Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Danger zone: the Bulgarian pavements

Welcome (Central Sofia).

I broke a few pairs of shoes; stubbed my toes multiple times; fell down twice and lost a fair piece of skin from my knee. We are talking about the Bulgarian pavements.

When you are walking in Sofia it is advisable to look down and see where you are putting your feet.

Much of the walkable city is covered in old, brittle concrete pavers. The pavers face each other at various angles; some of them are standing taller than others; others are simply unstable.

When it rains water accumulates under some of them; walking after a rain is like a fun game: if you put your foot on a wrong paver you will get splashed with all the water that had been under it. Consider stepping into a cold, deep, muddy puddle with your new shoes on.

As if to add to our street survival game even more fun, some manhole covers are missing, especially in the more remote areas. Metal thieves operate all over Bulgaria. For some poor people collecting and selling metal scraps is a way to make a living. This comes at the expense of public safety.

Once, walking alone with my backpack on along a busy highway outside the old Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo, I nearly fell into an open manhole that seemed of several metres deep. Contemplating its depths from a safe distance, I thought to myself: if someone fell in, both climbing out independently and calling help would be next to impossible. There are no pedestrians there, and the noise of the highway would suppress even the loudest shouting.

I no longer question myself why there are so many shoe shops in Sofia. I still wonder sometimes, though, why none of them seem to sell wellingtons. And I might consider carrying along in my backpack a foldable ladder - in case I fall into a manhole.

(Yet another handy belonging I might try to get a hold of for my winter walks in Sofia is a gas mask). 

Add some street furniture for the variety.

Not fun for cyclists and cars either.
Text and photos (c) Agne Drumelyte, 2013.

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