An ugly side of Sofia

Venue: Hipodruma, Sofia

Lens: Sigma 35 mm f/1.4

Music: Vasko the Patch / Васко Кръпката – The suburban dog / Кучето на крайния квартал (

With the climate warming becoming more and more prominent, this winter in Bulgaria has been too warm and dry for any snow to stay with us. As a direct consequence, Sofia is rather dark and gloomy instead of full of snow and joy for the kids (the adults are usually less joyful due to the chaotic traffic). In any case I thought it’s actually a perfect setting for an ugly photo tour in the less celebrated parts of the city. Even though you can easily find many nice parks and buildings in Sofia, there are also some really horrific districts that came to existence from the combination of typical communist architecture in the past and the capitalist present where authorities predominantly take care of only certain more classy parts of town together with the real ghettos of the minorities. The following set of photos is actually from a very normal neighborhood (i.e. there are waay worse places), called Hipodruma, very close to the city centre. It’s clear the people living there are not particularly rich, but they are still mostly middle class citizens. So, after this cautious and hopefully educational introduction, it’s time for you to enjoy this Sunday afternoon walk around the neighborhood!

We actually start from my neighborhood, on the other side a big boulevard from Hipodruma. In general it looks pretty decent, but there are also a few of the huge commust-style blocks of flats, and this is the concrete “backyard” between them.
Already in Hipodruma, where I spotted this cat chilling underneath thе first floor balcony.
A typical view from the “green spaces” around the blocks. Notice that most owners painted (or just left to the weather) the outside of their own apartments in a random fashion. I didn’t spot any building that actually got together and decided to have a common theme or color for the building.
The sidewalks are also not in perfect state, but that’s not too important given that one can anyway not use them for walking.
Some cars appear to have been parked several decades ago in the supposedly green area between the blocks.
And another antique from the communist past, parked on the sidewalk. This is a Soviet made Lada, this model made around 1985 I think. Artistically painted as well, but that’s nothing compared to the amazing color combination of the building entrance behind.
Some construction materials were lying around beside that block, pretty much on the street.
And there used to be a swing for the children here. Not so many children are born in Bulgaria these days, so I guess there’s nobody to complain.
A typical block entrance. 
One of the taller and more monstrous blocks, with an old sign for long-gone “Night pharmacy”. 
This building seems in a slightly better shape, and the bonus of the table tennis option in front…
…at a closer look the table doesn’t seem so much fit for its purpose though.
The entrance to this block seems to have been cordoned off with police tape, or maybe the people decided to warn passers by of falling objects. I really couldn’t tell, but decided not to get any closer.
Some blocks come with garages downstairs, and some people apparently decided to put some color there. The balconies on top don’t look so joyful though.
A vertical cross-section of another building of the same type.
I know the neighborhood quite well, but I have to admit that I was quite amazed by this tractor.
Some people try to bring a bit of joy to their buildings with the help of plants and flowers, but this looks like an impossible task here.
And of course one can find hanging laundry outside of many buildings. Right in middle of winter at -3 degrees Celsius, this is probably a statement of how little space there is inside. The graffiti are in support of one of the main local football teams, Levski Sofia.
In the past there even used to be a cinema in this neighborhood, called Urvich. It closed around 25 years ago in the transition period to capitalism and democracy, but the sign and the empty entrance and halls are still there.
Most of the movie spectators in the cinema probably came from this monstrous building right next to it, a 20-something story block with a “coffee-cigarettes-alcohol” shop beneath it, claiming with the smaller letters that “men know why”. 
A little peak into this first floor apartment, with the anti-mosquito net on the right side of the window and the old-school curtains and light bulbs on the left.
Another less familiar sight, a burnt car just casually kept on the side of the street.
And another monstrous block, the scale being clear by the elderly passer-by in front.
And a last shot of the lower floors of this building before heading back home. I have to say everything looks way better in spring and summer when the trees are green and the sun is out. A positive note in a not so joyful post!


9 thoughts on “An ugly side of Sofia

  1. I’m glad you posted this. I’m also from former Communist bloc (Bratislava, Slovakia) and we have the same kind of architecture, though sometime in the 2000s the EU invested funds into the neighbourhoods and most of the blocks of flats look much nicer now, colourful. I like a bit of ugly place photography, though, especially in winter, it makes me think of dystopian fiction and in fact I did a series on my blog called Gloomscapes dedicated to images like these. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Doesn’t look much worse than many of our quote middle class suburbs around Los Angeles, though we usually have more sunshine. Would love to see photo’s of the real poverty stricken areas. thanks, Dr. Bob


  3. You succeeded in capturing the ugly side. It didn’t hurt that it’s winter where many places look even more depressed in some areas, but you did a good job capturing it’s lackluster. True, (in response to the comment regarding Los Angeles) such areas exist everywhere and no country is exempt from having scenes like this, unfortunately.


  4. Some places sadly just look a little more lived in than others. Without the graffiti this could be similar to places in the U.S. But as with other places, it doesn’t mean people don’t enjoy life and aren’t happy. Those who live in “nice” areas and have many shiny “things” aren’t always better off, they just look like they have more.



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