Time travel in Sofia: Who needs hot water and electricity?

Written by on April 20, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Time travel in Sofia: Who needs hot water and electricity?

In 2002, an international family of three, consisting of a Bulgarian mother, a German father and a daughter with both nationalities, moved to Sofia from the U.S.. Back then, absolutely nothing worked reliably in the Bulgarian capital. At one moment, the electricity, invented 200 years earlier by Hans Christian Ørsted and André-Marie Ampère, would give up. Then there would be a water outage. It happened about 32 times per day. Often there would neither be water, nor electricity.

When their little daughter needed her next vaccination in late 2002, they went to a so-called clinic. The doctor was wearing a thick coat, and shivering, since the heating did not work, along with the hot water supply. There was no light either, since the electricity for the clinic and the entire quarter had been turned off.

That is not the time Sofia will go back to, this spring and summer. Half the city will actually go back much further into the past, when the only hot water available came from natural springs. Or it had to be heated above the fire. Regarding the availability of hot water, Sofia will be part of the Third World for a while. Again.

That is because Toplofikatsia, the heating company in Sofia, suddenly came up with the good idea to repair its rotten infrastructure, mostly by digging into the ground. The recent harsh winter did damage. So did decades without refurbishment, in many areas. That is what the hot water company wants to catch up on, with the City Council’s approval. Many kilometers of pipes need to be replaced, huge heating devices will be repaired. In February, one important heating hub exploded and needs to be fixed as well. The company says, the exact schedules for these repairs will be published “after the necessary coordination procedures”. Whoever has lived in Bulgaria long enough knows what to expect.

What all of this means, for about half the inhabitants of Sofia, is cold showers. They will also wash their dishes with cold water. The warm water outages are scheduled from May 3 to May 14, as well as from August 1 to August 11, 2017. The affected neighbourhoods are Druzhba 1, Druzhba 2, Gara Iskar, Mladost 1, 1A, 2, 3 and 4, Bug, Musagenitsa, Vitosha, Student Town, East, Iztok, Lozenets, Geo Milev, Yavorov, Poduene, Reduta (even though large parts of Reduta luckily do not use Toplofikatsia’s services), Slatina, Poligona and others.

Your quarter or street has not been mentioned? Don’t start dancing yet, since from June 7 to June 16, there won’t be hot water in many parts of Sofia’s city center. This includes Danail Nikolaev Street, Boulevard Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev, Boulevard Fridtjof Nansen, Boulevard Patriarch Evtimiy, Boulevard Prague, Boulevard Pencho Slaveykov, Boulevard General Totleben, several streets near the Russian Monument, the zones  B – 5 -17, B, B-18, B-19, Opalchenska Street, Boulevard Maria Louisa, Pirotska Street, Dimitar Petkov Street, Stochna Gara and the Banishora quarter.

Sofia has 996 kilometers of hot water pipes. Only 150 kilometers are modern, the rest will have to be replaced. A grant from an international fund will now lead to the replacement of some 100 kilometers of pipes.

Readers who do read and understand Bulgarian, can follow Toplofikatsia’s announcements at www.toplo.bg. Those daily reports on hot water outages are more suspenseful than Agatha Christie.

Oh, that situation in that so-called clinic in 2002? It seems to be the same today, at least at the “30th Diagnostic and Advisory Center”. At this hospital, electricity outages are so frequent, the management decided to shut down the elevators and the electrical part of the heating system, in order to make sure the constant on and off does not do damage. Also they turned off all lights, according to Bulgarian National Television. The TV station quoted Dr. Albena Zyapkov: “I was very worried because my office had an emergency with a heart attack. I had to hospitalize him. Then the electricity returned and I was able to do my job. But all of us here are worried.”

But the reason for the frequent electricity outages at that hospital is actually not the infrastructure, but rather 50,000 Leva in unpaid electricity bills. The patients have to carry the can for it.

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com