Today (23rd of April) it’s a sunny day and I enjoy my walk through the streets in the centre of the city. The spring transforms the old dusty capital into a more friendly and enjoyable place to be. I am looking for a key cutter, because yesterday I lost my key. I ask someone on the street and it seems I’m not far away from one.
I see the image of a key on a small board, I walk through a big wooden door and inside a dark tunnel. There, on the right hand side at the end of the tunnel is the small office of the key cutter. I knock on the window and give him my order. He says the key will be ready in 10-15 minutes so I take the time to look around. The first thing I see is a backyard and a skinny cat crossing the yard.
A man with glasses walks up to me and starts a conversation. He introduces himself as a ‘Baj Kiro’. I ask him to tell me something about the life in the backyard and the people living there. Baj Kiro has lived here for 52 years. The buildings date from 1932. Many of the inhabitants have died and some of them moved to the countryside and rented their apartments. “What’s the social life of the backyward?” I ask. Baj Kiro answers with a bitter note in his voice the people are strangers to one other. They don’t even greet each other and avoid any contact, “Everybody is closed behind his shield.” The only sign of life in the backyard are the 12 street cats, which, unperturbed, make use of the terrain.
Whilst I was talking to Baj Kiro, a middle-aged woman approached us. She had have heard a part of our conversation. The woman confirms the words of Baj Kiro about the alienation between the inhabitants. She introduces herself as Mrs. Kojouharova and kindly invites me to follow her inside the building, in case I would like to take photos from above. Walking slowly upstairs, where she has an office for Culture Tours in Bulgaria, I look through the staircase window and see a polluted balcony full with rubbish.
According to Mrs. Kojouharova this balcony belongs to a couple psychiatric patients. There is not much difference between the state of this balcony and the rest of the buildings – grey, ruinous and without any signs of life. In contrast with the depressing image of the façade of the buildings, the office of Missis Kojouharova is bathing in the light of the afternoon sun. I look around and see beautiful black and white photographs on the wall. They were taken by the father of Mrs. Kojouharova, who was a famous photographer. Her daughter inherited this gift and now she travels the world making impressive pictures.
Whilst Mrs. Kojouharova talks about the tourists attending the Culture Tours organised by her, I look through the window. What I see is totally different from the lifeless backyard – busy streets, the shiny spring colours of the trees and noisy trams and cars. Suddenly a thought comes to me: Light and Dark, Dark and Light. Two sides of the same coin. Without the dark the light wouldn’t be so bright. Maybe the inhabitants of the grey buildings in the backyard feel that too. Maybe they do not. In this case I would recommend them to, just for a moment, take a look at the other side, the sunny side.