Monday, 21 October 2013

Free mineral water: the springs at the Banya Bashi

For a while this was my favourite place in Sofia; also one to which I was taking all the newcomers to show it to them as one of the city's attractions. Although rough and scruffy, the Banya Bashi area is where one can observe the powers of nature at work: the thermal Mineral Springs.

There is no shortage of springs in Bulgaria. They come in all temperatures, flavours, scents and mineral compositions. In Sofia region alone mineral springs provide around 500 litres of water per second. There are several of them in Sofia; quite a famous medicinal one can be found next to Lake Pancharevo.

The springs next to Banya Bashi, however, are right in the centre of the city; and they are hot, robust and plentiful. The flowing water is organised into some thirty taps that run continuously day and night as if they were little fountains. The temperature of the water is perhaps enough to brew oneself a cup of tea with it.

The place is always full of people: drinking; washing their hands; filling up large plastic bottles to bring home. There are also homeless people washing themselves and doing their laundry. The city's pigeons and cats make sure they get their share too. The access to the water is open to everyone.

Right next to the springs there is a busy tram stop. So far, even in the middle of the night, I have not yet seen the place empty. I like to wait there during the more quiet times of the day; when one can hear the water running, and, if it's cold enough, see the steams. Even if the area is kept neither very clean nor too beautiful it has a surprisingly nice feel to it. It is not the most photogenic place in the world so my advice would be just to go and experience it.

These springs have been in use since at least the Roman times, perhaps even earlier. From the more recent times the roughly a hundred year old yellow building of Central Mineral Baths remains in the neighbourhood. The building used to be a public bathing place up until the late 1980s - it used the readily-warm water straight from the springs.

Today the house is gradually decomposing, although there are some plans to reanimate it and to make it a bathing place again (this time, though, within there would be a 'top notch spa' and a gallery). Noone is certain about how long the renovation is going to take but, as a foreigner, I can say that I would be one of their regular visitors.  


The former Central Mineral Baths' building, waiting for the renovation.

Text and photos (c) Agne Drumelyte, 2013.

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