Sofia, Bulgaria, is the only city where vendors sell their wares at street level from fold-out shelves. For customers of these klek shops, this means: down on your knees!
Basement business Desperate for a box of Belgian chocolates? Out of beer or light bulbs? In Sofia, Bulgaria, people buy such items from little kiosks without a door but with a window at ground level where, more or less gracefully, customers crouch down or kneel (klek in Bulgarian) to collect their purchases. Kiosks are ubiquitous the world over, but only in the Bulgarian capital do you find basement stores called klek shops or just kleks.
The shops hark back to the early 1990s when, after the fall of communism, residents established them in basements and former bomb shelters to sell beverages and cigarettes, homemade jams and pickled vegetables. Sunglasses and cleaning agents soon joined the assortment and cobblers and tailors also offered their services from kleks. There is even a map showing the location of each klek, but chances are you’ll end up in front of a closed window. Since 2012, the number of kleks has fallen by half and only 30 are left.
Just recently, a klek bookstore and a klek pastry shop closed due to competition from modern shops and city ordinance requirements. Some people are taking things – literally – a step further and have turned their kleks into basement galleries and bars, complete with stairs to climb down. Looks like the end of the era of kneeling.
In September, Lufthansa is flying to Sofia (SOF) up to three times daily from Munich (MUC) and four times daily from Frankfurt (FRA). Use the app to calculate your miles: miles-and-more.com/app