening, people heading for some festival or concert at the NDK's Hall 1 flock in front of the main entrance. It has about a dozen doors, but typically just one is open. The bars around are packed, and those who can afford it head for the luxury restaurant on the top floor.

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:22
0 comments
old sofia postcard.jpg

SOFIA IN THE PAST

Modern Sofia is a city stuck in transition, a mixture of more or less preserved pre-1944 architecture with all its highs and lows, of menacing or just plain ugly administrative and residential buildings from the Communist era, and of striking or, more often misguided developments from the times of the free market. A century ago, Sofia was also stuck in transition, this time between its past as a backwater Ottoman town and the speedily Europeanising capital of an ambitious nation.

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 13:47
0 comments
flea market sofia.jpg

SOFIA'S HIDDEN FLEA MARKET

Once they were the haunt of those who did not have enough disposable income to buy new stuff. They also attracted collectors, fringe cultures, and optimists believing that they would find a lost Rembrandt among all the knick-knacks. With the advent of cheap, disposable fashion (thanks, China), mass travel and mass hipsterisation, however, those with little cash moved to the malls, and the joy of finding some vintage clothing, or a 1960s piece of furniture that would look great in the living room went mainstream.

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 08:03
0 comments
National History Museum.jpg

SOFIA'S MUSEUMS

A museum is a place where one should "lose one's head," architect Renzo Piano said. Whether Sofia's museums will make you lose your head is debatable. The exhibits, captions, and even the museum shops of most of them have changed little in the past 40 years, and audio-guides, multimedia, captivating captions and quality souvenirs, let alone proper publicity, are still novelties.

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 11:34
0 comments
St Alexandr Nevskiy Cathedral.jpg

RUSSIAN SOFIA

Many of the most prominent sites and monuments in the Bulgarian capital are dedicated to or bear the names of Russians. The most obvious examples are the nation's principal cathedral, St Alexandr Nevskiy, and the horseback statue of Emperor Alexandr II in front of the parliament. The yellow-brick paved boulevard, which is one of the most prominent features of Sofia, is named after the same man, Tsar Osvoboditel, or King Liberator and, on its way to the Largo, it passes by the picturesque Russian Church.

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 12:41
0 comments
largo sofia.jpg

LARGO OF SERDICA, ANNO 2016

In 313, a PR trick helped Constantine to become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire, whence he would go down in history as "The Great." Before a crucial battle he claimed that he had a dream in which he was advised to paint the initials of Jesus Christ, a theretofore forbidden god, on the shields of his soldiers with the promise that this would bring him victory. He did just that. He won, decriminalised Christianity, became a saint, and so on and so forth.

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 15:23
0 comments
sofia black and white.jpg

SOFIA IN AUGUST

When you talk about the Bulgarian capital with one of those people who pride themselves on being "true" Sofianites – as opposed to all the dastardly newcomers who they think have ruined the city – they all state at a certain point that they love Sofia the most in August.

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:41
0 comments
sofia in winter.jpg

SOFIA SNOWED UNDER

Sofia and snow do not get on well together. Every year, and with each snowfall, the city council is notoriously "taken by surprise," resulting in even some of the main traffic arteries being blocked by snow. Both citizens and business owners are equally unresponsive and only reluctantly – if at all – clear the narrowest possible strip of pavement, leaving the rest under a thick cover of dirty, compacted snow and ice.

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 14:05
0 comments
devils bridge bulgaria.jpg

OTTOMAN BULGARIA

As you travel through Bulgaria you will inevitably be confronted by remnants of its Ottoman past: mosques, water fountains, bridges, forts, baths and public buildings. It would be strange if you were not – Bulgaria spent 500 years under Ottoman domination. It began with the invasion at the end of the 14th Century, which brought chaos to the Balkans and destroyed the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, and ended for the different parts of the Balkans inhabited by Bulgarians between the 1878 San Stefano Peace Treaty and the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars.

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:45
0 comments
roman tomb fresco silistra.jpg

ROMAN BULGARIA

Travellers have for centuries been amazed by the size and magnificence of Roman remains in Bulgaria, and though many ancient ruins have been lost to modernisation, much still remains.

The Romans consolidated their power over today's Bulgaria at the beginning of the 1st Century AD, absorbing the local Thracian tribes into the multicultural and multiethnic empire. Life changed, to an enormous extent. New cities were built and older ones were refashioned, with temples, baths and opulent villas in the latest Roman fashion.

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 11:26
0 comments
old sofia.jpg

SOFIA IN THE DETAILS

The Aleksandr Nevskiy cathedral and the Yellow Brick Road, the Largo and NDK: tourists in Sofia tend to gravitate around these focal points of interest. The more adventurous explore the multiethnic bustle around the Women's Market, and everyone is into discovering Sofia's restaurants and nightlife.

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 13:10
0 comments
Eagles Bridge, Sofia.jpg

CAPITAL EAGLES

CCTV is everywhere now in Sofia but, about a century ago, the people of the city were followed by the eyes of other creatures – eagles of stone and metal, perched here and there on the façades.The eagle architectural trend took off at the end of the 19th Century, when Sofia was quickly transforming from an Ottoman backwater into an European capital. The fashion peaked in the years before and during the Great War, when eagles spread their wings on ornate Neo-Baroque or fin-de-siècle façades. In the interwar period, the new aesthetics of modernism largely forced the eagles out.

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 13:13
0 comments
antique store sofia 7.jpg

SOFIA'S BEST KEPT SECRET

"You know, I bought a genuine Genko Genkov! For only 80 leva!," a friend told me, eyes shining with joy at the bargain. It sounded like one, indeed. Genko Genkov (1923-2006) was the artist of primitive, yet vivid landscapes which are sold at auctions for prices ranging from 1,800 to 5,000 leva.

The precious painting was found at Tane's, probably the largest flea shop in Sofia. It is also the most secretive one.

Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:10
0 comments