I spent a couple of hours today walking in the Borisova Garden, one of Sofia’s many parks. The park is home to the Bulgarian Army stadium, where CSKA Sofia play. Many years ago – 1981 to be precise – I saw CSKA Sofia when they came to Belfast to play my local team Glentoran in what was then the European Cup (now the Champion’s League). The Glens had lost 2-0 in Sofia and no-one thought they had any chance. While CSKA were not one of Europe’s footballing superpowers they were, by a long way, the best team in Bulgaria – 31 times Bulgarian league champions and 20 times winners of the Bulgarian cup. Despite their underdog status, the Glens were 2-0 up with 20 minutes remaining and the game went into extra time. CSKA scored with five minutes left and the Glens were out. CSKA went on to beat defending champions Liverpool in the quarter finals before being overrun by Bayern Munich in the semi final.
So, back to the present, and today I brought a camera with me. I decided this was a day for digital and dusted off (quite literally) my Fuji X-T2. It’s been so long since I used the X-T2 that I had to spend twenty minutes consulting the online manual to remind myself where everything was and how everything worked. I attached the 18-55 lens and decided that, even if every picture I took was rubbish and fit only for deletion, I needed to take some photographs.
I did end up deleting quite a lot of them but there were a few that were decent and one I quite liked. I thought that was quite a reasonable haul in the circumstances. The sun was shining today and the light beneath the trees was beautiful. I took multiple shots to try and capture it but failed miserably for the most part. This was the only one I liked.
This section of the park is separated from the main part by a road and it is more woodland than parkland, but running through it are tram tracks. I had noticed these before and assumed they were no longer in use, until about a week ago when I saw the number 10 tram heading into the park. As far as I can see the tracks through the park bypass a street that is too narrow for the trams and exit on a wider street further along, but looking at the satellite images the tracks do seem to meander a little through the park as though the planners thought it might be nice to have a few extra scenic moments on your journey. I waited by the tracks to see if a tram would come along and a few minutes later the number 10 showed up.
The park is the site of one of Sofia’s many grandiose communist monuments, the ‘Brotherly Mound’ – a less than inspiring translation of Братска могила. I suppose it could also be the ‘Hill of Brotherhood’. This is a complex monument. While it commemorates Bulgarian partisans who fought against the Nazis during the Second World War, it also commemorates the role of the Soviet Union and the Red army as ‘liberators’ of Bulgaria and the Communist Party as the leaders of the people. Through the inscription on the central obelisk from Bulgarian national hero Hristo Botev, it also claims Bulgaria’s communists as successors of Botev’s fight for Bulgarian freedom. Botev led an abortive uprising against the Ottomans in 1876 and was killed in the fighting. The inscription reads, ‘Тоз, който падне в бой за свобода, той не умира’ which translates as ‘He who fall in a fight for freedom never dies.’
I believe there were proposals to demolish or remove the monument after the fall of communism but it is still standing, though in poor repair. When I was there today there were a couple of floral tributes at the foot of the obelisk, presumably placed there on June 2, the day when Bulgarians commemorate Botev. (The second picture I shot in portrait mode, but while playing with it later I decided I liked the extreme angle of this landscape version.)
I have a surprising number of pictures of rubbish bins. I’m not sure what that says about me, if anything. Apart from the bright colours and somewhat sculptural look of these three bins, I liked the juxtaposition with the very formal, and grey, sculpture in the background.
Here is my favourite shot of the day, taken near the CSKA training pitches. You can see the CSKA graffiti on the building in the centre. This is another type of picture I seem to have a lot of. Apparently a cyclist riding through the frame appeals to me. The success of these is largely down to luck rather than judgement. I saw the cyclist coming and got in position. From there on it’s a matter of hoping that you have the right shutter speed for the speed of the cyclist – enough to generate some motion blur, not so much the details disappear. In this case it could have been a little slower but it’s near enough. You also have to be lucky to get the bicycle in the right position in the frame – shoot too soon and half the bike will be missing, too late and the bike will be too central or even leaving the frame entirely. This one was just about perfect. That the girl is fiddling with her backpack as she rides is a nice bonus since it gives her a very dynamic posture.
And finally… Just beyond the park exit on Boulevard Tsarigradsko shose is the Eagle Bridge. It sounds quite grand and it has sculpted eagles and elaborate railings. But it’s only around twenty feet long which does spoil the effect. Sofia, unlike many cities, is not built on a river so what the Eagle Bridge crosses is more of a stream running in a culvert than a real river. The bridge dates from 1891 and was designed by the same Czech architects responsible for the Lion Bridge in the north of the city. This picture is of one of the four bronze eagles that stand at the four corners of the bridge, together with one of the large street lights that illuminate the Boulevard. I though they made a nice pair.