Hiding from the Rain

[Sofia, Bulgaria, May 15-16, 2019]

The weather, which had been getting worse even since I got here, deteriorated even further the next day. It’s a good thing B and I already saw some of the major sights in the city. For this second day in Sofia, I decided to focus more on museums to avoid the rain in the forecast. Temperatures were also cooler, so I had to borrow a thicker jacket from my mom. This is not something I can usually rely on, since she is short and tiny and I am tall and curvy, but this time I got lucky.

We headed for the Sofia City Art gallery, which was hosting a couple of cool exhibits. On the way, we visited a location I learned about in last year’s Sofia Graffiti Tour. I had posted a photo from this location on Instagram, and the guys running the tour let me know that there is a new character at this spot. Here’s your side-by-side comparison.

Sept 2018 vs May 2019

We had to stop for photos at the National Theater, which I’ve written lots about in previous blog posts since it’s my favorite building in Sofia. I always take a picture here.

We also passed by Chitalnyata, and old glass pavillion in the garden between the National Theater and the art gallery. It stood empty and abandoned for many years before being converted into a library/tourism info center. To use the library, you need to donate a book from their pre-approved list, after which you can borrow from their existing collection, which currently is around 1,000 books. There are also lots of brochures here, and this is exactly how I found out last year that Sofia has a Restaurant Week! It’s a great place to visit to learn about things to do in Sofia. These photos are from September – hence the blue sky in my reflection wearing something totally different in the picture on the left.

There is usually some sort of exhibit right outside. This time, it was Follow the Footsteps – an exhibit showcasing 27 Bulgarian folklore dances (called “horo” in Bulgarian). Their most distinctive feature, which makes each dance unique and sometimes difficult to learn, is the asymmetrical meter, which is built around various combinations of quick and slow beats. Most of the time, they are line dances, with the dancers holding hands in a straight or curved line, facing in toward the center of the dance space. If you’re curious, check out my favorite horo, Petrunino, on Youtube. The exhibit in front of Chitalnya showcased the foot patterns produced by each of the 27 dances.

There were three exhibits at the Sofia City Art Gallery. The first one was Portrait of a Friend, the fifth exhibition within the Other Eye Project launched by the Sofia City Art Gallery in 2010. Under the project, non-art historian outsiders are invited by the gallery as guest curators to conceive an exhibition based on artworks belonging to the gallery’s permanent collection. Portrait of a Friend is curated by Iglika Trifonova, filmmaker and screenwriter. It features more than 100 portraits in various genres such as painting, sculpture, and photography, and span the close of the nineteenth century through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Iglika Trifonova picked works that leave the museum’s storage rooms for the first time. “I picked out the portraits based on their effect, and the power of their presence. I have spoken to cinematographers I have worked with, as well as to actors and viewers about this presence so many times,” she says.

The second exhibition was Vivian Maier – In Her Own Hands. Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was an American street photographer оf Austro-Hungarian origin. She worked as a children’s nanny in New York and then Chicago from the early 1950s to the 1990s. She took over 120,000 photos during her life, but developed very few of them. Her collection was discovered by accident in Chicago in 2007. “Interesting bits of Americana, the demolition of historic landmarks for new development, the unseen lives of various groups of people and the destitute, as well as some of Chicago’s most cherished sites were all meticulously catalogued by Vivian Maier,” the official website reads. She is seen in many of the photographs, mostly in the reflection of a mirror or a store front. It was a fascinating exhibit, greatly enhanced by the 40-minute movie that featured interviews by the children she nannied, neighbors and family members in Europe, as well as the person who discovered her collection.

It was early afternoon by the time we were done, and it was definitely looking like it would rain. We hung out with my eldest niece, then met up with another friend of mine from middle school. The next day, we had a few hours free in the morning before our flight to Greece, so I took B on the metro. All in all, it was a great visit despite the wonky weather, but now we are ready to explore Greece and Turkey!

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