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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sesf6raKKJU)

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!

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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.
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Already in Hipodruma, where I spotted this cat chilling underneath thе first floor balcony.
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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.
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The sidewalks are also not in perfect state, but that’s not too important given that one can anyway not use them for walking.
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Some cars appear to have been parked several decades ago in the supposedly green area between the blocks.
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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.
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Some construction materials were lying around beside that block, pretty much on the street.
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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.
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A typical block entrance. 
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One of the taller and more monstrous blocks, with an old sign for long-gone “Night pharmacy”. 
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This building seems in a slightly better shape, and the bonus of the table tennis option in front…
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…at a closer look the table doesn’t seem so much fit for its purpose though.
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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.
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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.
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A vertical cross-section of another building of the same type.
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I know the neighborhood quite well, but I have to admit that I was quite amazed by this tractor.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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”. 
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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.
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Another less familiar sight, a burnt car just casually kept on the side of the street.
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And another monstrous block, the scale being clear by the elderly passer-by in front.
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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!

 

Cyberpunk in Japan

Venue: Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 & Samsung S10 camera

Music: Suzuki Tsuneyoshi – Omoide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4nT5-ouBEA)

Surely anyone that ever visited Japan felt at times a little bit like being in a futuristic cyberpunk novel or in movie like Blade Runner. Without specifically trying to take photos of this kind, I realized I do have plenty of shots from my last year’s visit that match very well the cyberpunk theme. So I decided to show them separately in a dedicated post, hopefully making happy the Blade Runner fans out there. Enjoy! And do check out on google for some way more impressive cyberpunk shots of Japan from more professional photographers that took their time and waited specifically for the perfect conditions like rain and fog and interesting passers by.

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We start at the Japanese nerd Mecca – the Akihabara neighborhood in Tokyo. It’s full of video game shops, anime libraries, geeky maid cafes and all sorts of other flashy and weird places…
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I forgot to also mention the numerous buildings packed with pachinko and other slot games making an indescribable constant electronic noise.
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And still in Akihabara and the diversity of options of where to play every video game ever created.
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Moving to a very different disctrict of Tokyo – the Golden Gai in Shinjuku. It is crammed with tiny bars, really all sorts of bars you can imagine, with various designs, themes and visitors. The only thing all the bars here have in common is that they are all really tiny, usually only big enough to fit at most 10-15 people at a time.
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And again jumping to the other side of Tokyo to Asakusa and its atmospheric little streets with small restaurants and the huge tower of Tokyo Skytree looming in the background.
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Still in Asakusa, even though less of a cyberpunk themed photo. I decided giving you a little taste of traditional Japan as well.
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One of the many famously big crossings of Tokyo. This one is in the Ueno district I believe, close to where the top photo was taken as well.
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A backstreet view in a less busy area of Tokyo, somewhere in between Ueno and Asakusa.
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And another view to Tokyo Skytree and the moon right above it.
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Changing the city to Kyoto (don’t worry, all the temples are coming in a different post soon!) and changing the postprocessing of the photos to increase the contrast. This is a tiny street packed with restaurants and bars in the historical centre of Kyoto in the Gion district.
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A fancy looking bar in Gion. Not much info or other hints left for the gaijins (i.e. foreigners) except it’s a bar.
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And one last shot of Kyoto’s central streets at night, with some seemingly important people frequenting the bars on this particular street.

Happy New Year from Petra & Wadi Rum

Venue: Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 & Samsung S10 camera

Music: Traditional Bedouin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMxIiNrwNzY)

Happy New Year everyone! I wish a very happy and healthy 2020 to all people reading me here. Today I’ll describe and show you my last two days of 2019, which I spent on a trip to Jordan (more posts from this beautiful country to follow soon). As it happens, these two days we visited the two most famous and touristy parts of Jordan: Petra and the Wadi Rum desert. So I can hardly surprise anyone on the internet with the revelation that both places are really beautiful. But I still hope you enjoy the photo-tour below, and otherwise you’re as always welcome to complain in your comments!

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We start in the little canyon or more precisely gorge formed by an earthquake long time ago, known as “Al Siq”. This is the main entrance to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra.
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Walking in the gorge is actually very beautiful and enjoyable, but some people prefer being transported by a horse carriage, and other prefer running in front of the horses instead.
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And this is the main “wow” moment when you arrive at the end of the Siq after half an hour of wondering around and you see “the Treasury”, one of the main temples and probably the emblem of Petra, carved out in the rock.
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A shot of the Treasury without any tourists…not an easy feat, I tell you.
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There is actually a wider open space once you exit the canyon, so people (us included) spend quite some time in taking photos from various angles. At the end of the day I have to admit my photos can’t compare with the best ones in the tourist guides though.
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The treasury is just the beginning of all the rock temples and tombs, so many Bedouin people living in the area offer you donkey rides. We managed to make it by feet though, as fortunately it wasn’t too hot. 
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After a bit of a climb we visited the tombs and encountered this guard speaking on the phone and sitting in a perfect place to be made part of the photo.
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A short break for pomegranate juice…
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..and back on the main road among camels and donkeys taking you around the ruins in style.
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This is the view from the path to the last big temple in Petra, called the Monastery… it was quite a hike, but full of spectacular views.
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And here is the Monastery, slightly bigger than the Treasury but a bit less elaborate in its details.
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And here we are one day later, already at the heart of the Wadi Rum desert. Our plan was to spend the night (i.e. New Years’ Eve) in one of the many Bedouin desert camps and naturally arrived earlier to explore the desert also during the day.
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There was also the option of surfing along the dunes, but we opted for walking around and taking photos.
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The Wadi Rum is probably not a typical desert as it has plenty of rocks and distinctive features apart from the omnipresent reddish sand. This gives it a peculiar otherworldly feel, which probably also triggered the directors of Star Wars to choose it as a setting for some of the scenes in several of the sequels in the famous movie saga.
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The sun slowly setting in the desert, a few camels and their riders going back to their camps.
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As the night was setting in, the desert got way colder but also way more beautiful in my opinion.
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During the proper night the sky was just astonishingly clear and we could see the stars in the Milky Way better than ever. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought my tripod with me and was completely unable to capture the true beauty of the desert at night. On the plus side, I had all the night to stare at the stars and enjoy New Year’s Eve with my family and friends without the distraction of technology. So, altogether not a very bad way at all of starting 2020 I’d say!

The photo on top is the first thing we saw in the morning of 1 January, a herd of camels waiting for the tourists to wake up and hop on. It’s not always easy to start the New Year in such a unique way, but I hope everyone here found their own perfect start of the decade!

On the Indian road

Venue: Tamil Nadu & Kerala, South India

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Стефан Вълдобрев / Stefan Valdobrev – По-полека / Take it easy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlTR052uku0)

The time to share more photos from my two-week trip to Sri Lanka and India has come. I figured the best way to introduce you to the mood is to start with some photos from the road in South India, taken mostly from inside the car and mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu where the Indian part of our trip was centered. Much of everyday life in India is in fact centered around the main road, so you can see an amazing and colorful variety of people, animals and goods passing around you (or just standing still when stuck in traffic). While traveling through India we were often listening to that one Bulgarian song I tagged (thanks to our driver Mubarak who found it online and blasted it through the sound system). So now you can really imagine the full experience and mood, which was truly beautiful and unforgettable for me.

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On the way up to the hill town of Kodaikanal we met this monkey family enjoying a nice view to the valley downstairs.
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A street vendor of chapati (I think) on the way back to the valley.
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Stuck in traffic while passing through a bigger town.
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Three local women passing by on a motorbike.
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The typical busy Indian street with motorbikes, tuk-tuks, minivans, cars, and the occasional ox-powered cart.
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Passing through a less busy jungle area and the occasional colorful truck or bus.
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More locals on motorbikes around us.
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We stopped to explore a small food market we saw by the road.
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A smily vendor selling all kinds of green veggies, some of which I had never seen (the spiky cucumber-like ones next to the okra?).
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A wider view of the makeshift market.
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Back on the road and passing by some cosmetic stores.
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Another bigger town with heavy traffic and colorful people.
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Getting in Kerala and towards the industrial city of Kochi, one can slowly see more fancy looking signs in English creeping up.
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A local family going shopping.
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On a small side street of Kochi, our last destination. The old man was very careful not to get any dirt on his robe.

 

The People of Sri Lanka

Today is Sri Lanka’s day of mourning for the loss of more than 300 lives in a series of terror attacks in Catholic churches and hotels in the capital Colombo and around the country. I’m not good in writing emotional words and have no power to change things or comfort the suffering, but I would like to send a message of love and offer my condolences and support to the people of Sri Lanka with a series of photos. I had the fortune of visiting this beautiful country several months ago and in the very short period of my travels met so many friendly and welcoming people, some of whom I managed to capture with my camera. The first photo you see above was taken in St. Anthony’s shrine in Colombo at the Sunday morning mass, and I’m sure the church was even more crowded with innocent people two days ago when a bomb went off. I did not personally know any of the victims, but it is clear that they were very ordinary people like you and me and like all the smiley,  expressive and honest faces you’ll see below. So we can all take a minute to mourn their loss and contemplate on the responsibility we all have in such a globalized world where everyone and everything is interconnected.

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A woman in Sigiriya showing the traditional way of cleaning rice.
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A smiling cook at a roadside open kitchen selling roti and other small snacks.
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A peanut vendor on the street in Nuwara Eliya.
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A beautiful local family at the train stop in Nuwara Eliya. The kids were very shy but asked me to take a picture of them.
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Our driver, local guide and good buddy, Susante, enjoying the Ella landscape.
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We lost our way around the tea plantations in Ella and this old woman and her shy granddaughter came with us through the forest to lead our way. At the end they also happily posed for this photo.
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Another woman living nearby sold us orange coconut juice…
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..while her kids were busy playing and posing for me.
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Two old fisherman in front of their colorful boat in the port of Mirissa, serving as a fish market in the early morning.
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Another old fisherman observing peacefully the hustle and bustle of the fish market.
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A man carving traditional masks for a small souvenir shop on the side of the main road.
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A caretaker in a turtle sanctuary, protecting hundreds of injured sea turtles and releasing them back in the wild after their recovery.
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A street vendor in central Colombo, who was very happy and eager to pose for a picture. He was selling flowers to the church goers right next to St. Anthony’s shrine.
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Morning in Colombo. An old man is taking an improvised shower before work with a bucket of water on the roof of his home.
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The first street vendors in Colombo on a Sunday morning shortly before our flight out of the country.

 

Around Puglia VII: Bari

Venue: Bari, Puglia

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Domenico Modugno – Piove (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJDHGwlWMdE)

The last stop on our Puglia trip was fittingly also it’s main city, Bari. Bari combines some of the main features of all the other places you saw, such as the relaxed atmosphere bringing you back in time, the historic baroque style and important religious sites, the blue Adriatic sea, and as always in Italy the amazing typical food. But on top of all that, Bari is actually a fairly big port and a major student city with very lively streets, bars and restaurants. So I hope you enjoy, and with this the Puglia photo-series is now officially over! So I’ll be soon off to showing you brand new places and people. But just out of curiosity first I’d be very interested if you leave comments with your opinion on the place you liked most in Puglia, in case you did like something of course.

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This is probably the most visited tourist site in Bari, the Basilica of Saint Nicholas that hosts the relics of the famous saint that many centuries later was turned into Santa Claus.
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A sunset lit and flower-covered balcony in the old town of Bari.
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Some of the houses in the old town with many tv-antennas on top.
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On the left you see a part of the big Norman castle that is another of the main landmarks in Bari…
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..but for me the beauty of Bari is in the small side streets and little places where people live, instead of the big old buildings like cathedrals and castles.
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The evening was slowly advancing and the smell of home-cooked food was starting to spread around the streets of the old town…
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..but these kids were clearly not yet ready for dinner and preferred chasing the ball for a while more.
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Others were already having a beer on the street chatting with the people passing by. It looked like everyone knows everyone else on the tiny streets of Bari’s old town and people were happy to talk with their neighbors, an atmosphere of times long gone in many other places.
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More balconies and church domes…
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and more tiny streets with people walking leisurely around.
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A small shop selling very photogenic vegetables that made us realize it’s almost time for dinner.
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But just before heading to our restaurant we had to stop by the sea and enjoy for a while the perfect evening light and all these small boats rocking around.

 

(Around Puglia VI:) Matera

Venue: Matera, Basilicata

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Now we are free (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9zxany7e10)

Our next stop after Alberobello was Matera, one of the main cities in the region of Basilicata where we decided to spend two nights. As already stated, Matera is not really in Puglia but is fairly nearby so that it makes sense to combine the trip. And it truly is worth the small detour as it is probably the most memorable and out-of-this-world place that I’ve visited in Italy. The history of Matera is really unique: it used to be an extremely poor place where people actually lived in cave-like houses called “sassi” up until the 50es of 20th century. The medieval conditions were considered inhumane even by the government of Italy so by a state law the people were actually moved out to completely new neighborhoods. So the old town with the sassi was deserted for a few decades before people starting realizing how unique the atmosphere is. Now it’s slowly being populated back and tourism is on the rise; in 2019 Matera became the European capital of culture together with Plovdiv (which you might have seen in https://kirilson.com/2018/06/03/southeast-bulgarian-road-trip-i-plovdiv/). Enough said – here are some photos showing you what Matera is really like.

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A restaurant in the sassi – I wasn’t joking when saying cave-like. Actually Matera is situated on the side of a limestone canyon and the houses are built on top and around natural caves.
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Unfortunately the bad weather stayed with us during our visit in Matera, but somehow this really fit well with the atmosphere of the place. Many of the old town houses are still deserted and the overall feeling is rather eerie and ghostly during low tourist season.
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The town itself is surrounded by the canyon so some of the views are really stunning.
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A panorama of the sassi, all built on top of each other. A perfect place to see what the medieval times looked like, I imagine. Many movie directors seem to agree with me as they often come to shoot here.
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Another shot at the same church on the rocks from two photos back.
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A panoramic view including the river Gravina below.
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Cannot imagine a more medieval sight than this.
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Even the churches in the historic centre of Matera were deserted at the time and now give off the same unique eerie feel as the rest of the town.
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A scary statue inside the church.
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A more richly decorated church that I presume is slightly more modern than the rest of the place.
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Of course Matera is in Italy so little colorful cobblestone cafes are abundant.
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Another panorama of the sassi and the surrounding canyon.
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Several of the houses are now serving as a museum with various stuff kept from the 50es.
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The most unique object in Matera is the colorful hen-whistle, the “cuccu“, which brings good luck and serves to keep the evil spirits away. After staying two nights in Matera I think we truly understood why people invented the cuccu.
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An evening panorama of the sassi.
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A similar shot to the one above; I just couldn’t decide which one is better.
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On the morning before departure: one last shot of the sassi together with Guinny , our little penguin.

 

Around Puglia V: Alberobello

Venue: Alberobello, Puglia

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Lightroom preset: Aged Photo

Music: The misty mountains cold (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEm0AjTbsac)

The next stop on our Puglia trip was the small but rather famous and touristy town of Alberobello. It is known for its unique architecture, the “trullo” houses or just “trulli”. As you can already see on the top photo the trulli are windowless, have a circular form with a pointy conical stone roof and look like fairy tale, dwarf or smurf buildings rather than places where usual people lived for centuries. I believe the history of how these houses came to be is that the people in the region were not eager to pay taxes for house-ownership and the trulli were enjoying a tax exemption since they had a temporary status, the original trulli could be disassembled within hours. So, Alberobello became the main gathering centre for all the tax-evaders and a few centuries later also became one of the main tourist destinations in Puglia because of its surreal look. Unfortunately the weather was quite bad during our stay so I apologize if the photos are not perfect, I tried to emphasize the trulli-effect by making them retro style. But no matter whether you like the shots or not, I guarantee you that staying in a trullo even for just one evening is well-worth the travel!

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Here is an example of a typical trullo roof on a small side street in the UNESCO heritage part of Alberobello.
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A panoramic view over the part of town with highest concentration of trulli.
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One of the main walking streets that now hosts various souvenir shops and cafes for tourists.
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The iconic Fiat 500 to remind us we are still in Italy and not in a cartoon.
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A typical side street in Alberobello. Some of the trulli are now restaurant and hotels, but many remain normal livable houses.
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A trullo winery.
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Even the church was a trullo-church with the typical conical roof.
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Later at night and back to the main street, where we found a great Osteria with delicious gnummareddi, the local Pugliese version of sausages.
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An evening shot from the main square, the town hall unfortunately does not have a trullo roof unlike most other buildings.
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Another rainy night shot of the main walking street before going to bed.
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The rain unfortunately persisted in the next day so after a short walk we headed to the train station to our next destination – any guesses about it?

 

101st post special: around Bulgaria

Venue: Sofia, Plovdiv, Silistra, Sozopol, Pomorie, Veliko Tarnovo, Kaliakra, Bansko, Rila and surroundings

Music: Emil Dimitrov – My land / Емил Димитров – Моя страна (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8sF15vGcZM)

I devoted my anniversary 100th post to my best photos of people and art, but I thought it’s only fair to have another collective post about my travels around Bulgaria. After more than a decade of living abroad, I moved back to my home country a little more than 3 years ago and many of my blog posts document my quest of rediscovering Bulgaria. Inadvertently many of these photos are associated with some of my best experiences from my life back home, but I also tried to compile a collection showing the objective beauty and diversity of the place. Enjoy!

 

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I start my retrospection with a shot from the Starosel area from the fall of 2015, even before I got my current camera – https://kirilson.com/2016/08/21/welcome-home/.
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And this is one my first shots with my current camera, from a winter trip to Plovdiv – https://kirilson.com/2016/03/31/a-winter-day-in-plovdiv/.
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A more recent shot of Plovdiv and the typical architecture of its old town – https://kirilson.com/2018/06/03/southeast-bulgarian-road-trip-i-plovdiv/.
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Moving further east on the Bulgarian map to a small gallery in the old town of Sozopol by the Black sea coast – https://kirilson.com/2018/07/28/southeast-bulgarian-road-trip-ii-shades-of-blue/.
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Staying on the coast but moving a bit to the north at the port of Pomorie and its small fishing boats – https://kirilson.com/2016/08/25/burgas-and-the-black-sea/. To this day this is the most visited post in my blog.
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Moving further north and inside the country to Veliko Tarnovo and the inside of a historic 19th century house – https://kirilson.com/2016/08/17/veliko-tarnovo-and-around/.
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Reaching one of the northern-most points at the terrace of a tiny fish restaurant in Silistra on the coast of the Danube river – https://kirilson.com/2017/08/26/northeast-bulgarian-road-trip-i-along-the-danube/.
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Staying up north to the cliffs on the northern seaside next to cape Kaliakra – https://kirilson.com/2017/09/04/northeast-bulgarian-road-trip-ii-the-black-sea-coast/.
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Time to go back to my home city of Sofia and its more gloomy weather – https://kirilson.com/2016/11/29/happy-first-snow/.
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Climbing Vitosha mountain right next to Sofia – https://kirilson.com/2016/09/16/still-life-without-woodpecker/.
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Back to the city and its most iconic building, the Alexander Nevski cathedral mirrored in a puddle of water in fall – https://kirilson.com/2016/10/09/puddle-spotting/.
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A long exposure shot of the backside of the cathedral at night – https://kirilson.com/2016/07/16/summer-evenings-in-sofia/.
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On the road out of the city to the nearby town of Zemen – https://kirilson.com/2017/04/01/independence-weekend/.
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Further south in the Pirin mountain to the ski resort of Bansko and its typical taverns with gypsy bands – https://kirilson.com/2018/01/09/happy-new-year-from-bansko/.
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The deep frozen Pancharevo lake near Sofia – https://kirilson.com/2017/01/27/the-frozen-boat/.
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More winter charm at the Rila monastery up in the mountains – https://kirilson.com/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-from-rila/.
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And we finish our retrospective trip in a tiny attic room with a distorted view of central Sofia through an old dusty window – https://kirilson.com/2016/09/03/the-dusty-window/.

100th post special: People in art musea

Venue: Hamburg, Stockholm, Thessaloniki, Milano, New York city, Venice, Padova, Paris

Music: The Beatles – A day in the life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usNsCeOV4GM)

So after almost 3 years I finally made it to the 100th post on my blog, which I decided to be a special compilation with some of my favorite shots over the years under the common theme of people observing and interacting with art. If I ever get to showcase some of my photos in a gallery, I imagine it will be a selection similar to this one. So thanks a lot to everyone for following, liking and commenting on my photos! As you know the feedback process is really indispensable to the idea of blogging and I wouldn’t have made it without all this support. So, any further ideas for photo topics or compilations are very welcome, and I hope the next 100 posts are way better!

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This is probably my first memorable shot of people interacting with art at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg – https://kirilson.com/2016/12/04/more-kunst/.
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Another photo where the observer involuntarily mimics the photo of Picasso by Irving Penn, at the Met in NYC – https://kirilson.com/2017/09/25/us-art-the-met/.
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And yet another instance of strange resemblance between the visitor and the painting by Amedeo Midigliani in Guggenheim museum in New York – https://kirilson.com/2017/09/20/us-art-guggenheim/.
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This is not a museum, but the beautifully decorated Stockholm underground system. The passers by rushing on with their life involuntarily take part of this gigantic art piece – https://kirilson.com/2016/12/22/konst-in-and-under-stockholm/.
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Another case where the passer by unknowingly takes part of the art installation, the red cubes of Lary Bell at New York’s Whitney – https://kirilson.com/2018/04/07/us-art-whitney/.
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An art installation with mirrors infinitely reflecting the hearts and the people in the room, at the “Love” exhibition of Museo della Permanente in Milano – https://kirilson.com/2017/08/14/an-eclectic-art-tour-in-italy-love-mummies-and-cinema/.
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Crossing the Atlantic once more, the Starry Night of van Gogh at MoMA in NYC is literally hypnotizing some of the visitors – https://kirilson.com/2018/04/07/us-art-moma/.
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A visitor at the photo museum of Thessaloniki watching the portraits of migrants during the refugee crisis in Europe – https://kirilson.com/2017/04/22/thessaloniki-roadtrip/.
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Another visitor of the exhibit of Irving Penn at the Met, it’s never too late to be inspired – https://kirilson.com/2017/09/25/us-art-the-met/.
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Sometimes you’re just lucky to incidentally capture a rushing visitor that emphasizes the art behind, again at the Met – https://kirilson.com/2017/09/25/us-art-the-met/.
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And other times the real live people are the whole point of the art installation, here arranged by Edith Dekyndt for the Venice biennale – https://kirilson.com/2018/11/14/venice-biennale-i-arsenale/.
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But maybe the most fun is when the art is designed to feature random visitors such that the sights and sounds are constantly changing as in the project of Tomas Saraceno for Palais de Tokyo in Paris – https://kirilson.com/2019/01/03/palais-de-tokyo/.
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Not a museum, but some street art in the centre of Padova. Who wouldn’t take a photo, and a photo within the photo – https://kirilson.com/2018/11/27/italy-art-tour-ii-padova/.

Around Puglia IV: Martina Franca

Venue: Martina Franca, Puglia

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Giuseppe Verdi – Simon Boccanegra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIQEMt0HlOU)

Our next stop on the Puglia map was the small charming town of Martina Franca, probably the least known place from our trip. It’s probably most famous for the white wine of the same name and the annual summer opera festival and could be described as a mixture between our previous two destinations, Ostuni and Lecce. We arrived there after a 3-4 hour train ride through vast beautiful areas of olive tree plantations, and decided to stop for lunch and a 2-hour walk around town. It turned out we were lucky to get back to the train station and our next destination before the rain caught up with us. So here are a few photos with ominous clouds in the sky that hopefully give you a feel for Martina Franca.

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So, rather naturally, we start with an old church…
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..and continue with another old church, this time it’s the main cathedral of Martina Franca.
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This witch-doll was hanging above one of the main streets in the old town and surely meant something, but I really don’t know what. Any guesses?
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More old beautiful houses and little side streets, just like the one on the top photo.
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At some point we got hungry and found a beautiful trattoria with an old Fiat 500 parked in front. Doesn’t get much more Italian…
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After a great lunch we decided to continue exploring the side streets for a better digestion.
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We got lost in a couple of dead end streets, but didn’t really mind it too much.
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Back at the main square close to the cathedral…
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..where someone, very photogenically, had left their bike on the tiny balcony.

 

Around Puglia III: Lecce

Venue: Lecce, Salento

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Bruno Petrarchi – La luna mmenzu mmare (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd4SfaQiaxA)

Next stop after Ostuni was baroque Lecce, “the Florence of the South” and one of the main cultural centres in Puglia, where we spent one night. It is the main city of the Salento region, the southernmost part of Puglia where the Italian language I learnt in the north is particularly useless. Unfortunately it started raining a lot in the evening, so most of the photos below are from a very short stroll on the morning. And I think Lecce’s architecture and atmosphere can be properly felt only in the evening… but oh well, hope you still enjoy the photos! And stay tuned for more places in Puglia. Anyone wants to guess what was the next stop after Lecce?

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There were some problems with the original house we booked in Airbnb so they moved us to a place overlooking the main square of Lecce. Not bad, eh? The statue on top of the column is that of Saint Oronzo, the patron saint of the city. In fact most of the places we visited in Puglia had a column of their main saint and it seems to be a typically southern Italian tradition.
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And this is the other main square – Piazza del Duomo – with the main cathedral and the ominous looking clouds above.
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One last shot of the baroque architecture in the evening before the rain started..
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…and a fast peek in one of the main churches before dinner time.
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In the morning weather had changed completely and we enjoyed our café and cornetto with pistachio filling outside.
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There was a bit of time left to enjoy the smaller streets in the city centre..
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..and to discover some beautiful little squares and local shops.
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And of course at every possible corner in the centre of Lecce there is a church.
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One last view to the main cathedral before we had to hurry for the train to our next destination. This last photo is actually the same with the photo on top, and yet quite different, no?

 

Around Puglia II: Ostuni

Venue: Ostuni, Puglia

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Adriano Celentano – Azzuro (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jaspkf1BeI

The next stop on our Puglia trip was Ostuni, where we arrived with the train from Polignano. Ostuni is another small touristy town with an charming old centre, a little bit further away from the sea. It reminded me a little bit of a Greek town for its white houses with blue or green doors, and the vast fields of olive trees around it. And of course this is hardly a coincidence given Puglia’s history as part of Ancient Greece before the Roman empire settled in, long long time ago.

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Ostuni is situated on a hill and the streets in the old town are tiny and winding in random directions, but it is a real pleasure to get lost in there and take your time to wander around.
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The old houses and their arches are almost as complicated to follow as the streets, and equally charming.
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More beautiful old houses and more clean blue sky and warm weather.
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Sometimes the streets end with stairs, so they really are not meant for cars…which is even better as far as I’m concerned.
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Osteria of the lost time – our lunch choice with some amazing cheese, pasta and wine options.
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After lunch we had more time to roam around the streets, but I wouldn’t mind having a Vespa myself.
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More of the charming doors.
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The same door from a different angle, and some laundry drying out, as everywhere in Italy.
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Of course there are also plenty of charming artsy shops and cafes…
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… and plenty of old churches and cathedrals too.
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Another campanile, or bell tower, before it was time for us to head to the train station. Care to guess the next stop?

 

Around Puglia I: Polignano a Mare

Venue: Polignano a Mare, Puglia

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Domenico Modugno – Nel blu dipinto di blu (Volare)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-DVi0ugelc)

I know I have already made various posts with photos from Italy, but I have to warn you there’s a lot more to come! In particular this is the first post from a long series about Puglia, the southeastern-most province of Italy, or better known as the heel of the booth. Last spring I was on a week-long trip in Puglia (with a short “jump” to the neighboring region of Basilicata to see Matera) and each day we visited a different town that you’ll be able to see in a different post. Going chronologically I start with Polignano a Mare, a little town near Bari where we spent the first day of the trip. Apart from being a popular summer sea resort, Polignano is best known as the birth place of Domenico Modugno (famous for his beautiful song “Volare”).

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This is the tiny photogenic beach in the cliffs, on which Polignano is built.
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And yes, I very literally meant that the town in built on top of the cliffs.
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A cosy restaurant in the old cobblestone centre of town. Even if off-season, one could see that the town is very touristy and is full with romantic restaurants and cute guesthouses (e.g. the decorations on the top photo).
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The other thing you notice in Polignano are references to Modugno all over the place. I certainly understand and share the sentiment.
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The tiny beach from the opposite viewpoint…and some more shades of blue (the name of the song “Nel blu dipinto di blu” means “In the blue painted in blue” and is inspired by a Marc Chagall painting).
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And this is the statue of Modugno himself, ready to fly off (the other name of the song, “Volare”, means “Flying”).
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On the next morning we had a bit more time to roam around town and find cute ornaments on the walls…
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..and even some older art pieces.
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A last photo of a small side street with old houses and many flowers. Stay tuned for more of these little streets in other towns around Puglia.

 

Happy New Year from Rila

Venue: Rila monastery and around

Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4

Music: Stefka Sabotinova / Стефка Съботинова – The mountain has overturned / Притури са планината (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ9BkiDEsGw

Happy new year, my best wishes to everyone here for 2019!

Just like last year (https://kirilson.com/2018/01/09/happy-new-year-from-bansko/), I decided to give my new year’s wishes with a post from the Bulgarian mountains, Rila instead of Pirin this time. Recently I had the luck of catching the snow-covered Rila monastery and its surroundings just a few hours before the temperatures rose and the snow melted (of course in the comings 2-3 months there will be a lot more snow to come but I might not be traveling there again this year). So, enjoy the snow and stay tuned as I promise you a lot more from me in 2019!

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Our phototour starts around noon in the forest around 10 min walk away from the Rila monastery, where the hotel I was staying at is situated.
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It was a beautiful cold day, with the sun slowly rising above the hills. This is in the foot of Rila mountain at an elevation around 1200 metres (the mountain itself rises as high as 3 km).
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It was a perfectly clear sky, but the sun started melting the snow on the trees so it effectively started snowing…
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..and this helped a lot for capturing some nice shots.
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This is the semi-frozen Rila river.
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The view from the pathway to the monastery, you see how the beech forest turns into a pine forest at higher elevation.
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The snowy path and a small traditional style restaurant and guesthouse on the side of the monastery.
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The view towards the church (right) and the medieval fortress (left; in the past there were many occasions when the monks also had to defend themselves) inside the Rila monastery.
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Another look at the church from far away…
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..and a closer look before entering the church (no photos allowed inside).
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A wider view to the monastery complex. This is the biggest Eastern orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, founded by the popular Bulgarian saint, the hermit Ivan of Rila, who lived in the 9th and 10th century AD.
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The Rila monastery is considered Bulgaria’s most important cultural heritage institution that kept the old cultural and religious traditions of the Bulgarians during the five centuries of Ottoman rule (yes, that’s 500 years). During all that time, Islam was the main state religion and Christianity was only strongly kept in the very isolated mountain areas such as the Rila mountains.
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The post office inside the Rila monastery, bearing a distinctive end of 19th-beginning of 20th century look. And the end of the phototour, wishing you again a great start of the new year.

 

Italy art tour III: Venezia

Venue: Venezia

Lens: Sigma 35 mm f/1.4

Music: Plastic Made Sofa – Lizards on a wire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu7_C79P900)

The last city on the way to the Venice biennale was, unsurprisingly, Venice itself. As one of the world’s top destinations there’s hardly anything left untold and unseen from Venice. The statement that every street and little piazza is an art tour in itself is true here even more than anywhere else in Italy. Unfortunately the number of tourists is slowly destroying the city itself, but the beautiful façade remains together with small pockets of normal life in the more remote areas. Here I present you a random collection of photos that are not representative of almost anything of the above said, but are hopefully enjoyable to look at.

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A nice piece of street art on a small side street, I’d say the 4-eyed woman is Venezia itself.
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The contrasts are everywhere around Venice, with the big yachts of rich people parked near other people’s underwear drying above the street.
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More of the typical small side streets with less tourists and more laundry.
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The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) and the gondolieri driving tourists up and down the canal.
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A small snack break with the famous Venetian cicchetti, the local version of tapas.
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More canals and bridges, everywhere around you.
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Early dinner for some people in a more remote area of Venice where tourists and restaurants are (only) slightly more rare.
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A restaurant waiter walking up another tiny “vicolo”, or alley.
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Another day, another canal and another bridge (from which the photo is taken). Not a bad way to finish the Italy art tour series, right?

Italy art tour II: Padova

Venue: Padova

Lens: Sigma 35 mm f/1.4

Music: Plastic Made Sofa – Midnight in Remada (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqty6-YCxRE)

The next stop on my way to the biennale was Padova (20-30km southwest of Venice), another medieval pretty town hosting a very big and old university (the second oldest in Italy after Bologna and overall fifth in the world according to Wikipedia). It is also less crowded and touristy than Venice, making it a good and somewhat cheaper option to stay if you want to visit the Venice biennale. Padova itself has a lot to offer, as I’ll try to convince you with the photos below.

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Starting with two nice examples of modern street art in Padova…
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..and moving to the examples of medieval art and architecture.
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This is the same small artificial canal, part of the big Prato della Valle square. There are 78 statues of important people for the city in the renaissance times.
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The fountain right in the centre of the same square.
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The basilica of San Antonio is nearby. It’s a major pilgrimage site during the day and a quiet nice place to walk by at night.
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Moving to another old church, that is now a major tourist attraction. The Cappella degli Scrovegni painted by Giotto and his team and rivalling the more famous Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo in Rome.
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A close-up of my favorite part of the chapel, depicting the Last Judgement.
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From religion to medicine. This is a view from the bottom of the famous Anatomical Theatre in the University of Padova. It was one of the first places in the world where students were thought dissection, and is truly magnificent. The visitors are not allowed to enter the hall and take photos (I illegally took this shot), but I urge anyone interested to check more photos online.
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We end the virtual trip of Padova with a photo of the gorgeous ceiling of the Palazzo della Ragione, the medieval town hall situated in the very centre of the city and surrounded by numerous cafes, shops, and markets.