One of the most impressive buildings in Sofia is the edifice of Sofia University.
I believe few of you can remember a place in the world where the University is in the heart of the city.
The land and the money for the construction of the building were part of the will of the trader and banker Evlogi Georgiev and his brother Christo Georgiev (whose statutes are sitting in front of the University, sculptor K. Shivarov).
The University exists from October 1st 1888 when Prof. Ivan Shishmanov started teaching history and philology. But the institution of higher education did not yet inhabit the present building. The foundation stone of Sofia University’s new edifice was laid on 30 June 1924.
The main building was initially designed by the French architect Henri Bréançon, who had won a competition for the purpose in 1907.
The plans were developed by Nikola Lazarov and revised by Yordan Milanov, who also directed the construction, but died before the official opening on 16 December 1934.
The construction of the main building and the library was worth BGN 77 500 000. The wings of the building were built later – 1941-1985 – by architect L. Konstantinov. The interior is baroque architecture influenced by the late French Renaissance. Enough facts already.
Sofia University is a living organism, it gave birth to the Academy of Medicine, the University of Forestry etc. Sofia University, a.k.a. Alma Mater is alleged to shelter the best minds of the nation. It is as true as much as it is false because many young Bulgarians study abroad or take courses that are not taught at SU, such as art, theatre, medicine etc.
I am telling you about the University with discord in my own heart, too. Still, I cannot deny it is a place where I have met a lot of interesting people who left their meaningful impression on me. The system, however, is a system as everywhere else – too rigid to please everyone and too harsh on students’ time and self-esteem.
The only proof is that the most talented students do not choose to stay in the University as teachers and thus everyone loses. I hope I am too young to make such a statement and that after traveling around many come back to share their experience and expertise with the new generations.
The topic may be actual in view of the educational crisis Bulgaria is down with, but since one of the richest Bulgarians of his time left everything he had in order to provide his motherland with a school makes me think we are not giving up.
Sofia University is medium for the young people to become young professionals. But before they start making the notorious piles of money they have hideous lunch and supper at the canteen in the basement called “mensa”, i.e. “table” in Latin, celebrate December 8th as their very special holiday and cherish the innumerable memories this very building contains.
If I am not recommending you the plays of the Alma Alter theatre which are put in the University aula which is spectacular and worth seeing, I passionately recommend you to climb the stairs of the Law Department up to the roof where the Geology Museium is and see the Deinotherium Thraciensis (7m long and 4.20m high), an ancestor of the elephant. One of a kind exhibit found in 1965, near the village of Ezerovo, Plovdiv district.