A day after the inauguration, however, a visit to Sofia Central Station turned out to be a bit of an eyeopener: few things in Bulgaria have changed since the days of Communism when public buildings were dedicated with much fanfare only to be closed down immediately after the ceremony for "additional improvements" and when maps that outlining what this country’s roads were supposed to look like in 10 year’s time rather than reflecting what they looked in actual fact were printed by the government’s printing shop.
Most of the revamped railway station (and revamped of course it was) smelled like the underpass in front of the Office of the President (see p18 for the details), but almost nothing functioned. The elevators were switched off for one reason or another, the upper level with the fabulous artwork by Professor Boyan Dobrev was inaccessible to mortals as the passageway leading to it was blocked by signs saying (in Bulgarian) that it would continue to be blocked until all the stalls in the would-be food court were rented out, and so on and so forth. A policeman seemingly on duty advised to come some other time as the artwork "would be around for a while."
What did function, however, were the English "translations" of some of the railway management's instructions to passengers. "Stay arriving trains on platform is 30 mins," one said. "Please timely passengers to take seats in wagons," said another. And a word of warning: "Please passengers timely release wagons!"
Perhaps the above "translations" reflect the fact that from a strictly Francophone state-run railway (all signs in Bulgarian stations are in French, e. g. Mouevement, Chef de gare, Salle d’Attente and Hommes/Dames), Sofia now advertises itself in perfect English: "Sofia Central Station."