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Walking through Sofia

Home -> Europe -> Bulgaria -> Travelogue Bulgaria -> 15 May 2019

Wednesday 15 May, walking through Sofia

Park in the center of SofiaThe bus is packed with people when we want to board the trolley bus and the driver waves us to the back and we wonder if we can just come along. As soon as the bus leaves people are calling something to us and now I have to go all the way back through the crowd to the driver to buy the tickets while he is driving. We get out in the center and first go to the terrace next to the City Garden, a park at the Ivan Vazov national theater. It is slightly colder than yesterday and I have put on two sweaters over one another (we don't have coats with us, optimistic as we were).
The parliament building in Sofia The parliament building in SofiaMany of the things that we want to take a closer look at today, we also saw yesterday because then we also walked through the entire center. And it is hard to overlook the huge Largo complex, built in the so-called socialist classical style. It used to be the headquarters of the Bulgarian communist party, but is now used by the democratically elected parliament. We are at the center of power here because there are also several ministries around it, the cabinet of the president and the high court. There is only 1 parliament, the National Assembly with 240 members.
Demonstration before the parlemens building Demonstration before the parlemens buildingA group of people has gathered in front of the building and later more and more press and police are joining the number of demonstrators. Later we read on the internet that it is probably a demonstration of hospital staff for raising their wages (a nurse earns around € 300 per month) and against the commercialization of hospitals. Later in the day the group will be much larger than now but then we are not around.
Guards in front of the presidential palace in Sofia The oldest building in Sofia, St. George's ChurchOpposite the Largo and the archaeological museum is the presidential building with 2 traditionally dressed guards. They barely blink while they are constantly stared at and photographed. That job would not be for me, standing still for so long and still have to remain alert.
On the side of the main entrance we can go through a gate to the square behind it where the St. George church, the oldest intact building in Sofia, stands. It is from the 4th century, the same period as old Serdica of which we have seen so many remains yesterday. Part of the excavation can also be seen here. In the church, medieval frescoes have been found that were painted over by the Ottomans.
Objects in the archaeological museum in Sofia Bronze ax blade in the archaeological museum in SofiaNearby is the National Archaeological Museum in the building that used to be the great mosque of Sofia. All archaeological collections in the city were brought together here in the course of the 20th century. The staff here is a lot friendlier than in the history museum, maybe it pays better here? We can also photograph here (without flash) without it costing extra money.
There are 5 rooms including a prehistoric room with finds from all over Bulgaria. Humanoids lived in this region very early (according to some archaeologists 7 million years ago), but the probably oldest European village was also found here from around 5,000 BC. at Provadia.
Stylized bronze deer from the early Iron Age, BulgariaIn any case, new discoveries are still regularly made, take a look at this website. I especially like this stylized bronze deer. Many objects, whether ceramic, gold or other metal, are very detailed and it seems that some very artistic people have lived here. Over the years many different peoples have lived in these parts of the world, but the best known are the Thracian people who migrated around 5,000 BC. from the Caucasus to southeast Europe.
Gold objects in the archaeological museum in Sofia Golden mask of king Teres I in the archaeological museum in SofiaThe Thracians formed rival tribes, otherwise they could have formed a powerful world empire such as the Greek historian Herodotus already wrote in the 6th century BC. In Central Bulgaria, a large number of graves have been found from tribal leaders or kings, with impressive gold treasures, a number of which are exhibited here in the treasure room. Unfortunately, the space is fairly empty, most of it is on loan to a museum in Skopje, the capital of Northern Macedonia. The Thracians, however, were known as highly skilled goldsmiths. And there are thousands of burial mounds that still need to be explored, so there is much more to be found. Treasure digging is therefore a major problem in Bulgaria.
Mosaic in the archaeological museum in Sofia Mary with a rather mature looking Jesus child, SofiaA number of mosaics and, of course, icons can be seen in the museum's central hall. Regarding the enormous amount of finds in Bulgaria, the museum is rather small but that has the advantage that you do not get bored too quickly. I usually have no trouble with that, but I can imagine that looking at hundreds of pieces of pottery will get boring. But I have seen icons enough, I find them less interesting than the pottery. But this one in the photo strikes me: the Jesus on Mary's arm already has a pretty old face.
Waiting for the bus at the St. Sofia monument The St. Sofia monument in SofiaAfter the visit to the museum we walk a little further along the excavations of Serdica, as the city was called in Roman times. We also pass the 24 meter high statue of a gilded woman on a pedestal. This is St. Sofia after whom the city is named and its patron saint. In 2000, she took the place of Lenin, who was removed from his pedestal in 1991 after the communist Eastern bloc broke up.
View of the Vitosha mountain from a shopping street in Sofia We take shelter from the rain at the national theater in SofiaIf we look around in the shopping streets from where we have a view of the snow-capped peaks of the Vitosha mountains, it suddenly starts to rain and we return to our terrace at the national theater. There we can take shelter from the rain and immediately take an extensive lunch break until the rain gets a bit less. It will eventually be a very long break, but after an hour it only drizzles a bit and we go on our way again. But it is cold and to make matters worse I have quite a toothache. That does not make walking more pleasant.
Sculpture group near the Sofia City Art Gallery Sculpture group in the center of SofiaThe Sofia Art Gallery is one of the many museums in Sofia with sculptures, engravings, modern art and photographic art. There are a number of statues in the garden. We do not visit all museums, that is not possible in 2 days. But I would have liked to go to the National History Museum in the south of the city. It is the largest museum in Bulgaria and has a very extensive collection of Thracian objects including gold treasures.
The Russian Orthodox Church Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiiski The Russian Orthodox Church Sveti Nikolay MirlikiiskiBecause we stay in the center, we also come across many buildings that we saw yesterday and are now taking a closer look, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, also known as St. Nicolas the Miraclemaker. It was the official church for the Russian community in Sofia and was designed by a Russian architect and built in the Russian revival style (1907-1914). The five towers are gilded and also richly decorated inside. In the crypt of the church lie the remains of Archbishop Seraphim where many people still come to pray and to leave notes with their wishes in the hope of healing. We take a look in the church but skip the crypt. Although, maybe I could have getb rid of my toothache ...
Sculpture in the center of Sofia Statue of a famous democrat, Atanas Burov, in SofiaMost of the things that we wanted to see are now removed from our list and we now wander through the many parks that Sofia has. And there are sculptures everywhere, some clearly from the Communist era. The more politically tinted images from that time were removed from the public areas after the fall of communism and were first stored in storage depots. In 2011, the museum for socialist art was opened where those images were collected and are now on display in the garden. They first wanted to call the museum the Museum of Totalitarian Art, but that would not sound good enough to attract tourists. And that is the intention of the city council.
Sofia is not on our top 10 list of the most beautiful cities that we have seen, but there is certainly plenty to do and see and it is extremely cheap, so ideal for a short city trip.
The national art museum in an old palace, SofiaIn addition to museums, churches, gigantic buildings, parks and statues, there is much more to do in Sofia. There are many theater performances, but opera and ballet are also at a high level and there are 20 cinemas. In addition, the Bulgarians love going out so Sofia also offers a varied nightlife and you spend a lot less money there than in most European cities. And of course you can shop well: there are a number of large shopping centers, but also markets throughout the city and shopping streets in a pedestrian area.
The center of Sofia still needs some renovation Yesterday's beggar is still in the same place, SofiaAt the beginning of such a shopping street sits the same beggaress from yesterday again and the pigeons are still sitting around her. In the shopping area we look around a bit and take another coffee break outside because the sun comes through the clouds very occasionally. We have crisscrossed the city for two days in the cold and sometimes in the rain and are a bit tired of Sofia. This city trip was also a little extra to our Greece vacation and we can't see everything, for that we have to stay a little longer but we long for Greece.
Broken street outside the center of Sofia The cabling in Sofia is not yet undergroundThat is why we gradually walk to the Knyazheska park where line 2 also has a stop. We come through a street that gets a new pavement, but it is clear that the cabling here is not going underground soon. Everything is dangling, twisted and interconnected and I would not like to be a telephone technician who has to solve a problem. We also see some street art, artfully painted walls. We didn't pay much attention to it in the center, but there must be some gems in Sofia. A well-known picture is also a bit hidden in the photo in the previous paragraph. You can also do a free guided graffiti tour.
Image of tug-of-war children in the Knyazheska garden in Sofia War memorial in the Knyazheska Garden, SofiaIn the Knyazheska park we see first of all a sculpture of a group of children pulling rope, but the center of the park is dominated by a large war memorial that is meant to thank the Soviet army for the liberation of the country in World War II. Below the monument are scenes with the advancing army and happy civilians. We like the tug of war much more.
The park is popular for protests and even now the police is apparently expecting something because the park is filled with police and soldiers. But we don't see any demonstrators.
Then we take the overcrowded bus back to our neighbourhood. At home we nestle ourselves next to the electric heater because the temperature outside is at most 12 degrees and it started raining again. Later we walk past the supermarket and decide tomorrow morning on our departure to take a lot of groceries with us because we are constantly amazed by the low prices here and Greece is almost as expensive in terms of food as the Netherlands or any western European country.


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