Soon after vitisiting our tour, the Finnish journalist Sanni Saarinen wrote an article about Sofia and the tour in the famous Finnish magazine Turun Sanomat. What surprises the authormostly are the numerous facettes of our capital:
There are few cities in which you can see a synagogue, a mosque, an orthodox temple and the tower of the Communist party at the same place. In Sofia, this might unravel a lot about the nature of the city. The influence of various cultures can be felt in the meandering streets of the city, the center of which can be explored in a day.
At spring and summer, the whole city is extremely green thanks to the many parks and gardens. Once you go under the city, though, you experience a different face of Sofia:
The look of the underpasses in the center of the city is a shock – among concrete walls and souvenir shops you can see the remains of a Roman castle wall build in 200 A.C. In Sofia, still, archeological findings can be found during construction works. In 2013, an underground museum is planned to open up, showing the early historical roots of the city, dating back more than 2000 years.
Our guest was impressed by the role of the Orthodox church in the past:
Sofia was part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. A visible inheritance of those days is the still functioning mosque. During this period, the church symbolized the idea of a national identity. Therefore, many symbols of the Ottoman invasion were destroyed and replaced by Orthodox temples and new buildings. With its golden domes, the Cathedral Aleksandar Nevski is one of the symbols of Sofia, but the church with the most curious atmosphere is the Russian church. The city was named after the church “Hagia Sofia”. Locals go to church and light candles in front of the icons of saints. The dancing flames in the dusk of the slightly illuminated rooms, the rich golden and multicolored decorations, create a mystical atmosphere.
The transition to a market economy and democracy has not been smooth. Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the EU. On the streets there are beggars and poorly maintained buildings. In contrast of this poverty, the select elite live in a “blissful ignorance” and denial. They gather in luxurious night clubs, wear golden chains, carry guns and drive Ferraris.
Click here, if you want to read the whole article (in Finnish). Many thanks for the lovely article to Free Sofia Tour guest Sanni Saarinen and to our guide Kiril, who also got interviewed for the article:
Kiril Zahariev is a 22 year old student of Balkanism in the Sofia University and a volunteer at Free Sofia Tour. Like most of his coevals, he hopes for a post-graduate education abroad. Universities abroad have lowered their taxes and most young people of his age go study there. After his education abroad, Kiril plans to come back to Sofia, because he likes Sofia and its spirit. The buildings he likes and considers a must-see are the Cathedral Aleksandar Nevski and the monument of Saint Cyril and Methodius in front of the National Library.