We asked one of our Sofia Spotters some questions, to give you an insight into who Ana Blagova is. In this interview she shares who she really is, why she loves Sofia and some of her locals’ knowledge about the city. Enjoy your reading!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Ana and I’ve spent 26.5 of my 28 years in Sofia. I like words, cities, meeting people and sticking my nose into every nook and cranny along the streets. No secret alley stays uncovered! My education is in cultural studies and I can’t live without my friends in Sofia.
Why Sofia? What is a must do when you are visiting Sofia? What is not?
Because I was born here and I’ve been living here most of my life… I think places like Sofia are exciting, because there’s much that hasn’t been done and lots of room for new things and improvisation. Sofia’s changing at a really fast pace right now, and there is new stuff appearing every day. It’s interesting to watch that.
It’s a must to get away from the yellow brick road/2 shopping streets triangle and perhaps enjoy a beer with the people hanging out in the many parks. Walk around – there’s more to see than to visit and you can do everything in the center for 1-2 hours. Definitely meet locals, they make the place. Of the Museums, the archaeology one has something to offer of world importance. You can skip on entering the Cathedral and half-baked attractions like the Museum of Socialist Art. In fact, you can avoid all triumphant messages from the municipality and use alternative guides and your own eyes.
Which prejudices about Sofia are true? Which ones are not?
I think the biggest prejudices about Sofia come from locals – that it’s charmless, overcrowded and doomed to bad planning. Since 1/5th of Bulgarian population lives here, it’s understandable that they would feel this way. But Sofia is not charmless at all, it is actually a rather relaxed place where you can still enjoy all the advantages of an urban setting. There’s lots of life on the streets, which all surfaced out in the last several years. Another favorite of mine is about its “village character” – there are still rumors of cows in the fields of the prefab neighborhoods. Actually recently we were biking in the far outskirts and we were surprised to find, indeed, cows, pigs and horses grazing against the factory chimneys and the high profile of Vitosha – I think that was priceless. But I think that’s positive – like in a village, you can go out without calling anyone and just run into your friends.
What do you know about Sofia that no tourist will know?
As I am answering these questions, it’s the patron ‘day of Sofia’, 17 September. I just saw a really funny video – people wrapped themselves in plastic bags and tape on this main intersection in the center, just like a monument known as the Pope. This monument is undergoing reconstruction and the municipality has so aptly covered him that he looks like they’ve taken him hostage. The video is against the bad practice of reconstructing public sites without open contests for projects, done in a joking ransom-note style. Like I said, it’s a fun time to be here and it’s the people who really make the place.
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
A nice day would be getting a bike and doing a tour in the neighborhoods around the center, like Izgrev (where the Deunovists garden is), Lozenets (where the water tower is), the area behind the train tracks towards the industrial zone as I said in the Industrialna 11 article, or down Ladies market and beyond. But be careful – biking in Sofia is an offroad experience and planning and traffic don’t care much about you.
It’s nice to get some traditional food, and I would also suggest trying one of the rooftop restaurants (Tavan or the Archive Café, if you will) to get one to one with the mountain. In the evening, do a slow tour of the center from the Garden of the National theatre through St. Sedmochislenici down Shishman street, ending up at the Oborishte/University/Ivan Asen area, and get a drink at every street gathering and bar that you like on the way. Talk to people, they are friendly to foreigners. This tour doesn’t include official sights, so if you want you can do them on the Free Sofia Tour’s afternoon edition from 5 o’clock.