Lost Bulgaria in a Changing World

The only certainty in life is that everything changes. Whether by our own design or through the vagaries of life, the world around us is constantly evolving or devolving, moving forward or falling backward, always in transition like the cells in our bodies. Look at yourself in the mirror now: if you look again in a year, in a very literal sense, you will be a different person. 
Photo from St. Sofia church, circa 1910, before it was restored. St. Sofia is a prime example of change, as it morphed from a Roman theater where gladiators battled to a mosque, and it is built on the foundations of many previous churches erected on that site. To see more of the church, check out Untravel Travel TV's 1-minute video.
Photo from The St.Nicholas 
Russian church in central Sofia as it appeared 
after the Allies bombed the city on January 10, 1944.
Cities are no different. They are chameleons, constantly adapting to changing economic circumstances, their mantles of shop windows and enticing restaurants advancing and receding with the ebb and flow of money. As a yearly visitor to Sofia, Bulgaria, I have had the opportunity to observe Sofia's evolution from a derelict city to a burgeoning cultural and economic capital. Of course, not all that glitters is gold, and while Sofia truly is jam-packed with new restaurants and shops and nightclubs, this development conceals beneath it a tottering economy and one of the most corrupt governments in Europe, according Transparency International. Bulgaria is a contradiction in terms: it has one of the largest amounts of retail space per capita in continental Europe (read here for more), and yet most Bulgarians can't afford to shop in the glittering new malls littering the landscape. 

But whatever the political and economic reality of this small country, the fact remains the same: Sofia is an unrecognizable city, and there is no better way to get a sense of how it has evolved over the past hundred years, than to explore the collection of photographs amassed by Peio Kolev at  The site is dedicated to preserving Bulgaria's visual history, to helping current generations understand what life was like in the past, and visitors are free to post their photographs of bygone days in Bulgaria. Unsurprisingly, many of the photos of Sofia are from the Second World War - what more powerful agent of change is there than the destructive force of a bomb? - but you'll also find snippets of daily life, changing fashions, and archeological digs that far predate our understanding of modern society. Thank you to Mr. Kolev for preserving history, one photo at a time (and thank you to my friend, E., for sharing this site with me)!

As you browse the photographs, consider this: what will our photos look like to viewers in the future? It's hard to imagine that we might appear as quaint and outmoded as the 19th century ladies and gentlemen look to us, because it's hard to imagine a future without us - and all of our familiar city sights and sounds. 

Yours truly, one bite at a time,


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