If I had a sea container- I could fill it.
Next to the gilded orbs of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral I meandered. There is a thrift and artists market. In the square garden you can find anything you never imagined being able to find. In fact you can even find things you never wanted to find (Old Swastika emblazoned Nazi Knives, Postcards scrawled in Cyrillic with Stalin’s big head on the front, the worst model of ushanka you ever thought possible- more on that next time).
Oh, but the things you will find!
I stop at a stall and a woman points at every brooch she has pinned on a square board- “This one from Czechia, lady, this one from Bulgaria, 1950, this silver, this Bohemia and this, ah, I think this Hung-AH-rian.” She insists in calling me lady- possible a direct translation of dama, I don’t know… I peer at the brooches and the skeptic in me wonders if those diamantes really are from France. But how much nicer is it to imagine they are and if so, how much more interesting to ponder, how on earth did they get to Sofia? There’s definitely a story there.
Another stall is filled with vintage cameras, the oldest date from the 1920′s. They sit in rows on a little card table- their concertina forms so beguiling, especially at 30$ Australian, on average. I ask the stall seller hundreds of questions and get to try out some old mechanical Soviet and Czech box cameras.
The stall seller informs me that the “Flexaret is the BMW of cameras over the Lubitel 2,” except he says BMV like a good European. As I peer into the cameras and focus, they manipulate the dimensions before me. Oh, I could fill a sea container with these, open a store and sell them for a song.
I’ve had the most derogatory comments from people about the fact I live here.
-As if I’ll visit you in Bulgaria…,
-What on earth would you want to do there? ,
-Trust YOU to choose some crazy place like that,
What has suprised me is that many comments have come from people who consider themselves to be artists. This city may have a dysfunctional economy, corrupt politicians, decaying infrastructure, but after living here for 2 years I can’t deny that there is charm. There is architecture. There is history. There is Art. There is a story.
What happened to Wanderlust?
I think many of my peers are losing a sense of adventure. Do we all really just want to travel to places that are just as comfortable as our home? If so, perhaps a trip to the shopping mall shall suffice. Can we, in the West, really not find the beauty if a city is built on cracked pavements and worse still, why mock such a place? Why not go there first?
When I first moved to Sofia, I thought the city was not so spectacular. Maybe because my head was always inclined to the ground, so as to watch my step. I would gorge myself on paintings over my morning coffee before I left my apartment, in the belief that nothing on the decrepit dusty bus to my destination, nothing in the streets of Soviet block style apartments and nothing aside from Yellow Paves (the old quarter of downtown Sofia) would inspire me aesthetically. I began to look deeper for the beauty, only to realise, it’s right there. Right at the surface. There is a beauty in Soviet style apartments- the coziest apartments I’ve entered were this style, they usually have old parchetry floors that bear a history like the palm of your own hands, until you’ve seen them, or better, lived in one, don’t assume that because they are ugly on the outside by your standards, they lack charm. Most likely they are filled with Chekhov, Dostoevsky and Pushkin that has been read and no one watches Master Chef or the Voice there.
If I had a sea container- I could fill it. I’d fill it with treasures found in antique shops: coral brooches, diamante hat pins, old fragrant books in Kirilica trimmed with gold leaf, flowers from old street sellers, the fast moving chatter of the coffee clubs, the slow laboured strides of the old bread seller- who always gives me a smile. I’d fill it with values too. The value for literature and the arts. I’d fill it with knowledge- the knowledge of more than one language, the general knowledge of a tram driver who studied at least 17 subjects in secondary school and can recite poems, the talent of the actors, the insight of the musicians. Oh I’d fill it. But would you appreciate its contents?