As I approached Bulgaria square, the massive Soviet-constructed National Palace of Culture loomed large, like a massive paperweight holding down the edge of the park. It opened in 1981, and according to the locals, took 10 years to build. In those 10 years all city resources went to the building of this structure, and no other building was built in Sofia during that time. It is now the largest convention center in Southeastern Europe, and artists like Elton John and Bob Dylan have performed there.
Among the skateboarders and cyclists in the square are two important memorials. The first is a small chapel along with a wall that resembles the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. On it is written the names of over ten thousand Bulgarians – all of them victims of the time when Bulgaria was under communist domination. The second is a piece of the Berlin Wall. How ironic that both memorials lay in the shadow of the massive Soviet construction in the background.
Given my recent travels to Nicosia, Cyprus [a divided city] and given the recent democratic movements in the Middle East and North Africa, I found the piece of the Berlin Wall, this little piece of history, a particularly relevant reminder of where we have been, and how little things seem to change.