GES140 - Sofia Metro - Trip 1
A search I did before leaving the UK had shown that S0fia had metro development currently ongoing. And therefore would be a legitimate target to hit whilst there. I passed the info onto GE099 who enthusiastically poked his iPhone into life, and set about finding out more information. Eventually he had a list of potential access points. They were programmed into his GPS and we hit the streets of S0fia in our hire car. First stop was the NDK Park, where one of the new stations was. We looked around and GE099 found one entry point, but would have involved getting a little heavy. So we looked further. I discovered another entry point in an underground car tunnel, which again would have involved some effort. However it was GE099 that came up with the goods, with a shutter that wasn't locked. And so we had a nice easy way in. Walking around an almost completed metro system late at night is, quite frankly, terrifying. The system had never been hit by anyone we knew or had read about, so this was all new to us. We didn't know if heavily armed guards patrolled the system with voracious drooling dogs, or whether there was no security at all. As we made our way through the station, we discovered that there was so far little sign of security personnel or devices. This was the passenger hall to the tracks at NDK station. NDK being the initials for the (Natsionalen Dvorets na Kulturata) Palace of Culture.
Through another small hall section, and it was down the steps onto the platforms.
The platforms were a mix of minimal and artistic. Lots of acrylic being used. The wave pattern on the ceiling, is mirrored in the tiling on the floor of the platform.
The far end of the platform was still being built, as evidenced by the large amounts of rather obvious scaffold support.
One thing that was ready, were the tracks, at least on this part of the line extension.
We followed the tracks out of the station from the side where we first entered the platform. Just outside the station was a large ventilation fan, still to be installed. You can see the other tracks just past it.
Looking back to NDK station, while GE099 took shots looking the other way. The silence down there was massively eerie. The gentle click of the exposure finishing on the camera sounded like a rifle had gone off.
"Going up around the bend", so sang the awesome Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although they weren't singing about a metro tunnel I suspect. Unsurprisingly the third rail wasn't live. The idea that I stood on the third rail in order to get a cheap 'look at me' photo, but couldn't manage to balance on it, is ludicrous.
Whether sewers or metros, it's often difficult to appreciate distance. And before we knew it, we were entering our next station, Originally called St.Naum (aka Nemus), it was changed at the last minute to European Union station prior to the line opening. Printed maps still showed it as St Naum. European Untion along with NDK were listed as ghost stations for awhile, but both have been completed to link up with the other stations. Acrylic being heavily utilised here, like the previous station NDK.
Via an entrance at the back of the station, I got into the under platform area, to be used for utility cabling. Also useful should one wish to pass through a station without being seen. Although with no signs of anyone about, that wasn't a concern.
At least, I assumed there was no one about. As I climbed the steps to get a picture of the passenger hall area, I spotted someone in the window on the right. They were in their late 40s, his head tilted back somewhat stereotypically as he sat sleeping in his chair. I took the shot anyway, and tiptoed back down to GE099 to update him.
The main platform, not as well lit as the previous station. At the top end of the platform sits a service train.
Service train with cement carriage on the end.
Somewhat aware that maybe there was more security present than we'd thought, based on the previous station, I skipped going into the passenger hall for this one. The nearness to completion being quite obvious with the wrapped up escalator in situ.
We then dropped down into the tracks, and continued the journey to the next station. Here the trains run side by side, rather than having their own tunnels.
Looking back at the narrowing end of the previous station, St.Naum.
We passed through an open section, the cold Sofia air dropping down on us, as we kept a beady eye on what may have been a security cabin. We then came across a little powered porter device on the tracks. Wary of the recent mail rail bust for joyriding a train by mutual friends, we opted not to start it up.
The varying shape of the tunnel as we continued on, now it was arched. Where previously it was square, this was where the track tunnels were built before, but the line was abandoned. The arched tunnels have been built recently.
GE099 and I decided on a little celebration at having got this far. We still had another station to go and get out undetected, but that was less on our minds.
Not clear in the close up above, is that literally a couple of metres later the tracks run out, as this is as far as they'd got with the track laying. Some early graffiti on the right, although no sign of Tox.
Stacked up concrete track sleepers, as we left the tracks behind.
Trackless tunnel, and the next station ahead, James Bourchier station.
This station was a long way from completion. We also heard someone moving about ahead, so opted not to go any further. It was then all the way back through the preceding station to NDK station. The platform is jutting out on the left of centre here.
At NDK we clambered as quietly as we could through the tight scaffolding and various bits left around. Even though we'd not seen anyone at this station, one can never be 100% sure. This shot looks back at the NDK station through the scaffolded tunnel section.
Turning 180 degrees, one can see this side of NDK was going to be a rather short explore. The wall on the other side of the scaffold is the end of the line here so to speak. At some point this will come down one assumes, as not far past it is the live section of track that this will join up with.
It was then back through the scaffolded tunnel passage, and through the passenger area of the station to our original access point. Emerging back onto the concrete NDK park in the cold air, we took a deep chilly breath of pride at our achievement. It was then back to the hostel, where with a slight sense of smugness, we crept into our beds, those around us oblivious as to what we'd done while they slept. There was still more metro to explore, but that's another story (GES140 - Pt 2)
A Map of the Sofia Metro, the area covered above is highlighted by the pink arrow around and below NDK station.