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Old Sofia Bath Will House Spa Centre And History Museum

The historic building of the central mineral baths in downtown Sofia has long become one of the city's symbols. Officially closed in 1986, its fate remained undecided, while every municipal administration that came to power deliberated what new purpose to attach to the old building.Finally, in July, a solution was found and officially published in the State Gazette: the building was cut in two. The north wing, it was decided, would house a spa centre, and it was given in a 20-year concession. The centre would take up to 5600 sq m, with the remaining 7000 sq m going to house exponents of the Sofia city museum, Stroitelstvo Gradut reported. One of the main responsibilities of the future concessionaire will be to fully renovate and reconstruct the north wing and to carry out repairs of the big and small indoor pools.In addition to the spa procedures and hydrotherapy, the concessionaire would be allowed to open a fitness club, a hair salon and a beauty parlour. The total investment for the renovation should not be less than seven million leva, while the minimum yearly concessionary payment will come to 375 000 euro.Through a parallel administrative procedure, the city hall was hoping to select a construction company that would renovate the west wing where the museum should find home. The plan envisions eight exhibition halls, a repository, an informational centre and a coffee shop.The city council has voted to allot nine million leva for the reconstruction, and set a deadline set for the completion of the project of December 1 2009. Next year, Sofia will mark its 130th anniversary as the capital of Bulgaria. However, Stroitelstvo Gradut expressed doubts that the museum would open on time for the festivities.Chief architect entrusted with the re-design of the building's interior is Stanislav Konstantinov.A year ago, Dnevnik daily reported that the museum collection featured more than 100 exponents, which have been gathered since 1928 when the museum first opened to the general public. Some of the artefacts date back to the Neolithic Era (or the new Stone Age that began 10 000 BCE).In 1943, however, the building suffered from the bombings of Sofia. Since then the exponents have been distributed around various repositories. Some still remain at the bath's building, among which is the desk of Bulgarian revolutionary and statesman Stefan Stambolov (1854 - 1895), which was a special gift from German politician Otto von Bismarck. The collection also features a grandfather clock given as a wedding present to Bulgarian prince Ferdinand by Queen Victoria in 1893.Architect Petar Momchilov designed the original building in 1913 and in recent years, film directors and artists have found it appealing for realisation of their artistic visions.