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The art of two eras

Return to Sofia day three


View A return to Sofia on ToonSarah's travel map.

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The Monument to the Soviet Army

Chris had been rather taken with the area near the Metro where we had got lost on arriving a couple of days ago, so at his suggestion we decided to go back to explore properly, without suitcases in tow!

But on the way we were distracted first by the sight of the cathedral with its domes wreathed in mist, and the nearby Monument to the Tsar Liberator.

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St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

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Monument to the Tsar Liberator

Monument to the Soviet Army

We were distracted further, and for much longer, by the Monument to the Soviet Army in the park next to the Metro station. It reminded us forcefully of so many we had seen in North Korea!

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Monument to the Soviet Army

Once in the maze of streets on the far side of the road we had a nice wander, taking photos and stopping for a late breakfast in one of the cafes.

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Around the Doctors' Garden area

The Socialist Art Museum

Then we returned to the Metro station to travel the three stops to our next sightseeing target, the Socialist Art Museum. Here many monuments from the Communist era are on display in a small park attached to the museum itself. It seemed to me a good solution to the current debates about what to do with monuments that are 'of their time' and no longer relevant or appropriate to our modern understandings.

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At the Socialist Art Museum, Sofia ~ the red star was formerly on the Communist HQ, which now flies the Bulgarian flag

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Lenin, Stalin and Che Guevara

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Two of the less overtly political works

We also had a look at the drawings and paintings on display in the museum and again I was reminded of North Korea and the Dear Leaders, especially by the first image below. Luckily photography (without flash) was permitted.

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At the Socialist Art Museum ~ the last painting was a gift from Cuba

On our way back to the Metro we stopped at a great coffee shop, part of the modern office and business centre next to the museum. Sofia truly is a city of contrasts!

RC Cathedral of St Joseph

We returned to the city centre, exiting the Metro at Serdica right opposite the Catholic Cathedral, dedicated to St Joseph. This is a modern replacement of a building bombed during WW2 and has some striking stained glass. It was another contrast to the communist-era art we had just been viewing.

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In the RC Cathedral of Saint Joseph

Street art galore!

We had lunch in the corner café I'd breakfasted in three years earlier with VT friends and then walked along to where we hoped to find the much-vaunted Women's Market. This proved to be a rather dull strip of booths / small shops with little of interest, so we retraced our steps and turned into the grid of small streets north of the mosque. I'd come across some good street art here on that previous visit and hoped to find more - which we did, in abundance!

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Street art in Sofia

Some of the buildings in this area are in a semi-derelict condition, either in need of restoration or currently undergoing it. Others show quite how grand Sofia's architecture can look once it has been restored.

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On the streets of Sofia

We found a lovely pavement café where we shared a delicious slab of banana bread. After that break we walked slowly in the direction of the apartment, still taking lots of photos. I had a lot to sort through when we got back so spent some time doing that, writing up these notes and making a few plans for tomorrow.

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The Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker, and outside the Natural History Museum

Evening in Sofia

In the evening we walked through to Vitosha Boulvard, following behind a small demonstration with flags and lively music. They halted outside what we later discovered was the Ministry of Defence on City Garden, so we continued on our way. The restaurant I'd hoped to eat in was full, but we got a good table in a nearby one where we shared some tarama to start with followed by grilled meats - sausage for Chris and 'meatballs' for me, which turned out to be more like burgers. The service was very friendly and we enjoyed our meal.

Walking back we stopped to photograph the fountain in front of the National Theatre and watched a mime act at an outdoor cafe. It was a pleasantly mild evening and we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of Sofia at play, the locals making the most of the weather before it turns too cold for outside gatherings.

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The National Theatre and fountains in the City Garden

Posted by ToonSarah 14:38 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night monument church museum cathedral sculpture street_art sofia bulgaria street_photography

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Comments

I think it is a great idea to take all the Soviet era art and exhibit it in one place. To destroy would be like denying history in my opinion. The stained glass is very beautiful and I enjoyed looking at the street art, too.

by irenevt

Sarah, thanks for sharing your insights! Your photographs reflect a lot of great detail and thought.

by Vic_IV

Thank you Irene and Victor :) Irene, I agree about the museum and feel we could do something similar with the various Empire and slavery related statues that are causing so much debate at present.

by ToonSarah

Another great post Sarah.

Some of that stained glass is beautiful and as you know it is a favourite medium of mine as I know street art is one of yours so we are both well served here.

I am not going to get into the whole politics of specific areas for monuments to portions of history which undeniably happened but this seems to be a reasonable way of dealing with the matter.

by planxty

Thanks Fergy. I love stained glass to, especially more modern designs like this, and we were lucky to visit on a sunny day :)

How are things with you now? Phil (Hungry Traveller) has been asking after you.

by ToonSarah

That Soviet Park reminds me of Grutas Park in Lithuania. For me I see statues like billboards where they are suppose to be replaced at the end of a campaign so I'm mostly baffled by the whole preserve every statue movement. However I will say Grutas Park did make a strong argument for preserving outdated monuments as they utilised the Soviet monuments for a visceral display on life under Soviet Occupation. By doing that they gave those monuments historical relevance and they became educational instead of just something to look at. It was pretty impressive repurposing.

by Teoni

I agree Teoni that it's much better to make use of them educationally. To some extent they do this here - more inside the museum though than in the park. There are educational videos, for example.

by ToonSarah

I love reflections so the reflections coming through the stained glass windows were absolutely magical. Great shots!

by Beausoleil

Thanks Sally :) We caught that cathedral at just the right time on a sunny day, I reckon!

by ToonSarah

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