March 28, 2020.

Day 16 of the declared state of emergency in Bulgaria and our self-imposed social exclusion. Spring is in full swing, but I only understand this because my seasonal allergy is already calling. I rarely leave home, but I have to do it to bring food to my mother, who lives in downtown Sofia. I drive the car and the camera is tight with me.

My path passes through the central part of the city and stops in front of the National Art Gallery. I have never seen Sofia so empty, even on Christmas holidays, when everything goes live somewhere.

I decide to take a little walk and look around. On the wall of the gallery I see an advertising vinyl exhibit called “Italy – Invisible Stories”. The association with what is happening in the country of love, wine and delicious food, the situation with the coronavirus seems to me an interesting coincidence.

Although the time in the city has stopped, nature is not. Outside, it is really beautiful and the plants start to wake up from their hibernation.

Due to the state of emergency, all restaurants and most shops in the area are closed. Perfectly clean windows have been soiled by now, some of their owners have taken care of repairs and others have vacated the premises and the words “For Rent” are sadly read on the windows.

What saddened me the most was the sight of one iconic spot – the empty alley of Paris Street, also called the Sofia’s Montmartre. For as long as I can remember, this place is filled with the cheerful hush and colorful famous and unknown Bulgarian artists. Right here, a number of talented authors have chosen to sell their works, and now the empty skeletons and frames propped carefully at the end of the alley only bring sadness.

At the end of the alley, just across from St. Sofia Temple, stood the only working stall. I approached and greeted the man. His name is Nickolay. He has been selling antique items at this place for years and has regular customers, including foreigners. He said sadly that he would probably be forced to close his stall within a few days.

I continued on my way and made some more shots. I stopped at the Crystal Garden, where the white canvas exhibit frames gave me memories of one of the first wedding photography exhibitions I participated in. The gardens were empty except for two, three seniors.

The neighborhood I grew up in is very beautiful. Small neat streets, courtyard houses and low co-ops are typical of the area. Even more beautiful is our street in the spring when the trees bloom.

My mom has welcomed me from the window. I leave the products outside the door without going in, we exchange a few words and say goodbye. I’m sad that we can’t spend more time together. She may be even more sad because she can’t see her grandson like she used to.

#stayhome waiting for the next virtual epizode of “Pandemic Stories”