My neighbourhood is called Geo Milev who is a Bulgarian poet and publicist from the first half of the 20th century.
Situated right next to the biggest city park in Sofia: Knyaz Boris' Garden and only 3 km away from the city center, it is considered a quiet and secure area to live in.
Although the building boom from the last 10 years changed the area’s landscape to great extend and made it less friendly and cozy, turning many children’s playgrounds into constructions sites, the prices of the flats and the rents here are still among the highest in Sofia.
Now that the economic crisis has hit the real estate market there is hardly any new construction going on any more.
I live on a little street with the big name Alfred Nobel.
On my street one could find a school (my very first school), just a few feet away from it - the Chinese embassy (always amazed how a tiny street can house the embassy of such a huge state), and a lot of 4 or 5-floor floor buildings that are so typical for the area.
Usually most of the inhabitants of the housing blocks are proprietors of the flats and therefore they rarely ever move.
More than that, their children and their children’s children tend to buy flats in the same building and one can find the typical “family clans” that live there for generations.
Everybody knows everybody.
Two famous buildings in Geo Milev with a typical socialistic architecture and their destiny describe very good the changes that took place in the neighbourhood.
The first one is a movie theater with the symbolic name “East” (“Iztok”) where I would go every weekend as a kid with my friends to watch some movie with doubtful qualities.
Nevertheless this belongs to my dearest childhood memories.
After being closed for couple of years the movie theatre is now turned into a big supermarket with a fast food restaurant on its second floor.
The second building is the rather ugly 16-floor hotel “Pliska” named after the first capital of Bulgaria between 681 and 893 AD.
The hotel was built in 1969 and for a period of 20 years enjoyed a very good reputation accommodating passengers who were experiencing problems with their flights from the Bulgarian state airline “Balkan.”
After 1989 there have been hardly any tourists in the hotel and its façade has been used mostly to place huge advertisements of shopping malls on it.
As of October 2012 the hotel is officially closed down and the plan is to be turned into a business building.
I can’t help but see the irony of it all.
These socialistic “par excellence” buildings are now turned into capitalistic “par excellence” supermarkets, fast food restaurants, and business centers.
The times are changing and so does the urban landscape.
Another interesting aesthetic experience in my neighbourhood (and basically everywhere in Sofia) are the different coloured patches of thermal insulation on the housing blocks from the last 10 years.
Since the insulation is done privately and voluntarily and above all is expensive, not every proprietor is willing or able to invest in such a venture.
That is why very often one can see mosaics of green, pink, or orange patches on the buildings that a more generous observer might qualify as improvised modern urban art … or not.
Whatever you might call them this patches are undoubtedly living documents of our time.
Only my humble 5-floor building built in the 60s is a proud owner of 4 different shades of yellow.
Nevertheless I can say with certainty and from experience that the Geo Milev neighbourhood is a lovely place to live in.
I have spent all my life living on Alfred Nobel Street No5 and I wouldn’t change it for another place.
Just as a family member you learn to accept it and love it as it is. And it is home to me.