Thursday, 2 January 2014

Hmm, I haven't been here for a long time. Maybe I should make some updates...
Coming soon...

Here's something newer from Sofia - something which wasn't here in 2007 when I last wrote
More info  here in Bulgarian (you can use Google translate for the text)

Thursday, 27 September 2007

A return with an inspiration

This is probably the most magnificent sunset I've ever seen from any point in Sofia. I guess the fireworks were a good finish of the celebrations for somebody's birthday. They've been something quite common these days.
Anyways, enjoy the sight. See you soon!!!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, part II

As I've previously written, 21st and 22nd of May were open-door days at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN). I went there and here's what I found.
First, the building looks as impressive from the inside as from the outside. It was built in the beginning of the 20th century, just opposite from the National Assembly building.
There is a permanent exhibition about the history of BAN and its predecessor, the Bulgarian Literary Association.
On the ground floor there was an exhibition of Orthodox Christian music notes and scripts, some of them dating as early as the 5th century A.D., others: from the late 19th century.
What stroke me when I spent some time inside was the atmosphere. It just smelled like state institution bureaucracy. I always have the same feeling when I enter buildings of state institutions. With all my respect to science and to the contribution of scientist from BAN to the Bulgarian society, every corner was screaming that the whole place was lacking liveliness. Most people there showed no interest at all about the few visitors in the late afternoon (I heard that earlier the building was visited by much more people).
But wait, in the darkness I saw a flash of light. Literary as well. The lights of the dark corridor were turned on and a grey-haired but lively man entered, motivating with words his colleagues to be more active and to show real celebration spirit. He came to me and my friend and started exlaining about the whole event around the temporary exhibition of Orthodox music. He even went back to his office then returned with a printout of the speech of a scientist who made the research and gathered the documents for the exhibition in question.

I don't know for sure who this man was, I presume he is one of the "big names" at BAN. There should be more people there like him at the places which are said to be the drivers of our society in general.

P.S. I hope it's not forbidden to take photos inside the building.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Nature vs. politicians

Several neighbourhoods of Sofia have been flooded as a result of the heavy rain as rivers have overflown their banks. Mosly damaged are Vladaya, Knyajevo, Buckstone, Pancharevo and Slatina, among which Vladaya the most - as the Vladaya river has overflown and many houses are endangered of collapsing. A foundation wall has fallen and smashed several cars between two blocks in Slatina (in fact, metres away from the block I'm living in), thankfully no injured.
While nature is ravaging the capital and the region, politicians are suffering overheating after the end of the elections day for Bulgarian members of the European Parliament.
Journalists have gone mad due to the fact that many politicians who have responsibilities cnnected with public safety and emergeny situations are in fact at the National Palace of Culture (NDK) where the results will be announced and parties will make official statements.
It is arguable whether all of them are to blame or not (we, Bulgarians often tend to blame each other and turn our opponents into living Antichrists if possible). But it's a fact that as always there's a huge gap between politicians and voters. It's also a fact that there's still a lot to learn about the implications of Bulgarian membership within the EU. Another fact: emergency cases are not handled in the proper way, precautions are not taken which exposes us to a greater risk and probability of higher losses if something happens. Reactive rather than proactive: that's one of the characteristics of our nation.

Both photos are taken from the balconies of the flat I live in. The second one captures the part of Slatina where the wall has fallen. The blocks in question are in the distance.

Open-door days at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

On 21st and 22nd of May there will be Open-door days of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN).
As a part of the celebrations of 24th of May - the Day of Bulgarian enlightment and culture and Slavonic writing, BAN will present to the public its major activites, the laboratories, the library, its museums as well as the role of BAN in the country development.
Visit hours: from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.

Rainy days

The rain continues to fall. It's been raining for a couple of days already. Sofia is a damp and greyish place.
Specialists were drawing attention to the huge drought which would have tur ned most of the crops aeund the country into ash. Instructions were made to inhabitants of regions most threatened to save water supplies.
Now the danger has been reduced. I suppose besides the mud and water all around many people are happy. There will be no draught, at least for the next few weeks...
The city is another story though. People here are not personally connected to the events areound the country. They work in the services and industry sector, they can buy anything from the supermarkets. If anything couldn't be produced here in Bulgaria because of the drought, they will buy imported goods. That's why it's most probable that one hears complaints of the rain.
If I have to enumerate the probable reasons, they would be:
- it's not convenient for street walks
- it's much cooler so we can't wear our summer clothes
- holes in the street coverage can't be seen by the drivers because they are filled with water
- holes filled with water are the puddle nightmare of pedestrians
- umbrellas get easily broken
- dusty Sofia becomes muddy Sofia
and etc., etc...
But what's the problem? This moments are some of the few times when Sofia resembles Venice (because the shafts are blocked with garbage and the water starts flowing in the streets).
Apart from the negative emotions that rain brings, there are also positive ones. As a friend of mine said, the city becomes much cleaner than it is normally. The lightnings and thunders make us feel that there's also nature around us, not only the ugly grey panel blocks.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

18 May International Museum Day - the celebration here

Yesterday (18 May) was the International Museum Day. Bulgaria joined in the celebration by announcing free entrance into several of the biggest museums and galleries in the country.
Half of them were in Sofia, including the National Museum of History, the National Museum of Archeology, the National Art Gallery, the Sofia Art Gallery and the National Gallery for Foreign Art.
From 5 p.m. till 12 p.m. entrance was free and visitors could see not only the traditional exhibitions but also dancers, plays, concerts, etc.
I went to the National Gallery for Foreign Art (see photos to the left) where one could see Japanese paintings, African masks and statues, Burman Buddhist statues and carpets, Western Eurpoean paintings, paintings by Nikolay Roerich. Interestingly, there were mostly young people, families with small children. Even after 12 p.m. people wanted to enter but weren't let. I presume some have tried to visit all venues... I also wanted to see another place: the National Art Gallery where one could watch a play with historical context (as far as I could understand): but in vain... It had already finished. The balcony in front of the main entrace was overcrowded by young people, some of them were trying to enter just like us, but it wasn't possible.

I guess one could make two major conclusions from the event.
First, it seems to me that there's definitely interest for places of art. Although the visitors might not have been statistically significant in number, one can be certain that the interest for such places has been increasing recently. Which is a very good indicator in my opinion...
Second, the rush for art aightseeing happens only when there's an attractive campaign for the event. In this case it was the free entrance and the working hours, and - of course - the fact it was the International Museum Day. In other cases: the publicity made about exhibitions of famous works of art or national treasures. Like the exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's scetches and models based on them, or the exhibition of the Thracian golden treasure in one of the few moments while it is back home in Bulgaria. At such events queues are hundreds of metres long and people come hourse before the opening in order to enter. The latter events are not free of entrance, but the ticket is ridiculously cheap: not more than 5 leva (worst-case scenario), or about 2.5 Euros.
So, the final conclusion is that people are interested in art and history. And it's not only about the money. It's only about publicity and/or content of the exhibition.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Drivers didn't protest, but cyclists did.

The big news is that the strike of the public transport drivers was cancelled. They had a deal for salary increase. The municipality and the government had no option but to agree. If there were a strike, the whole capital would have been blocked and all citizens would have been very dissatisfied with their refusal.
Well, 200 leva (including taxes and social insurance payment) isn't much in my opinion, but yet if this is what the drivers want, then it's OK.
I just don't see why people always rely on the municipality and the government? Perhaps that's the easiest way??? In my opinion the better option would have been to stress more on advertisement spaces. It's an area not developed enough and the public transport company could make much more profit than now.

There wasn't a strike of the drivers, but there was a protest of the cyclists. I happened to be exactly on the spot where they gathered and started their protest: at NDK. They wanted more cycling areas in the city. One of the slogans was: "We don't stop the traffic", adressing the just-cancelled strike of the drivers.
Generally, there are almost no such areas in the city. The only ones are around NDK, but it's definitely not enough. When there are pedestrians walking over the lines or cars parked on the sidewalk, they have no option but to ride in the street...there's no need to mention that streets are dangerous for cyclists.

I totally agree with their demands. When boulevards are being reconstructed, plans should include larger sidewalks with lines for cyclists. Of course, the latter won't happen in the centre. The streets are too narrow for cycling areas. But the newest boulevards which connect the centre with the suburbs are a good option for this. Wouldn't it be nice to travel to work by bike...? :)

Friday, 11 May 2007

Pedestrian madness

Everyone knows that drivers in Sofia are simply mad. But few people pay attention to the fact that pedestrians are no more in their senses.

There's something wrong with the sign. You see it's in its place and yet not everything seems to be alright with it. The same applies to pedestrians. They have their sidewalks, traffic lights and zebra crossings but do they obey the rules? Of course not, this is Sofia, almost nobody follows the rules.

It reminds me of bulls: when they see red they go mad and run. In the same way pedestrians see red light and go. "There are no cars, so I'd better cross now, because I'm in a hurry".

I admit I also don't follow the rules every time. You know, it would be annoying to walk 5 minutes in order to reach the nearest traffic light or zebra crossing, then walk again for 5 minutes to finally get to your destination.

What I find really problematic is crossing on red light. One can never know whether a car would appear from somewhere.

Apart from the problem, there's also something funny about all this. It's very funny to watch people gather at the traffic light, wait for a few seconds, turn left, then right; decide to pass even though it's red and...GO! The first line goes, people from the other side of the street see how brave the others are and also go. Those who are on the queue also finally see people crossing without fear and make a decision to move.

Those who leave form a minority, and the author also is a member of this group.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

The capital to be paralyzed

The big news is that on 15th of May all public transport drivers are planning a strike. They will demand for higher salaries and, of course, will continue blaming both the state and the municipality for the low level of salaries.
What's the story behind: there's an argue between state and municipality about financial issues concerning public transport companies. As they are public, they depend mostly on the subsidies of the state and the municipality. Some of them make huge losses which are covered by these subsidies. There is a regulation for state- and municipality-owned companies which defines the conditions for salary increases. If the company is making losses, the salaries are not increased. Another very important point is the decision for financial decentralization which allows all municipalities in Bulgaria to receive the major part of the collected local taxes. For the municipality of Sofia this is a huge income. Apart from that majorly the municipality is financially responsible for the public transport companies. In our case - for Sofia Public Transport Company (SKGT).
Well now, here we have a stike planned, the drivers will protest mainly against the state. As mentioned above, not the state but the municipality has the biggest responsibility for SKGT.
Reading between the lines: the mayor of Sofia - Boyko Borisov - is using any opportunity to play dirty games against the government (well, the opposite happens as well).
In our case the state is within its right.
Whether the salaries are really low and drivers deserve more or not, here we have two major issues.
1. Typically, institutions blame each other instead of showing real results.
2. Sofia will be completely paralyzed on May 15th.
There are more than a half million cars in Sofia. This means that probably about 600 000 citizens will be able to get wherever they want to.
Taxis are about 20 000, which means that other 100 000 people would be able to go wherever they want to.
Route taxis will be available: other 20 000 people.
Youngest and oldest usually don't go out: probably about 200 000 people.
And the rest? more than 300 000 people? I hope I don't exaggerate. Even if I'm mistaken about the number, I'm sure that the ones that will be imacted the most are the pensioners and the students. Also employed but without a car. Like me.
Another problem will be that everyone who has a car will use it - unlike normal situations when sometimes public transport is used.

So, let's sum up:
- more traffic jams
- pure luck to get a taxi
- pure luck to get inside a route taxi (marshrutka)

=>It will be a very exciting Tuesday.

If I can, I'll make updates with photos.