It’s been really nice staying in the suburbs of Plovdiv. Many Bulgarians live in fairly simple homes surrounded by extensive gardens. Like their Balkan neighbours the local green grocer only supplements whatever isn’t growing in their garden. Everything they grow is organic and nothing goes to waste. The host of the guest house was very proud of his homemade wine and rakia which had a secret herb (supposedly an aphrodisiac which I’m still waiting for it to kick in).lol
When we arrived we were greeted in true Bulgarian fashion with a glass of rakia and a glass of crystal clear mountain spring water. It was nice learning a bit about life in Bulgaria. Locals work for about $20 per day so to get ahead many work elsewhere and send money home.
Heading into Plovdiv we discovered the centre is surrounded by parking stations. After getting our bearings we headed to the East gate of the old town where we soon found a footpath to park on. Heading towards the East gate we visited Sveti Nedelya Church. It dates back to the 17th century and has the most ornate carved iconostasis. As we passed through the gate and into the old town we were amazed by how many of the old renaissance buildings have been restored.
We wandered up past the Ethnographic Museum to the lookout which overlooks Plovdiv. It’s got a great view however some of the view is of the industrial area. Wandering through the top of the old town there were lots of old buildings selling Bulgarian handicrafts and souvenirs. There was even some locally made Bulgarian pottery and of course rose products. Bulgaria produces 80% of the worlds rose products such as oil for the cosmetic industry so there’s no shortage of products for sale.
We wound our way through the rough cobbled streets to the Roman Theatre. Plovdiv boasts that it’s the oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe. It’s a claim that many cities across Europe have made and Plovdiv backs it up with archaeological pottery finds dating back to the Neolithic Age. In the post Bronze Age it was a Thracian city before it was conquered by Alexander the Greats father Phillip and renamed Phillipopolis. This name is still used in certain sections of the old town. After being reconquered by the Thracians it was then overrun by the Romans in 72 BC. Around the old city and city centre the ruins of many roman buildings are still visible. Overlooking the Roman Theatre a small bar with lots of outdoor seating is the perfect spot to look across the ruins. Around the hillside area of the old town a few old churches remain from the late Ottoman period when churches were allowed.
The Ottomans ruled Bulgaria for 700 years until they were defeated in 1878 by Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian forces during the Russo-Turkish War. Many of the renaissance buildings date from the prosperity that the merchants gained during the late Ottoman period when Plovdiv was a major trading point. Leaving the old town we wandered down the main shopping mall. Beneath the street the ruins of the old roman theatre are still visible. It once ran for almost the length of the street. Midway down the shopping mall we detoured off the street to the remains of the Odeon. There’s not much left just the lower walls but it’s quite extensive. At the edge of it one of the main roads passes right by and on our way in and out of town we pass by it.
After a forgettable lunch in town (we should’ve eaten in one of the lovely restaurants in the old town) we headed back to the bike. Along the way up the hill we spotted a few of the tiled murals which adorn some of the newer three storey buildings. They tell the tales of medieval Bulgaria. Just as it started to rain we headed back to the apartment. Passing the ruins of the roman aqueduct along the way. The weather forecast doesn’t look good for tomorrow but fingers crossed we don’t get wet.