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Darry Gallery, Bulgaria.

Happy as Darry.

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Despite being the cultural epicentre and capital of Bulgaria, the city of Sofia is not the most brightly coloured place you’re ever going to visit. And that’s putting it mildly. It’s still loveable, vibrant and picturesque beyond words. It just happens to be sporting more of a “post-communism meets suitable for icy weather” sort of look than your average vibrant tourist destination.

That makes stumbling across the intimate, jelly bean style gallery of artist Dragan Milev feel like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. It would feel all “other worldy” and psychedelic in somewhere as whack as Amsterdam. So in Sofia, it almost does your head in.

Cram more than 8 people into the “Darry Gallery” and things will be super tight. But Dragan and whichever buddies he has in tow will make it impossible to feel awkward. In fact, some might feel so comfortable that taking a nap in a corner will seem like a really normal idea.

Milev’s collection of abstract portraits, carved into novel sized planks of wood, are finished in the most brilliant collection of pastels and clustered together on a wall to the right. They highlight Dragan’s affection for humans; a pretty blend of burkas, hoop earrings and fuzzy red curls.

Another corner boasts what Milev explains to be a “bear head with shark teeth”. If you’re lucky, he’ll demonstrate its usability as a hat. If you’re unlucky, he’ll leave it on his head until you leave. It’s pretty hard to carry on with a serious “I appreciate art” conversation with a half man, half bear-shark. The gallery and its owner are casually cool but crazy as a coconut. Not your average Bulgarian encounter.

If you’ve settled into the relaxed price tags of the country by the time you reach Darry, you may feel a little overwhelmed. But when perspective kicks in, you’ll realise this is world class art; worthy and wonderful and conveniently small enough for the smallest of suitcases.

Dragan Milev Permanent Exhibition: 38 Pozitano Str. Sofia, Bulgaria 1301.

(Words and photo by Samantha Chalker.)

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