what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

the charm, yet again, of Sofia!

After 4 years of familiarity with Sofia (almost 3 years in residence) it is typical that I stumbled yesterday on a well-established (and prestigious) gallery focussing on Bulgaria’s old masters - hidden away in a charming and old part of Sofia between Prague Bvd and Bvds Makedonia/Totleben. It’s the Tzennotsi Gallery and has the richest collection (in more senses than one) of all the galleries I have visited here.
The picture above is a Russi Genchev which the gallery would not deign to keep. This Boris Denev which adorns its spacious display walls is a more appropriate exemple of its exhibits.

And, like, the current exhibition at the City Gallery, there were so many painters of whom I hadn’t heard. Some of the paintings seem to have been there for several years (eg some Vladimir Dmitrov’s at 20,000 euros in the 2009 Antiques Price Guide) – which makes one wonder about their business model. Clearly they cater for bigger spenders than me! Probably an institutional market ie the banks! Talking of which, one of the nice features of many hotels here in Bulgaria is their display of (in many cases local) paintings.

In the same street as the Gallery (Buzludja) we also found an enticing little Weinstube (Vestibule Wine Ambassador) which turns out also to be a producer and seller of "bourgeois" furniture. Definitely worth a visit – both in winter for its cosy, traditional interior and in the summer for its garden area at the back. Also in the same street a patisserie with a great range of its own products - including a large apple and walnut cake round for 5 euros!

And we also had an interesting encounter in Tsar Samuel with the sinister Masons. One of the many tiny shops in the area between Hristov Botev and Vitosha with the products of imaginatively-crafted dresses, shawls etc enticed us in and to the purchase of an embroidered cardigan. We were so pleased we readily accepted several small calendar cards which marketed its 50-or so year-old artisan – only to discover when I accessed the website that it had very strong masonic connections. I was so horrified I contemplated returning the cardigan – since, in Scotland, the Masons are a highly divisive force – in the 1970s with a strong and corrupt presence in the police forces. And I remember my (highly tolerant) father – a Scottish Presbyterean Minister – railing against their influence amongst his “Elders”. But, in this part of the world where there was so much repression, perhaps they played a different role? They were certainly outlawed by the fascist forces here in the early 1940s and its members persecuted under the communists. Sadly the intrinsic secrecy of the organisation makes that difficult to check out properly . Their apologists are full of good-sounding rhetoric about freedom and democracy but I cannot take seriously anyone who associates with their silly tribal initiation rituals with trousers at half-mast and quasi-religious artefacts.

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