Shaken, not stirred: Boulevard Dondukov in Sofia to be renovated

Written by on May 28, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Shaken, not stirred: Boulevard Dondukov in Sofia to be renovated

How do Bulgarians rock their babies to sleep? By taking them for a ride on Boulevard Dondukov. How do Bulgarians shake their Margarita? They hold the glass while driving along Boulevard Dondukov. How do Bulgarians want to fake their Moon landing? By filming Boulevard Dondukov with all its craters.

All of the above probably doesn’t only apply to Bulgarians, but to all inhabitants of Sofia, including expatriates. Dondukov jokes just sound better that way. Soon, the city might stop being ironic about the boulevard, since it will change.

It is one of the more important streets in Sofia and connects the area around the train tracks, parallel to Boulevard Danail Nikolaev, with the very city center, around TSUM and the former Hotel Sheraton. Also, it houses the Council of Ministers, the Presidency as well as the National Opera. Boulevard Knyaz Aleksandar Dondukov, this is its full name, was named after the Russian general of the same name.

Boulevard Dondukov before its overdue renovation. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

It was supposedly a muddy street before the liberation of Bulgaria. In 1901, one of the first tram lines was constructed here. And after World War II, it changed from a market street to a real shopping street.

So, “Dondukov”, as Sofia inhabitants call the boulevard, is important. At the same time, tens of thousands of passengers in thousands of cars and trams are being “shaken, not stirred” every single day, since it is in a terrible state. The cobblestone surface is more than uneven and has countless potholes. The foundation of the tram tracks in the middle of the boulevard has been falling apart for years and damages all trams which pass it.

Something has to happen on Boulevard Dondukov. This applied 15 year ago, and it does today. Now, Sofia Municipality is finally taking action. Construction is already going on on Dondukov’s Eastern half, between the boulevards Nikolaev and Levski. The other half, closer to the city center, was supposed to follow starting on June 1st.

Smooth rides along Dondukov are impossible, even in a Cadillac. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Days before a complete refurbishment of Boulevard Dondukov was scheduled, the city of Sofia was still discussing the details. Many inhabitants wanted Dondukov to remain a cobblestone street, while the municipality favoured an asphalt surface. Evgeni Krusev, the Deputy Mayor of Transportation, said he wanted to increase the comfort, while looking into other aspects too.

Now it might be both: The tram tracks could be fitted with cobblestone, while the rest of the boulevard might be paved using asphalt. The inhabitants fear the speed of the traffic might increase without the cobblestone. They demanded measures to make sure this does not happen.

At the same time, the look and spirit of Sofia might suffer, in case Dondukov becomes an asphalt street. That is what some Sofia inhabitants are concerned about. And rightly so. The big discussion also covered the bike lane question. The municipality seems to want to include only one, on one side of the boulevard, for several practical reasons.

The Ministry of Culture is about to take decisions about details, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova announced in a TV interview on Sunday.

Anyway: Boulevard Dondukov will change. And soon. Nobody will come up with Dondukov jokes anymore.

The question where trams no. 20, 22 and 23 will go during the scheduled road works, has not been answered yet. During the renovation, more traffic jams in this part of Sofia are a foregone conclusion.

 

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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