Sofia - Bulgaria

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

I stopped off in Sofia for 2 days en route to the Rhodope Mountains in southern Bulgaria for some hiking.

Wandering around Sofia is illustrative of its turbulent history with virtually every man and his dog having been through/colonised over the centuries. Thus, the Catholic Cathedral, the Synagogue, the Mosque and the St Nedelya Orthodox church are all within a stone's throw of each other. Of course, the Romans were here in numbers and there are many remnants including baths exploiting the many springs - some quite hot. It is said that it was here the Emperor Galerius legitimised Christianity in 321 AD.

And in the 1870s, after 500 years, the Ottomans were expelled from Bulgaria by the Russians.

The large Alexander Nevsky cathedral is so named in recognition of Russia's role in that expulsion and in which 200,000 soldiers died.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

I love the overall green and gold heaped effect of the neo-Byzantine style.

And below is the nearby Russian church which is small but very beautiful inside.

Russian Church

There is an interesting Blackadder-type story about the St Nedelya church. In the 1920s the Communists were active and wanted to overthrow the Bulgarian Tsar, Boris III. With the help of a church insider they secreted 25 kilos of explosive in the roof of the church. They then assassinated a prominent general with the intention of detonating the explosives at the general's funeral which was sure to be held at that church and attended by the Tsar. All this duly happened, except that the Tsar was late for the funeral, so they missed him. But still a cunning plan!!

Boris went on to distinguish himself by successfully resisting Nazi Germany's demands for the deportation of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews to Poland and also for his refusal to declare war on Russia notwithstanding being personally berated by Hitler. But, to appease Hitler and thinking it would not matter much, Bulgaria did declare war on Britain and the USA - it did matter though - Sofia was heavily bombed by both.

Like Budapest, many of Sofia's major buildings have been renovated but much remains to be done with many apartment blocks resembling something out of the third world. There are many parks in good repair which are welcome shelter from the heat. Crowds gather around chess along with backgammon and card games. And the buskers and beggars are out in force.

I liked the coinage with St George and the Dragon; this motif is almost ubiquitous throughout southern Europe, particularly on fire stations.

Coinage with St George and the Dragon

Nice manhole cover...

Sofia manhole cover

I loved this Soviet Realism war memorial sculpture.

War Memorial Sculpture

Finally, this Soviet era sculpture reminded me of the Delacroix' painting “Liberty Leading the People”.

Soviet Era Sculpture


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