Further to “Past Glory,” a weblog entry from 2014, the photos above and below show the present states of two mineral bath structures in the vicinity of Sofia, Bulgaria.
A rough-hewn stone structure set at a hillside mineral water source a few kilometers outside of the village of Zhelyaznitsa at the foot of Mt. Vitosha, not far from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. The structure contains two bath chambers, one derelict and the second functioning. In an unabashedly Balkan manner, the functioning chamber remains the province of men; the derelict chamber, in principle, is reserved for women.
The ornate former entranceway to the abandoned bathing pavilion at Gorna Banya, a one-time spa resort just outside of Sofia. Today, Gorna Banya is a quiet residential village but in the first decades of the 20th-century, it was sufficiently popular as a resort and suburban residential locale to merit being the terminus of one of Sofia’s first electric trolley-bus routes. In the early years of the last century, Gorna Banya had the added panache of being the site of Bulgaria’s military cavalry school and later, less romantically, of an armored tank battalion.
As to the style of the entranceway, if the decision was left to me, I’d label it “Balkan-Neo-Secessionist-Neo-Ottoman” — a combination of the characteristic styles of two vanished empires but built of a Balkan provincial mix of brick, plaster, and ceramic roof tiles. Any other suggestions as to stylistic labels, or any information about the history and prospects of the bath pavilion and its surroundings, are most welcome.
While the bath pavilion molders, a couple of hundred meters away from it, on the other side of the village green, a nondescript commercial structure is being converted into an impromptu gambling casino, a usage, it seems, still in accord with the developmental ethos and preferences of Sofia’s private sector and decision-makers .