This was taken in the spring, when my friend Agnes came to visit me in Sofia from Budapest. It was the end of April, but spring hadn’t fully blossomed yet and it rained quite frequently, so this is one of the few moments we actually spent walking around outside in the drizzle.
The yellow cobblestones – here right in front of the Bulgarian Parliament, are a kind of proverbial symbol of central Sofia, as they only pave several connected streets in the very center of the city. “True” Sofianites (as opposed to newcomers from other towns and villages, I suppose) are said to “have been born on the yellow cobblestones.”
Although aware of their symbolic and historic importance, I always get confused about their exact story and how it is they ended up in Sofia. So, every time I run around the center in an ad-hoc tour of the city with friends visiting from abroad, my spiel is usually limited to the scarce information in the above paragraph.
Now, Wikipedia tells me the cobblestones were a gift from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Tsar Ferdinand I on the occasion of his wedding. They were cast in Budapest and installed in Sofia at the beginning of the 20th century. This gives a whole new meaning to the picture – of Agnes from Budapest, where the cobblestones came from, and me, from Sofia, where they ended up. I wish I knew it when we stood there. But, as Agnes says, our stories always find some serendipitous way to eventually become coherent.
What I knew then, however, was how slippery the ceramic blocks get when it rains or snows, making them a scene for many pedestrian incidents and skidding cars. They are, apparently, also not very durable, having sustained continuous damage in recent years by Sofia’s increasing traffic. As they get replaced by the more traditional, gray cobblestones and the area they cover gets smaller and smaller, I wonder if it’ll eventually disappear entirely, or if somebody will have the sense to keep at least a symbolic spot with them.