Photography: Zdravko Yonchev
Video: Martin Radnev

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/103319845]


I daresay that this is one of the most well-preserved and beautiful buildings that I have photographed. Luckily it is not neglected to the same degree as the mineral baths in Ovcha Kupel and Gorna Banya. Education, culture, and civilized behavior have prevailed here.

That is why, along with the deputy mayor of the Bankya district, Plamen Simeonov, we decided to show the good aspects of the building and to place less emphasis on the its neglected side. That being said, I could not resist taking a few shots of some nooks and crannies forgotten by time and nature, and to highlight some of the dramatism in certain photos.

Nevertheless, if we can see it – we accept it. If we accept it – we understand it. If we understand it – we believe in it. If you see the beauty in this building through the photographs, then I have guided you on the correct path.

About the bath

The park in Bankya, within which the bathhouse is located, is situated in the center of the city in a cozy corner shaped basin. Two plateaus surround the park, “Okol” to the north and “Tenev” to the south, while to the west you can see the hill “Staro Selo.” It occupies 59,000 sq. m. and encompasses not only the central park, but also the “Small Park” to the southeast and the “Park with the Rotunda” to the west.

Construction of the bath began in 1907 and was initiated by the then Minister of Agriculture and Trade Dr. Nikola Genadiev. The project was headed by the Munich based Prof. Arthur Hocheder and the Chief Architect was Neno Neshev. The work contractors were the Savov brothers from Sofia and Nikola Rangelov from Bankya.

Construction work lasted three years from 07.03.1907 – 30.05.1910. The entire population of Bankya and the neighboring villages  participated in the effort. Ox-driven carriages were used to haul stones from the quarry in Malo Buchino.

The bath was ceremonially unveiled in 1911. That is when the formation of a beautiful park around the building began. Subsequently it was expanded to include additional green spaces, which were seeded with exotic trees. The credit for this paradise goes to engineer Dimitar Hristov. Not only did he conceive and implement the space, he was responsible for annually adding plants and trees from the botanical gardens of Sofia and other European cities. A green house was built next to the reservoir that made use of the heat given off by the water.

The construction, interior work, and furnishings cost the government 843,222 golden levs. This was the most expensive healing bath in Bulgaria during that time.

The building encompasses 1,700 sq. m. It has a long and complex quadrilateral shape with two wings that protrude to the east thereby forming a semi-circle. Long granite columns flank the entrance in the center. The materials used for the interior are designed in Belgium, France, and Vienna down to the last detail.

Like all baths of that era, this one has two equally sized wings – one for men and one for women. They are connected by an amazingly artistic vestibule, which houses a clinic, offices, and cashier. Each wing has a large waiting room, 40 two-level changing stalls, a circular pool with a diameter of 6.3 meters, and 10 bathtubs (one of which is the king’s.)

The basement housed the central heating facilities and the laundry. The whole building was heated such that the temperature in the stairwells and toilets was kept at 15 °C, in the changing rooms 28 °C, and in the pools and baths up to 32 °C. The laundry could wash up to 800 kg. of linen every 10 hours.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Beautiful and sad, glory and defeat. For sure, national treasure got lost. It still could be… only if the government thinks more practical and finds money to repair it. Foreigners will be coming non stop as it is almost in the capital.

  • One Hundred Roads says:

    These are beautiful photographs, melancholic in the depiction of what was and what could still be.

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