The driver of the TM20 bus, which is replacing tram line no. 20, is sweating like a horse, as he stops his decades old vehicle at a newly installed, provisional bus stop on Boulevard Yanko Sakazov in Sofia. Actually, there are not supposed to be any buses, or Diesel clouds, on that boulevard. This bus is here since the city is a mess, far more than it usually is.
At Levski Square, the bus fights its way into Boulevard Vassil Levski, and then onto the famous yellow cobble stones on Boulevard Czar Osvoboditel. This is where this bumpy bus ride becomes something like a sightseeing tour, alongside the parliament building, the Russian Church and the Presidency.
The downside is that the temperature in this ancient vehicle, which should have been dumped on some scrap yard 20 years ago, is about 55 degrees Centigrade.
This bus takes people through the heart of Sofia, which is bus-free under normal circumstances, because it has to. All other routes are blocked, since Sofia is one huge construction site right now. Originally, part of the mess was going to be cleared by the time everyone returns home after the summer holiday, meaning by September 1, 2017. Forget it. It will drag on into October.
Sofia?s Mayor Yordanka Fandakova just told Bulgarian National Television (BNT), the street repairs on Boulevard Dondukov would not be done by mid-September, but rather the end of October. What this means is that hundreds of school kids and thousands of employees will have to find transport alternatives and inhale a lot of dust.
Boulevard Dondukov is one of the most important arterial roads in the city. Part of it is closed for extensive repairs, which are absolutely necessary, given the terrible state the boulevard was in. The next part will be closed and repaired once the first part is ready.
Sure, improvement is in sight. But, apart from the delays, there is another problem: The Ministry of Culture insisted on keeping the cobblestone surface on Boulevard Dondukov, in order to make sure the aura of the city does not change too much.
In this case, Sofia Municipality chose to adhere to the directive from the ministry. But, since Dondukov is so important, its cobble stones will be put on top of a concrete base. It remains to be seen how long the new surface will last. So far, Sofia is known for repairs which are not exactly of the highest quality, and freshly refurbished streets which start decaying after a few months.
Boulevard Praga, located in the South-Western part of the city center, is another important artery, which was so rotten it could hardly be driven. Sofia Municipality is having that one repaired as well, as we speak. In this case as well, the Ministry of Culture said it wanted to preserve the cobblestone surface. But Mayor Fandakova does not intend to adhere.
?The municipality does not intend to comply with the position of the Ministry of Culture?, Yordanka Fandakova told BNT. There are two reasons. First of all, traffic is too slow and too loud on cobble stones. Hundreds of trolley buses per day have had to cross that bumpy boulevard for decades. Enough is enough.
Also, Fandakova says there already was a permission for construction without cobble stone, at least on Boulevard Praga.
Regarding the monument ?1300 Years? at the National Palace of Culture, the mayor insisted it will be removed, in spite of a recent arson attack on a big crane, which was supposed to take the monument apart.
Photo: Boulevard Sakazov, this morning. Photo by Imanuel Marcus. For technical reasons, the photo might not be visible for readers using mobile devices.