Citizens of Sofia celebrate the city’s day on 17 September
Written by Andrea Vushkova, edited by Lindsay Martin, photo by Anastasiia Dehtiarova.
“Serdika is my Rome”
The city of Sofia was popular long before the Bulgarian state was established. Emperor Constantine the Great considered making it the new capital of the Roman Empire because of its strategic position, the hot mineral springs, and good climate. He later changed his mind and chose the city at the Bosphorus, which he named after himself, Constantinople (nowadays Istanbul). Nevertheless, Serdika remained his weak spot, and he often said “Serdika is my Rome”.
Sofia (also known as Sredets and Triaditsa) has played an important role in the 1300 year history of the Bulgarian state. However, it always remained in the background, while Pliska, Preslav, and Veliko Turnovo got the spotlights as consecutive capitals of Bulgaria.
Old vs. new
Yes, it might be a surprise, but Sofia has been the capital of Bulgaria only for the last century. In 1879, a year after the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire, the newly established Parliament had to decide: Veliko Tarnovo or Sofia? After heated debates, the old capital had to retreat and on April 3, 1879, Sofia officially became the new center of Bulgaria.
At the 100-year anniversary of this memorable event, the municipality council declared April 3 as the Day of Sofia. In 1992, for reasons unknown, the council changed this date and chose September 17, the day when the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy martyrs- Sofia and her three daughters Vyara (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope), and Lyubov (Love). The story says that Sofia and her daughters lived in Rome in the second half of the first century. They were zealous Christians and refused to perform Roman customs and to worship Roman gods. Emperor Adrian ordered for the daughters to be tortured in front of their mother’s eyes. The girls did not survive the monstrosities, and Sofia was allowed to take their bodies and bury them. Three days after their funeral, she passed away, too.
What is the connection between the Christian martyrs and the city of Sofia, you ask? Well, besides the name Sofia, they don’t have much in common. Nevertheless, the date remained as the official city day, and it is celebrated annually by the citizens of Sofia, also known as “stolichani” (“stolitsa” means capital). In addition, many women have their name days on this date, since Sofia, Vyara, Nadezhda, and Lyubov are quite popular names.
Nowadays the Day of Sofia is usually celebrated with various events, mostly held in galleries and museums. We gathered a list of the ones happening this year. Hopefully, there will be something for everyone!
Exhibition “Under Sofia’s sky”
“Sketches of Sofia” will present an exhibition of photos under the dome of the Regional history museum – Sofia. Their artwork is always breathtaking, so it would definitely be a pleasure to see it “in flesh” instead of on a screen.
Exhibition “Architectural heritage from the capital, the country, and Europe”
Another exhibition will take place in the State agency “National archive.” . Architect Belin Mollov presents his aquarelle works in one of the most emblematic buildings in Sofia.
“Something new in old Sofia”
Cafe 1920 is hosting an event, dedicated to the Day of Sofia. There will be a painting class (bookings here or at 0890 997 609) and a stand of SoSofia with some of their merchandise. Of course, food and wine, and for the kids – coloring and puzzles with pictures of Sofia.
And since we mentioned wine…
9th Balkan Wine Festival
Not that consistent with the theme of Sofia’s day, but wine is quite universal, so if you’re interested – head to NDK this weekend. The annual festival will offer different tastings and this year for the first time also a culinary area! You can get your ticket here.
Sofia Sensory Journeys
If you want to get to know the Bulgarian capital in an extraordinary and new way, you can attend the Sofia Sensory Journey on September 17 or October 8. Sensory Theatre Sofia and Institute for Silence Research organize this experience which gives you an unconventional point of view towards the city and its dimensions. Find out more here.
Naturally, a celebration wouldn’t be wholesome without some music. The Sofia municipality takes care of that this year and organizes two music events with free entrance:
Folklore concert at the summer stage in the park of “Mladost” 3. It starts at 18:30 and will include folklore choirs, dance ensembles, and singers. There will also be a dance concert and carnival in “Zaimov” park, starting at 18:00.
Classical concert at Platform A6 behind NDK (the National palace of culture). The orchestra of the radio station “Classic FM” will perform works of Hendel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy, Moricone. The beginning is at 19:00. You can buy tickets here.
Orlin Pavlov Live Band will perform in the so-called “Dog park”, behind Park Center Sofia. Orlin Pavlov is a renowned Bulgarian pop singer and his concert is part of Sofia Summer Fest. You can buy tickets here.
So fine. Sofia. If you’re looking for something more upbeat, bar “Petak” (or “Friday”, if you prefer) is having a theme night for Sofia’s day. KXCKS [MARBLE SOULS] and WORST BEHAVIOR will take care of the music and the good mood.
Hopefully, everyone will find an event they enjoy on this list! The team of Open Sofia wishes you a wonderful Sofia city day! And don’t forget the motto of the capital: