I live in Sofia. Every morning I leave my girlfriends flat in the asolute center and take the tram to the neighbouring Pliska district, an office district, still kind of central.
Sofia is booming,and has been so constantly since I came here. Building projects are everywhere. It is not difficult to understand why - still most people live in sadly underisolated communist block houses, that would be perfectly square if they were properly built, which they are not. With a major remont these flats can be made to rather cosy homes, and obviously there is a huge interest in DIY shops in this part of Europe, an interest that most likely has contributed to IKEA'Ss brilliant sales in Romania. Bulgarians are still waiting for their IKEA, and it would be here today if it wasn't for the financial crisis.
Crisis isn't exactly the first thing that comes to your ming when you see his frenetical building spree. But what if the whole thing is real? What if people like Michael J. Panzer are true - their thesis being that we are still far from any bottom, and the different bailout programs are like taking painkillers against a broken leg and keep walking. Everybody knows that building projects are a favourite mean of money washing world wide, so also in Bulgaria. So maybe the real economy is not so important as it looks on the paper... but still.
I sometimes have the feeling that these emerging economies are bubbles that might burst. Next to my girlfriend's flat Serdika center is now being built, promising to be the biggest shopping mall on the Balkan peninsula.
In a city that already has (at least three) shopping malls, and an average income of 200 EUR per month.In a country whith a GNP ten times smaller than in Sweden,where a three room flat have roughly the same price. Milk and clothing as well. Cars are more expensive than in Sweden - yet the streets of Sofia are completely crowded with them. Who buys this? Where do the money come from?
Economists warn that commercial real estate, like Serdika center will be the next collapsing market. If unemployments increases, or stablilizes on higher than now levels, consumers will probably not spend so much as they were calculated to spend. If they don't do it in the states, they will stop doing it in Bulgaria also, eventually.
Noone knows. In fact, never before has Bulgaria been an integrated part in a crising world economy, so how could we know? On my way I see some nice house, deeply necessary.
But I am never far from abandoned building projects like these... memento mori.
Sofia is so much. We can speculate as much as we will. But in the end Sofia, like any city, is nothing but a snapshot of human life.