Bulgaria: Exploring Sofia’s museums
Sofia boasts an oddball mix of museums and galleries.
Probably not a lot of Cheapos would normally add the National Museum of Military History (92 Cherkovna str.) to their list of “must-see” sights in the Bulgarian capital. The Web site is not calculated to wow the casual surfer, but it does have some splendid promotional nonsense: “Everyone who has crossed the threshold of this museum enters the Bulgarian temple of immortality.”
So if you want immortality Bulgarian-style, you know where to head.
It’s hard to say that things are much better at the National Polytechnic Museum, which has as its mission “to collect everything created by our ancestors in the past because in them are contained the signs of knowledge.”
Grand stuff, but that’s another cultural treasure that we’ve somehow missed. Next time we are in Sofia with a month to spare, perhaps.
Museum of Socialist Art
But don’t give up entirely on Sofia’s museums, for tucked away around the city are a few gems. The one that has hit the headlines this fall, and for all the right reasons, is the new Museum of Socialist Art (7 Luchezar Stanchev). It opened in September 2011 and is already attracting very positive reviews in Bulgaria and beyond.
The museum displays about 150 pieces that for the last two decades have been hidden away in vaults and cellars. The country’s transition to democracy has not always been easy, but the authorities have decided that now is the time to show how artists variously suffered and thrived in the socialist period.
Visitors to the museum, which is tucked away in a side street south-east of the city center, are confronted at the entrance with a classic stereotype: the massive five-pointed red star that for many years topped the Communist Party Headquarters in Sofia. There is also a 45-ton statue of Lenin in the museum’s sculpture garden. Previously it stood in one of Sofia’s central squares.
Lots of splendid late 20th-century art, and more than merely the predictable socialist realism, help make this a top choice for culture vultures looking for an engaging diversion in Sofia.