Bus #280 is a companion bus to #94 which also goes from Studenski Grad to Sofia University, albeit on a more easterly route, and shares its path with #294, which is a circular running just in Studenski Grad connecting it to the subway system. I boarded bus No. 2160, a long orange accordion model made by German bus maker MAN, at 14:23 on Tuesday, March 13th. The bus begins at a bus loop just north of the Vasil Levski Sport Academy, which seems to be the training ground for olympic hopefuls in Bulgaria in Studenski Grad. Studenski Grad itself is a weird mix of new construction, universities dedicated to various fields of study from forestry
and sports to economics and chemistry, crumbling dormitories, and a seemingly large population of Turkish co-eds that I often see drag racing their Mercedes Benzes down Boris Stefanov Blvd. (they all have blue “foreigner” license plates). There are several large nightclubs mixed in among the dormitories, as well as a motley crew of restaurants, laundromats, and supermarkets. #280 winds through all of this, leaving the bus loop, and heading south on Stefan Mladenov Blvd., turning right onto Ivan Stranski, and then right again onto Boris Stefanov, the main street in the neighborhood. To the right of the bus, behind the anti-climactic “South Mall” is the Mega Dance Center Sofia, which is a large disco/concert hall where you can bust a mega move. I saw on a poster that “Alicia” was due to perform on the 13th, however, my busy bus riding schedule won’t allow me to attend.
Just up the road and behind the Fantastiko Supermarket on Francois Mitterand Street is Saffron Indian Restaurant, which my friends tell me is top-notch in Sofia, though I haven’t been. If anyone goes, let me know. At the end of the street, the bus curves, and then zig-zags to 8th of December Street, which is named for the national “student holiday” celebrating being a co-ed. If there was ever a night to get Indian Food and visit the Mega Dance Center, this would probably be it. After passing the Economics University, #280 makes a left onto Clement Ohridski Blvd., which is paralleled on one side by now defunct tram rails that my friend Ms. N told me “haven’t worked in 15 years.” I doubt they’ll be working any time soon, since they have been blocked by the G.M. Dimitrov Subway station.
What could be very cool is if the municipality refurbished them into bike paths or a promenade, similar to what Rails to Trails does in the U.S. (also with a large volunteer base), however I understand that the current economic situation probably puts this proposal way down on the wish list. At the G.M. Dimitrov Metrostation,#280 makes a right onto the boulevard of the same name, and about a kilometer later takes a left onto Tsarigradsko Chauss, heading northwest into downtown.
Tsarigradsko is rather unscenic, but the bus does pass by the new Armeets Arena (very high on the wish list), a new Billa with a parasitic Subway inside (I think Subway gets the award for the most cockroachiest fast food restaurant – in three years I’ve seen ten of them open in Sofia, even in the darkest of places – however, I do go batshit crazy for the pickled jalepeno peppers, which they don’t sell in Bulgaria in any other place. I’ll live…) and then the bus passes Borisova Gradina on the left, and Yavarov neighborhood on the right. Yavorov is one of the neighborhoods I like the best in Sofia, and has more mono-colored apartment buildings comparatively. It’s an old Sofia neighborhood, mainly because to afford to live here, you would have bought your apartment in the 1950′s. The heart of the neighborhood is where Tsar Asen II Street meets Leonardo DiVinci Street. The Vlaikova Theater is a few buildings up, perhaps Sofia’s last running one-screen theater. While not exactly high-definition, and the chairs are kind of uncomfortable, the Vlaikova (named for writer Maria Vlaikova who founded the building as a community center in 1926) is still hanging on, and I hope it does for some time. The lobby is a decent dive bar Tuesdays-Saturdays, though there are projections every day of the week. When I went a few weeks
ago with my friend Ms. R, the projectionist seemed indifferent to out water bottle full of homemade wine. We were the only audience, which I rather enjoyed. I remember being more uncomfortable in Kino Arena last summer when I had to sit through Tree of Life without any air-conditioning
On Tsarigradsko, the bus makes a right onto Vasil Levski at the main building of Sofia University, and begins its lollipop loop to return to Studenski Grad. One street up, the bus makes a right onto Shipka Street, which is flanked by the University and the National Library Kiril and Metodii. This is another really pretty area of town due to its large collection of surviving pre-war buildings. The small Doctor’s Garden is here (with Roman Ruins you can play on) as is the Russian House (Russki Dom), the Russian cultural center that was recently remodeled. Inside there are exhibition halls (I saw a retrospective on Yuri Gagarin here in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his flight into space) and a cute cafe with Russian candy and old Russians that congregate to play cards and smoke. If you want pizza, there’s an O!Shipka pizza parlor across the street. Another nice place nearby is the Czech and Slovak Supper Club at No. 15 Krakra, though you needn’t be Czech or Slovak to
attend. In fact the menu really isn’t all that Czech or Slovak, save for goulash, but they do have Staropramen beer and the bar is really pretty. At the end of Shipka, across from the Military Academy, #280 makes a right onto Evlogi Georgiev and returns to Tsarigradsko Chausse towards Studenski Grad. I exited the bus at Orlov Most at 15:02, a total travel time of 39 minutes.