History, show tunes and a quicky
Trip Start Apr 16, 2012
34Trip End May 18, 2012
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Where I stayed
Built as the official residence of communist leader Todor Zhivkov in the 1970s (it had no bedrooms, but grand entry ways and halls and meeting rooms designed to impress visiting dignitaries) it dominates the grounds with Vitosha looming behind it, a pure symbol of power.
The collection spans Bulgaria's history from prehistoric times through Bronze Age, Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, medieval Bulgarian, Ottoman and revolutionary 19th-c. Bulgaria, where it stops. No modern history here, but a worthy collection of material culture from all the above periods, from jewelry to armor and icons to documents
Near the door to the cafe and backyard of the museum, two young women are signing to the accompaniment of a pianist and their clear, high voices echo throughout the hall. 'La Vie en Rose' gives way to something I fear comes from some Disney movie, given the Bulgarian-accented lyrics, and then a young man with beak nose and long stringy hair sings 'If I Were A Rich Man.'
-I beelds a wahn lonk steerway juss goeen hop, enn wahn heaving lonker gwahing down. And wahn goeen nahwheer jos forsho.
Outside in the courtyard, people are sipping coffee and Fanta and kids are playing in the dry fountain and on playground equipment next to the plastic facade of a faux fortification, compliments of Nestlé, emblazoned with a sign that reads 'Quickyland.'
Later, I hike through the streets surrounding the Ladies Market, taking my last photos of Sofia: Piebald early 20th-c. buildings on chestnut- and linden-lined streets, brightly-colored trams, a shop filled with lawn ornaments and, lurking on a corner in front of a video game casino, a fiberglass cowboy draws his gun.
A wedding is in progress at the hotel and the bar is full, so I head back the the Art Club Museum Bar & Dinner. My martini instructions are lost in translation and I end up sipping a cold glass of equal parts gin and vermouth. A dinner at Pa, the Italian place next to my favorite Serbian restaurant, unfortunately is equally memorable.