Who hasn’t “tried” the McDonald’s restaurant located at Slaveikov Square in Sofia? Who hasn’t looked through the old English, German and French books sold there? Who hasn’t turned away in disgust, after seeing the Bulgarian version of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, offered by several sales people at the book market? Who hasn’t looked for a biology or mathematics book, for their kids, at one of the stands? Who hasn’t read that sad story on the metal cover of the former fountain, of a gentleman, who got electrocuted and killed right there some years ago, because of a faulty electricity cable for underwater lamps, when he put a hand in the water?
Slaveikov Square is a popular meeting point in Sofia’s city centre and a location which has hardly changed in decades. Well, the Institut Français moved there sort of recently, a Carrefour supermarket came and left, so did Piccadilly and a computer store. A CD shop used to be at one of the corners, before the music industry changed forever. Now it is a book store. And the pet store with those cute puppies is around the corner.
The book market is where it was 15 years ago, when illegal software copies were sold here like crazy. It was probably there a lot earlier. And it is there today, at least for now.
But Slaveikov Square will change, probably rather soon. The municipality has big plans, and they do not sound so bad. According to those, the book market will be refurbished. It will shrink and it will work from Fridays to Sundays only, if city hall gets its will. The book sellers, on the other hand, are furious. They have signed a petition, in which they are demanding a salvation of the book market as it is today.
But this is about more than the book market. The municipality’s project includes Graf Ignatiev Street all the way from Tsar Shishman Street to Garibaldi Square. Most of the pedestrian zone will have new stone slabs and flower boxes, which do look good on computer-generated pictures. The curbs on “Grafa” will be removed.
The tram tracks, which are falling apart anyway, will be replaced too. According to the plans, they will be integrated into the stone slabs.
With all of this, the center of Sofia might lose some of its “eastern European charm” and exoticism, but it will look nice, in case the plans are being implemented the way they look like now.
So, what about all the trees, at Slaveikov Square, but also around the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church? Yesterday, Bulgarian language media had reported, the municipality wanted to fell many of them, but retracted this aspect today, since the city now wants to preserve as many trees as possible. At this stage, it even looks like the number of trees will increase.
In the most polluted capital in the European Union, trees are badly needed. Also they provide shade during the hot Sofia summers. So, the tender for the planned construction works was apparently amended, in order to preserve the old trees and add new ones. The number of trees in the area in question is 303 today. It will supposedly increase by more than 50 percent, to a total of 463 trees.
New benches around Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church are also part of the plan.
Once the municipality’s plans are implemented, Sofia will not have one, but two new pedestrian zones, since Boulevard Vitosha was converted recently. The very center will definitely look more modern.
Update to this article, April 6, 2017: Sofia’s Mayor Fandakova: Book stalls at Slaveikov Square will stay
Generated picture of the future Slaveikov Square by Mediapool. “Before and after” picture by bTV. Photo of “Mein Kampf” by Imanuel Marcus.