Dear Sofia,

You are special: today and during the rest of your all-year-round kaleidoscope of urban memories and concrete life stories.

You are a perpetual scene for the surprises of life: from love stories and newly shaped friendships, to the daily carousel of work life, the excitement of success, as well as the black hole of unsolved social and cultural issues. But somehow you still make me love you.

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You know how many people love something only because it is beautiful/popular/expensive Or because others desire it. Or because it makes them feel good. Well that isn’t my kind of love.

I love you the way you are: with all your imperfections and charming little quirks.

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I love your small and quiet streets and the old style Austrian facades of rundown buildings in the old city center: as far away as possible from the tourist spots, the fancy promenade street and the plastic popularity of posh cafes.

I love your history, your museums of natural science and military history, your art galleries, your impressive architecture and mixture of cultures, influences and backgrounds.

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The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral built between 1904 and 1912 is one of the largest and most impressive Orthodox Cathedrals in the world | Night Shot on Huawei P9

I love how you improve on the urban environment.Even around infamously ugly spots as the monument-of-you-know-what.

I love the hidden urban messages, the writings on the wall, the urban artists who highjack spots in the city to convey an idea.

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The only photo in this post which wasn’t shot on a mobile phone: an urban art stunt at the Monument of the Soviet army from several years ago: the first installment in a bold series of political statements via urban art made at this location

I love your laid back and chill vibe: the people in the parks, the lush green alternative reality of your central backyards,  the quiet benches hidden just a few meters away from the busy streets.

I love the quiet, soothing moments I spent on my own with you: walking back home from a work meeting, skipping the bus to spend time outside, quietly taking photos and breathing in the surrounding life.

I love your young entrepreneurs who have brought something old, and something new and something from abroad to create small businesses and places which will stand proudly on any European map.

I love I can just go hiking in the mountains, have a trip to a gorgeous lake or go snowboarding after work or on Saturday mornings. Or go boxing, swimming, horse riding, trampoline jumping, ballet dancing, playing squash or badminton…anything I want to stay active and meet nice new people with the same hobby.

I love the fact that the city is getting prettier and prettier.

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I love the amazing food I can find here. I have traveled to my fair share of places with amazing local food, but the prices, quality and variety we have here is impressive. From newly baked (pun sort of intended) boulangeries to traditional and exotic cuisine, you can find almost anything here. Yes, you also have to know the good places, because there is also a lot of rubbish, but one of the greatest things about Bulgaria is that we know how to enjoy our time out and we do care about creating nice atmosphere.

I love the small bookshops and the smell of freshly printed books mixed with the scent of vintage pages.

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I also love your most non-urban spots: the woods in the middle of the city, the small town houses and yards just a street away from corporate buildings, the flowers, the cats. I really love those mischievous town cats.

 

 

I love the way each spot has a different vibe during the day and the night

You are like the first love: even when I have seen better and have moved on to much greater things, I still have this inexplicable tingle when I look at you. This nostalgia. This light-hearted feeling locked away in space and time.

Yes, you can get suffocatingly hectic and irrational. Yes, some of your neighborhoods can raise more than a few eyebrows and public transportation can test the patience and tranquility even of the most serene Buddhist monks. Yes, locals throw their trash right on the street and cigarettes form fuming arcs on their way out of passing cars. Yes, pedestrian crossings and riding a bike deserve to be classified as a Hunger Games survival challenge. Yes, people can be grumpier than Grumpy cat and more negative than an electron charge, but hey: that’s what the first love is all about. Still having this inexplicably warm feeling even after your mind knows perfectly well that things aren’t perfect.

All a person can do is keep breathing your streets and beating in sync with the city’s heart. Until there is a new place to call home.

This article is part of a Series on Mobile Travel Photography which aims to test how well do smartphones capture the excitement of exploration and travel

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