.

Historicalroutes.bg is dedicated to the millennial history of Sofia and its most inspiring stories. It is a project that presents the different periods of the development of the city not separately but in the unity of their existence and influence. That is because every piece of the puzzle of history has its own definite place in the present image of the Bulgarian capital. And although we do not really like some of the pieces, they are also part of history and give us knowledge. We offer a route-guide to familiar, unknown or forgotten streets of Sofia with their facades and secret stories. We invite anyone who wants to discover or rediscover storylines from the history of Sofia, whether staying in the city for a few days or for a lifetime. Our guest is anyone who wants to feel the spirit of Sofia. Because we believe that the spirit of the place (from the latin genius loci) is rooted in the history of the cities, but also in the respect for that history, shared from generation to generation.

The Spirit of Sofia!

Or more precisely, the desire to define a route that reveals the spirit of Sofia.A route that shows why Sofia can be proud. It is not just because Sofia has the temples of the magnificent Ulpia Serdica, called by Emperor Constantine “My Rome”. Not only because of the brilliant secession architecture of the young capital of the early 20th century, built with the zeal and inspiration of a whole nation. Sofia can be proud of the different periods and turning points in its history, which left a unique variety of cultural heritage. Sofia is the only city where you can see ruins of Roman streets surrounded by an ensemble of socialist urban planning, a massive dome (St. Nedelya Church) and a high minaret (the Banya Bashi Mosque), not far away from a synagoge. And because of the Moskovska Street, which is like an open-air museum for the history of Sofia from antiquity to the decades after the Liberation in 1878. As well as for the Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd, where the architectural symbols of the restored Bulgarian state are erected. All these pieces, side by side keep the spirit of Sofia and arrange its urban image.

A historical route that presents the cultural heritage of Sofia in its diversity but also unity. One rich variety that brings together archaeological structures, representative public buildings, homes of prominent people, monuments, squares and gardens located on large boulevards or charming little streets in Sofia. So we reached a route that meets the respectful architecture of national temples such as the Military Club, the National Theater and the Sofia University, as well as charming houses of more than a century ago. Every selected site is a significant historical value by itself, but it is even more important as a piece of the entire heritage here in Sofia. That is why we write the stories about the individual sites so that they together would create a common historical tale about Sofia and Bulgaria. At the end of this route, we will have gone through the different architectural styles and epochs of the capital, as well as the two world wars, the reign of three monarchs and the rule of the 72 prime ministers and 48 mayors of Sofia (from 1878 to 1976 – the last year of building from the route).

As a result, we have reached to a route of about 6 km in length and full of about 80 individual sites marked on our interactive map (Expect soon on historicalroutes.bg! Until then, you can view the working route map – here). For the lovers of longer urban walks, we recommend crossing all points on the route in one attempt. And the rest can divide it into two halves of about 3 km – in the lower short description we have also indicated the middle point. For virtual walks – there are no recommendations. Outside of the route’s specificity, we believe that we need to be sensitive to the spirit of Sofia during every walk in the city streets.

In order to put together the little puzzle of the route, we have reviewed books, maps, and archival photos that we compared with contemporary street frames. We did our urbanistic analysis, but we did not stop to trust our own theory about Sofia, result of our daily routes in the city.

The interactive map of historicalroutes.bg with the marked route and its sites is the heart of the website. When an object on the map is selected, an abridged description and a reference to its individual page are displayed on the site (coming soon!). Each object on the itinerary is reflected in a colour symbol that indicates its belonging to 7 periods – our attempt to structure the centuries-old history of Sofia:

Antiquity (until V century AD);

Middle Ages (until IV century AD);

Ottoman period (until 1877);

Period of Knyaz Alexander I (1878-1886);

Period of Tsar Ferdinand (1887-1918);

Period of Tsar Boris III (1919-1943);

Socialist period (1944-1989).

Because of the seven different colours of the sites, the map is multi-coloured, just like Sofia and the Bulgarian history. Different colours are not grouped in certain neighbourhoods, because there are not urban parts that are linked to a single period within the development of Sofia. That is why the colours are mixed, and the itinerary is constantly going through different times. We believe that with such a complex approach, it can be the way to cover the whole scale of Sofia’s history. Nevertheless, the colour map is a great opportunity to follow the logics in Sofia’s development – where there are buildings from the first decade after the Liberation (such as Moskovska Street), which streets were built during the time of Tsar Ferdinand (such as Shipka Street and Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd between the Military Club and the Sofia University), which streets were renovated with new construction during Tsar Boris III, where are the places with stratification of several periods.

We start from Orlov most as a symbolic gate of Sofia since it was declared to be the Bulgarian capital. After that, we continue on the charming street San Stefano, whose name returns the time to the Liberation of Bulgaria. Along that passage we can read lots of stories about the construction of the new capital, including that one about the famous brewery of Prosek brothers. We turn on the quiet Sheinovo Street to reach the crossroads of Vasil Aprilov and Shipka, where is the box with works of one among the greatest architects of the capital – Georgi Fingov. While we point out the years of the buildings, we also recall important events at the same time – the assassination of the mayor, who led the big urban renewal of the pre-liberated Sofia or the moment when the capital has acquired its yellow pavement. Then there are the wonderful streets Shipka, Veliko Tarnovo and Oborishte, formed in the end of XIX century to be the expression of the new, already European time of the city. And today, these streets recall the unmatched building enthusiasm of our ancestors one century ago. Shipka Street is characterized by the unique contrast between a number of elegant secession buildings and the brutal building of the Russian Cultural and Information Center (designed in the style of architectural brutalism). This street hosts the story of the brilliant Professor Ivan Shishmanov, too. At Malko Tarnovo Street we see a house like from the Alps, while Oborishte Street is waiting for us with a series of rich residences from the end of the 20s of the twentieth century. Angelo Kuyumdjiiski lived in one of them – born in Samokov and lived in New York, Kuyumdjiyski certainly deserves a whole adventure novel. At that time Sofia reached the population of 300 000 people. We cross the gardens of the Doctor’s Monument and the National Library to shrink to the monument of the national inspirational man Vasil Levski. We head towards the end of Sofia around 1900, when the royal stables had already risen with their elegant appearance. Against them, on the other side of Knyaz Alexander Dondukov Blvd, there is another urban contrast in Sofia – between Dr. Funk’s elegant house, where the great banker and patriot Atanas Burov was tenant, and the huge residential building with the architecture of Stalinist communism (Stalin Baroque). From Danube Street we enter another aristocratic neighbourhood of the young capital, where one after another begin the meetings with the art of arch. Nikola Lazarov, who received the nickname “Architect of Sofia”. Then it is Moskovska Street. Whatever we write about that will not be enough. But we will mention about the intersection between Moskovska and Georgi S. Rakovski (Nikolay Gyaurov square) – one of the sacred places of Sofia. It comprises one of the geodesic points used in the planning of the Roman Serdika – the so-called Tumulus (by arch. Hristo Genchev – Sofia, thought in space and beyond time). Here we go down to the garden between the Military Club, the Russian Church and the old Civic insurance company – one of the most beautiful and saturated with the spirit of Sofia places.

Until this stage, we have read the facades and stories of many houses here in Sofia. Now, the second half awaits us with a series of representative buildings of the capital. At this point we can stop to look at the lovely dome of the Civic Society and the “bulbs” of the Russian Church. And as we mentioned, according to individual wishes, you can continue on the route or postpone the second half next-coming day.

We return to Moskovska Street and some of the first buildings of Sofia, built after 1878. The stairs on Budapest Street, which have existed since the twenties of the last century, reveal the amazing crown of the residential building between Budapest and Dondukov Blvd. And another staircase – this time on MalkoTarnovo Street, hidden between the two high-raised modernist residential buildings of the 30s. We climb the stairs and reach the place where the clock tower of Sofia denoted the time during the Ottoman era. Here is one of the brilliant symbols of continuity between the old and the new Sofia – the Royal Palace, which indeed is transformed and redesigned Ottoman Konak (prison). We head to the Largo and the unique combination of Roman building and a monumental socialist complex. One after another, we look at significant Sofia churches from different periods. Then we are into the delicate charm of Lege Street, which has been named after French consul Leander Lege since 1878 because he protected Sofia from burning in the days before the liberation of the town.

On this central street we have examples of what is a continuity of development, of upgrading the old or of destroying it in the name of the new. From Knyaz Alexander I Street we enter the city garden with the popular fountain, which have been there since 1975. We now see the National Theater, erected with the majesty of an ancient temple, as well as the building of Baron Gendovich, designed by Nikola Lazarov to be the tallest building in Sofia In 1914. We surround the theatre to look around it, go along past the former Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Central Cooperative Bank and then reach the house of most famous national poet Ivan Vazov. The two-storey building witnessed Ivan Vazov’s speech of November 27, 1919, to the many Sofia citizens who sought the wisdom of the poet after the Bulgarian crash during the First World War. We continue to the Crystal Garden and 6 September Street with the “Vegetarian” residential building, erected in 1929, next to a stylish house from 1897, owned by the distinguished public figure Dimitar Tonchev.

It is time to go to Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd and Embassies of Italy and Austria, which were actually exchanged after the First World War, to continue along the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and stop at the National Assembly Square. One architectural masterpiece of the Austrian Friedrich Grunnanger (The House of Yablanski) and the building of the Sofia University still remain – proof that the buildings can change in time, but with respect to the builders (and investors) of the previous generations. This is the end of the route, which helped us to see the architectural beauty of many buildings as a detail and as part of the Neoclassical style (from the Liberation to 1890), the Secession (about 1890-1920), the transitional years between the Secession and Modernism from the 30s and 40s, the Stalin Baroque and even the architectural brutalism. We went through many curious personal fates and dramatic years for Bulgaria. After this walk, we believe that the spirit of Sofia can inspire affection, love and responsibility towards the Bulgarian capital.

Historicalroutes.bg presents the famous facts from the history of Sofia. What we did was to unite, arrange and share the familiar Sofia stories as a common walk along the city streets. We did not intend to include all the important places along the route – our goal was to choose a variety of examples that recreate the essence of Sofia. We do not claim to have created a precise scientific study, but we sincerely want to be correct. That is why we would be grateful if you supplement our story about Sofia and Bulgaria by leaving comments and sharing your knowledge and feeling of the capital.

The team of historicalroutes.bg is presented by Zdravko Petrov (general concept and text part), Yavor Kiryakov (general vision and educational aspects), Petko Marinov (graphic part), Michail Nikolov (technical support), Alfanet Service Ltd. (web development) . Special thanks to arch. Belin Mollov for his advice and significant support for the idea.

In conclusion, the various facts were sought out and found in the following sources of information, with great gratitude to the authors for their contribution to the memory of Sofia:

  1. Лабов, Г. Архитектурата на София. София, 1979;
  2. Collina, V.Time and beauty.Art Nouveau in the Bulgarian cities. 2014;
  3. Генчев, Х. София, мислена в пространството и отвъд времето. София, 2009;
  4. Мелнишка, М. Къщите говорят. София, 2016;
  5. Желева-Мартинс, Д. Биография на София. Исторически студии. София, 2006;
  6. Русков, К., Ангелов, Ч. Старите жилищни сгради на София. София, 2015;
  7. Иванов, Р. Римски градове в България. София, 2007;
  8. Тахов, Г. София между две столетия. София, 1986;
  9. Попов, А., Тончева, Е., Дроснева, Е., Бояджиев, К., Вачева, К., Ваклинова, М., Цонев, М. София – 120 години столица. Юбилейна книга. София, 2000;
  10. Бърнев, И., Юруков, Л. Непознатата София. София, 2005;
  11. Митева, Ж., Банков, Я., Нейкова., Н., Русинова, К. Сецесион в София. София, 1997;
  12. „Картография“ ЕООД. Атлас на София и софийската агломерация. София, 1993;
  13. Стара София в снимки и пощенски картички.http://stara-sofia.com/
  14. Morphocode.Наследството на София. Карта на паметниците на културата в централната градска част на София. http://io.morphocode.com/sofia/
  15. 15. Proshek brothers. http://www.proshek.com/bg/
  16. 16. Шишманови. Първенците на Видин. https://shishmanovi.wordpress.com/
  17. Марков, Х. Анджело Куюмджийски – една легенда. http://toross.blog.bg/politika/2015/07/30/anjelo-kuiumdjiiski-edna-legenda.1380236
  18. Вестник „Строител“.http://vestnikstroitel.bg
  19. Боров, Т. За Университета, Райко Горанов и Димитър Дечев. http://kkf.proclassics.org/

20. Народен театър „Иван Вазов“. http://new.nationaltheatre.bg/bg/

21. Бурилкова, И. „Законът управлява хората, а разумът – закона“ (По повод 111 години от смъртта на Димитър Греков). 2013

What we offer you?

Walks and lectures on the route

We offer walks and lectures on the route according to your individual requests and preferences for duration, leading themes and highlights

Education

We offer an educational opportunity for you to learn and start loving city stories, cultural heritage and public spaces. Educational initiatives are structured as intriguing presentations and tours along the route

Projects

We offer expertise, enthusiasm and partnership to develop and implement projects and initiatives related to the development of cultural and tourist products

Advertising

We provide the opportunity to advertise your business endeavors, including by a specific mark on the route map or ad banner

Contacts

For contacts and questions:

Tel .: +359 899 40 12 57

E-mail: zdravko.d.petrov@gmail.com