Category Archives: Cultural Travel

Sofia communist statues

Vagobond in Bulgaria – Part 3 – Sofia Statues and Parks

[ad#World Nomad 2LP]Travel around the world can’t be considered complete without visiting at least one former or current communist nation. I’ve been to a few of them now though many would argue that China is about as communist as the USA. As an anarchist, it strikes me as sad to think of the hope that went into the monuments and art of communism and the tragedy of death and despair that usually emerged from it.

One of the things that struck me as particularly interesting about walking around in Sofia was the huge number of statues which were dedicated to the workers. Now, I’m certainly no communist, in fact, if anything I’m an anarchist- but I’ve always thought that the honoring of the workers who actually produce the value of a society is a good thing. Bulgarian communist statueUnfortunately, the way communism and capitalism both work is that the bosses get the profits and the workers get the shaft. At least in communism the workers get statues to make them feel better. In capitalism the workers get to imagine that they can be bosses someday. Either way it’s an illusion. Still, the statues are wonderful. I love the way they make me feel and can imagine that when the tragedies of communism were rearing their heads, it was the artwork of communism that spoke to the masses and kept them turning the wheel of the ship of state. If the workers of the world could truly unite, we really could have utopia, but unfortunately, the workers are susceptible to the lies of the bosses, so it will never work.

The political slogan Workers of the world, unite! (German: “Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!”, literally “Proletarians of all countries, unite!”), is one of the most famous rallying cries of communism, found in The Communist Manifesto (1848), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. A variation (“Workers of all lands, unite”) is also inscribed on Marx’s tombstone.

Sofia, Bulgaria, ping pong in the park

Give the workers ping pong


This slogan was the USSR State motto appeared in the coat of arms of the Soviet Union, and on 1919 Russian SFSR banknotes (in German, French, Chinese, English, and Arabic). Contemporarily, some socialist and communist parties continue using it. Moreover, it is a common usage in popular culture, often chanted during labour strikes and protests

Sofia communist statuesBut of course, the proletariat usually get screwed as the consumers get screwed. You can’t win with government. When you consider that at the time the Communisit Manifesto was written that neither Marx nor Engels had ever had jobs, it becomes amazing that they could have come up with ideas, but understandable that as a couple of twenty something students that their idealism would outstrip the reality of how government is designed to oppress and can’t be converted into an uplifter.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs) is a slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. The phrase summarizes the principles that, in a communist society, every person should contribute to society to the best of his or her ability and consume from society in proportion to his or her needs. In the Marxist view, such an arrangement will be made possible by the abundance of goods and services that a developed communist society will produce; the idea is that there will be enough to satisfy everyone’s needs

Sofia bulgaria, eve with appleSofia is filled with parks and open spaces. As I walked around this city, I tried to picture what it must look like in the summer. I imagine it is quite beautiful. In the winter it certainly is. Of course there are more than just statues of the workers. I particularly enjoyed this iron totem pole with religious iconography. Check out the detail of eve with the apple…yes, she looks worth sinning for.

* Borisova gradina. It`s the “lungs” of the city, with the Ariana Lake
* City Garden. It`s the oldest and most central public garden, in existence since 1872.
* Largo.
* Orlov Most. It`s a bridge over the Perlovska River in the centre of Sofia
* Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square.
* Slaveykov Square. It`s an open-air book market.
* Patriarch Evtimiy Square.
* Sofia Zoo, 1 Sreburna Str., . 09:00 to 17:00.
* South Park. A nice park in the south-east part of the city, although a bit to crowded on weekends. Sorry, no Cartman statues yet.

communist consumer statue, Sofia, BulgariaFinally, here is the most disturbing statue from inside a mall in Sofia. I got in trouble for taking pictures here with the security guard. It’s a classic communist worker with a designer shopping bag.

Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia Bulgaria

Vagobond in Bulgaria – Part 2 – Sofia Places of Worship

Travel around the world and try to write about it as you go and you are sure to miss something. One of the hardest parts of travel for me is finding the time to just stop, chill out, and write about my adventures. I wonder if travel insurance covers that?

This post is ostensibly about the churches, mosque, and synagogue which sit in the Square of Tolerance in Sofia, Bulgaria. But really it’s just a chance to show you some of the cool pictures I got of these places and tell you a few interesting facts I picked up about Sofia and Bulgaria while I was there.

Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia BulgariaThe St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the largest orthodox churches worldwide. Not only that, it’s incredibly beautiful both inside and out.

The Square of Tolerance is a unique place in Sofia: within less than 300 meters, you can see temples from four of the world’s major religions: a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic cathedral, and an orthodox church.

largest orthodox CathedralAnd here is something else I learned. Orthodox people pray standing up. So, Jews and Orthodox pray standing because they are at odds with God. Christians pray kneeling because they sort of submit. Muslims prostrate themselves and offer complete and total submission to the will of God.Interesting.

Boyana Church at 1-3 Boyansko Ezero Str. This small 14th-century church and garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church contains some very well preserved murals. It is located at the foot of Vitosha mountain and is a good starting point for day trips in the mountain. I didn’t visit it. Sorry, no pictures. Maybe, I will pay a visit there the next time I visit Sofia. There will definitely be a next time.

Oldest church in Sofia, BulgariaChurch of St. George, (It`s situated behind the Sheraton Hotel.). This rotunda church is the oldest in Sofia. (326 AD).The oldest functioning church in Europe is St. George’s Rotunda. It is right next to the Bulgarian presidency. Here’s a picture of my couchsurfing host Tim outside of it. We didn’t go in because they were sacrificing babies at the time. I mean, blessing them.

The Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church. Inside of a secret room there are the bones of a saint that you can write a wish to and deposit in a box. Tim knew where the secret room was and so we made wishes on some saint bones. Baraka! Bulgarian style.St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

Hagia Sophia Church, 2 Paris str.. It is located just across the square and to the right from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.It was built in the 6th century over an even older church. It is a witness of the whole Bulgarian history and is a valued cultural monument. In the 14th century it gave its name to the city of Sofia. It was destroyed several times and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a mosque. Now, it is once again being used as a church. We all like the same spots apparently.

Bulgarian Hagia Sophia

Catholic cathedral St. Joseph. It’s new and I didn’t take any pictures of it. Very impressive though.

Sofia (at that time called Serdika) is 1700 years older than Brussels and Emperor Constantine the Great was considering Sofia for the capital of the Byzantine Empire, but eventually chose Constantinople. He said “Serdika is my Rome”. But in fact, Istanbul is fucking Istanbul. Possibly the greatest city in the entire world. In the 4th century, Serdika was the spiritual capital of the Christian world and the Boyana Church frescoes are considered to be the portents of the European Renaissance. Sofia’s motto is “Grows But Does Not Age.” Sort of like my belly.

Sofia Bulgaria MosqueIt’s not strictly Christianity in Sofia though. You can hear the church bells and the call to prayer from the Banya Bashi Mosque at the same time. Its construction was completed in 1576, during the years the Ottomans had control of the town. The mosque derives its name from the phrase Banya Bashi, which means many baths. The most outstanding feature of the Mosque is that it was actually built over natural thermal spas. One can even see the steam rising from vents in the ground near the Mosque walls. The Mosque is famous for its large dome and the minaret rising upward to the sky. Currently the Banya Bashi Mosque is the only functioning mosque in Sofia, a remnant of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria that lasted nearly five centuries, and is used by the city’s Muslim community of 8,614 out of 1,170,842.

Sofia Bulgaria JewsAnd of course, the Jewish community is represented in Sofia by the Sofia Synagogue.It is the largest synagogue in Southeastern Europe, one of two functioning in Bulgaria and the third-largest in Europe. One of the largest in Europe. Despite the building’s size, the services are normally only attended by some 50 to 60 worshippers due to the aliyah of most of Bulgaria’s Jews to Israel and the secularity of the local Jewish population.Apparently there is a souvenir shop inside, but I didn’t visit.

Whew….and now that I took the time to craft this post for you…it’s time to go out and see more…what would you visit if you were in the Balkans?

Palace of the Bulgarian President

Vagobond in Bulgaria – Part 1 – Sofia Tourist Sites

During the time I traveled in Sofia, I managed to see and do a huge number of things. I can’t fit it all in one, two, or even three posts. To sum up, let me just say that Sofia was a great place for me to visit. On the one hand that’s cool, but on the other, when the first act of a play is awesome, it makes the rest a bit harder to appreciate.

I mentioned before that one of the cool coincidence’s about my host in Sofia was that he had a website and magazine called Vagabond. In fact, that’s a bit of a lie. It turns out that he used to work and is still associated and friends with Vagabond Magazine. Tim, left Vagabond to start his own company, Intercontinental Recruiting, which finds Bulgariand and other Eastern Europeans jobs in Western countries.

Tim and I hit it off immediately.

Communist Stadium Bulgaria

Apparently the communists liked Tennis a lot.

First of all, he had me watch the video about Sofia, then we went for a long walk through communist parks, into a communist hotel, and past all the great sites we’d seen in the video. Along the way, we mostly ignored the sites and talked about what had brought us away from the USA, how we liked the countries we lived in, what we wanted from life, and how cool it was to actually see the old communist stuff. I’ll do separate posts about statues and parks and the various churches and places of worship in Sofia, Bulgaria later.

Here is some stuff that is already written over at WikiTravel. The pictures are from Tim and my walk.

Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs. Bulgaria hot springsOne of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody – cross the square behind the mosque, next to TSUM (the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets).

In the administrative center of Sofia the streets are covered with a specific yellow pavement. It was laid in the beginning of the 20th century and were a present to the Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand for his wedding from the Austria-Hungarian royal family.

* National Assembly of Bulgaria, 2 Narodno Sabranie Sq., ? +359 2 939 39 (infocenter@parliament.bg, fax: +359 2 981 31 31), . edit

Sofia University in Bulgaria* Sofia University, 15 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., ? +359 2 9308 (fax: +359 2 946 02 55), . edit

* Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1 15 November Str., ? +359 2 979 53 33 (fax: +359 2 981 72 62), . edit

 Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Bulgaria, Sofia * Ivan Vazov National Theatre, 5 Dyakon Ignatii Str., ? +359 2 811 92 19 (info@nationaltheatre.bg, fax: +359 2 987 70 66), . edit

* SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library, 88 Vasil Levski Str., ? + 359 2 988 28 11 (fax: + 359 2 843 54 95), . 08:30 to 20:30. edit

* National Palace of Culture, 1 Bulgaria Sq., ? +359 2 916 63 00 (fax: +359 2 865 70 53), . The biggest congress center in the Balkans (a massive monolithic communist-style building). If asking for directions, ask for NDK (en-de-ka), as most Bulgarians refer to it by this acronym. edit

* Central Military Club. It`s a multi-purpose monument of culture building in the city center

Back at his place we had a delicious Bulgarian meal of chicken and potatoes and drank a bit of bulgarian wine with Bulgarian friends. I got to learn about some Bulgarian traditions, Bulgarian monsters, and Bulgarian customs.

The next day I wandered