Because of the construction of the Sofia Metro under Cherni Vruh Boulevard, the #9 tram has been temporarily replaced by a bus, named 9TM. This route is short and acts as a connector from the center of Sofia to the Hladilnika Bus Terminal, which serves buses going to and from the suburbs on Mt. Vitosha. The route begins on a lollipop loop of Vasil Levski, Patriarch Evtiimy, and Fritof Nansen Boulevards. I got on at the Sixth of September and Vasil Levski Stop at 13:21, on bus No. 1943, a Mercedes-Benz Connecto that wasn’t connected to any other parts. The bus then passes by Kino Odeon, a second-run movie house owned by the Bulgarian Film Archive, at the “Popa” intersection, where it turns left and coninues down Patriarch Evtiimy, before turing left again on Fritof Nansen. On the right in the National Palace of Culture and a memorial displaying a piece of the Berlin Wall, and on the left is Sofia’s second Starbuck’s. Past the Lover’s Bridge, a pedestrian walkway going over Blvd. Bulgaria, the bus passes the incredibly boxy Sofia Hilton and then the Museum of Earth and Man, which has endless exhibitions of geological formations, the kind that are interesting to a seven-year-old for about five minutes. This also
happens to be the beginning of Yuzhen Park, which is probably second for Sofians after Borisova Gradina in terms of popularity. You next get to meet the dying City Center Sofia, Sofia’s first western style mall. When I first moved to Sofia in 2006, CCS was THE mall, the one with the Picadilly Supermarket where I could find western style groceries like avocados and rice noodles. Since then, Sofia has been mall crazy with Mall of Sofia on Stamboliiski,the Serdika Center on Sitnyakovo, and The Mall on Tsarigradsko Chausse, which has the Carrefour, or for us Americans, “French Wal-mart.”
Just after CCS (and it’s neighbor the hotel Hemus which offers “sound-proof rooms” on its website and notes
that “discretion” is one of its words…), you’ll start to see the construction that has plagued the street for the past three or so years, causing headaches for the residents of Lozenets. In a few months, construction will finally be completed on the stations, though I’m unsure whether tram rails will be restored. After going up a big hill and the five start Hotel Kempinski (where four years ago I had what amounts to the best and worst dental experience in my life – the filling of six cavities in one hour without the use of novacaine) before coming to a stop at the intersection of James Bourchier Boulevard, named for the Irish journalist who lived in Sofia (across from the Royal Palace no less) for twenty years, and who reported on movements in the Balkan Wars. He was a strong supporter of Bulgaria’s expansion and reclamation of former territory.
After Bourchier Blvd., the bus goes downhill on Cherni Vruh, which at this section is lined with newer
apartment buildings, and turns left into the Hladilnika (meaning “refrigerator”) Bus Terminal just after the #9 tram turn-around. Here, at the corner of Sreburna and Cherni Vruh, is where they are sickeningly building the Paradise Center, which will dwarf all other malls in Sofia and markets itself as a “lifestyle center” bringing the “most expensive brands not yet available” to Sofia. Well, let’s just say that I just can’t wait to wear my Italian Gucci loafers through the mud-soaked torn-by-construction streets to catch a twenty-year old bus to take me to my one-room apartment. I exited the bus at 13:38, a travel time of 17 minutes.