Monument 1300 Years of Bulgaria, Sofia

  
  - darkometer rating:  3 -
 
1300 Years Bulgaria Monument in Sofia - 1This is possibly the world's shoddiest monument ever. It's so jaw-droppingly bad it's amazing. Even when it was intact it was awful, but it soon became a crumbling ruin, due to such low quality of construction that it beggars belief. It was supposed to celebrate 1300 years of Bulgaria but only stood the test of time itself for a pathetic few years. Now in total disrepair, for most Sofia locals and visitors it's no more than a shameful piece of junk and an ugly blotch on the cityscape.
I absolutely adored it!  

>More background info

>What there is to see

>Location

>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations

>Photos

    
More background info: The monument was to be a celebration of Bulgarian history, constructed in just 8 months and unveiled in 1981 on the 1300 year anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state (cf. Buzludzha!).
 
The design was, well … of an acquired taste, maybe? Or just downright ghastly. A bizarre over-sized sculpture consisting of huge, angled, intertwining structures, allegedly symbolic of the past present and future – if you could muster an overdose of imaginative mental power.
 
Several statues are poking out at different levels – presumably of important historical personalities of Bulgarian history. There were inscriptions too. (You can find photos of the monument online, e.g. on flickr, showing it in its former intact "glory" and in various successive stages of decay over the years.)
 
The memorial was built on a steel girder structure with concrete and metal cladding all round. Ironically, given the memorial's intended symbolism, it only took a few years for the substandard construction quality to manifest itself, namely when the first bits started falling off. Eventually, a fence had to be built around the monument to protect passers-by. Bit by bit the cladding came off, revealing more and more of the internal steel girder structure – and making the look of the thing more and more absurd.
 
The poor built quality of the monument is not all that is to account for its current state, though. It's also the total lack of maintenance. The post-communist state of Bulgaria has apparently never shown an interest in preserving any bit of the country's recent history (even if it was supposed to celebrate a full 1300 years of it). You can see the same all over the country – including, at its saddest and most drastic, the sorry state of the Buzludzha monument.
 
Some say that the monument's rotting away is thus also involuntarily symbolic of Bulgaria's post-communist era. It has even been alleged that the government is deliberately doing nothing to protect the memorial, preferring it to fall into such disrepair that they can eventually remove it and use the valuable spot of real estate for something else, something more profitable.
 
But there are also voices calling for the preservation of the monument – though they are clearly in a minority. As usual, it comes down to money. And as no one is assuming responsibility for the "thing", no one's paying for either its demolition or refurbishment/reconstruction. So meanwhile it just continues falling apart.
 
In addition to the (graffiti-covered) hoarding surrounding the base of the memorial, the 105 feet  (32m) tall structure has also been scaffolded up – making for even more resemblance with a rocket launch pad. At least the billboards covering it up have disappeared again. Allegedly they had been put up for when the Pope visited Sofia – so that he didn't have to witness this disgrace? Probably, seeing something supposedly celebrating well over a thousand years of history just crumble away so quickly could indeed be a mental health hazard for the figurehead of an ancient institution such as the Roman Catholic Church …
  
But the future of the memorial remains uncertain. Its preservation does not seem likely at the present time. That means it could well be that it will simply wither away completely over the years to come. So go and see it while it is there.
 
 
What there is to see: If you don't know what it is and just happen upon the structure unsuspectingly (like I did in April 2011), you might think it's some kind of collapsed construction crane or something. If it wasn't in the middle of a city centre you could even see it as a Baikonur-like rocket launch pad.
 
Only when you get really close can you make out that it must have been some kind of monument. A few of the statues that poke out from the cladding can still be made out if you peek through the scaffolding at a suitable angle. Otherwise it's just the whole junk-ness of the thing – and its gargantuan size – that are fascinating. Well, to me at least.
 
My guide, who filled me in about the history – and shameful reputation – of the thing, shook her head in disbelief too when I said that I found this one of the most amazing structures in Sofia. I know, I'm not normal. But I'd like my minority view to be respected … and I'm not alone, as some comments on images of the monument you can find online demonstrate.
 
Anyway, when in Sofia, going to see this gloriously shoddy piece of shambles is an absolute must-do for any dark tourist. You will probably stumble past it in any case when en route to the Palace of Culture, the Berlin Wall memorial and/or the Soviet Army Monument to the east.
 
 
Location: just south of Sofia city centre, in the northern part of the park ('pl Bulgaria') spreading out between the bottom end of Vitosha boulevard down to the massive Palace of Culture 300 yards on, and Yuzhen park ('south park') beyond.  
 
Google maps locator:[42.6878,23.3201]
  
 
Access and costs: too easy and absolutely free.
 
Details: for the vast majority of locals, the monument is all too visible and way too easy to find, or rather: too difficult not to notice. Its ruined steel ribcage pokes out of the park area around it so you can indeed hardly fail to see it when entering the park from the bottom of Vitosha boulevard en route to the Palace of Culture.
 
The monument is freely viewable from the outside at any time (daytime makes sense, because unlike many intact monuments this one is of course not lit up at night). You can only see it from the protective fence around it though, as getting any closer is considered too dangerous.
 
 
Time required: just a few moments of jaw-dropping ogling, you can circle the monument in less than 5 minutes.
 
 
Combinations with other dark destinations: see Sofia – nearby are the Palace of Culture and the Berlin Wall section/monument in the same park; the Soviet Army Monument is a few blocks east too, still within walking distance.
 
 
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see Sofia.
 

 

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