Sofia – Ancient and Forever Young
Sofia is not only the capital, but also the heart of Bulgaria. The city is a cultural, educational, administrative and industrial center. Its motto rightly states: „Grows up, but never gets old”. The city is surrounded by enchanting mountains – Stara Planina to the North, Vitosha to the South, Lozenska to the Southeast and Lyulin to the Southwest. Sofia has a 7000-year long history. The ancient
Thracian city of Serdika is established on the site of a Neolithic village in the 8th century BC. The reason for populating these lands are the hot mineral springs that even today are still abundant in the capital’s central part. Under the Roman Empire, the city was the center of the Roman province of Lower Dacia. Towers, fortified walls, administrative and religious buildings were erected. Emperor Constantine the Great called the city „My Rome”. Khan Krum added Sofia to his kingdom’s territory in 809. At this time the city had the Slavic name of Sredets, which means „middle part, center”. Later, in the Middle Ages, it was named „Sofia” after the St. Sofia Temple that exists to this day in the most central part of the city. A number of new churches were built, the Boyana Church being among the most famous and impressive, as well as beautiful administrative buildings.
The documents of the Ottoman conquerors describe the city as fascinating. Sofia turned out to be an important crossroad on the Balkan Peninsula and gained the status of a crafts and trade center. Today, Sofia is abundant with business and trade centers, dynamic night life and cultural landmarks. A
lot of spare time is needed to visit these landmarks and it certainly cannot be done in one go. There are numerous museums, including the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of History, the Earth and Man Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, and many others, as well as galleries and theaters.
The St. Alexander Nevsky Temple Monument is among the symbols of the city. It is a spectacular building; its belfry is 50.52 m high and in clear weather you can see the gold-plated domes kilometers before you enter the city. Right next to the temple is the oldest St. Sofia Church that the capital
was named after. The square around the temple is also interesting, hosting the Unknown Soldier Monument with its eternal fire, and the open market of antiques. Nearby are the Russian St. Nikolay Church, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and the Parliament. It is also interesting to visit the St. Cyril and Methodius National Library, as well as the St. Kliment Ohridski Sofia University, the first Bulgarian institution of higher education.
A Roman rotunda transformed into the St. George Church is situated in the inner yard of the Presidency. A favorite place of local citizens and a key meeting point is the National Palace of Culture (NPC). The building has 16 halls, the biggest containing 5000 seats. It is a multi functional compound, a contemporary castle synthesizing modern architecture and plastic arts. The magnificent spaces are brought to life by more than 100 works of monumental painting, sculpture, woodcarving, tapestry and repoussage. NPC is a focal point of the capital’s cultural life, as well as the site of prestigious congress and conference activities, business and political events. Everyone can find something of interest here. In NPC, you can meet great entertainers, as well as prominent congressmen, politicians and businessmen. The NPC halls keep the memory of the performances of world-famous personalities, such as Jose Carreras, Andrea Bocelli, Montserrat Caballe, Nigel Kennedy and Emir Kusturica.