Our first destination was the hilltop ruins of the Citadel. What an amazing view of the city.
The city has been inhabited for 6000 years. The variety of ruins and architecture made it an interesting place to sight see. There was everything from Thracian and Roman ruins, to Ottoman, Bulgarian National Revival and communist buildings.
Plovdiv is a great walking city as long as you can handle the cobblestones. Graham and I enjoyed checking out the antique and traditional Bulgarian souvenir shops.
We purchased a five site museum ticket. Most of the National Revival houses are smaller on the main floor, then deliberately built to jut out on the second floor and extend even further if there was a third floor. This is because they were taxed based on the measurements of the ground level, so building the upper levels out was a great way to gain more space while avoiding additional taxes.
We first went to the House of Luka Balabanov and saw an art exhibit on the lower floor. The upstairs rooms were furnished in the National Revival style. We went next door to the House of Stefan Hindliyan which was my favourite with its blue façade, marble Turkish bath, intricate wooden ceilings, and lovely trompe l’oeil paintings (which means fool the eye).
We moved on to the House of Nikola Nedkovich which displayed more personal items as well as furnishings from the Revival Period. The garden had an arbour laden with ripe green grapes.
Did I mention that Plovdiv has a lot of Roman ruins? Our next stop was to the ancient theatre. The stairs were steep and you could walk all around it.
Graham was complaining that we hadn’t gone to a McDonalds in Bulgaria. He has a tradition of going at least once to a McDonalds in every country he visits. It was the first time I’ve seen McDonalds also written in Bulgarian on their sign. It was a bit challenging to order because the menu was in Bulgarian. I had a crispy chicken wrap and fries because they didn’t have grilled. It tasted the same.
We then took in a two hour guided walking tour with Plovdiv Free Tours by 365 tour company. Our guide, Ilyia ( Elijah in English) was knowledgeable, easy to hear and interesting. Obviously very passionate about his city.
We stopped first at a statue of Milo, sitting where he used to sit in real life. When still alive, Milo was a bit crazy and was also partially deaf. Apparently he also was a real ladies man and well endowed in a certain area of his anatomy. The left hand of his statue cups his ear as if to hear and his right hand grips his clothed appendage. The tradition is that you will get your wish if you whisper it into his left ear.
The ancient Roman stadium was our next stop. We could only see part of it because blocks and blocks of the city are built on top. In Roman times this stadium was used for horse races, gladiator fights and ship battles. Yes, you heard right. They would fill the lower level with water and the audience would watch two ships and their crews fight to the death. Bloodthirsty group, weren’t they.
We checked out an ancient church which had been turned into a mosque during Ottoman rule and walked through the old town.
There are seven universities in Plovdiv. In front of the music university there was a statue of a violinist nicknamed Sasha sweetheart. People loved him because besides being a talented musician, he was also kind. When communism came to Bulgaria, he was not happy and often made negative jokes about the communists during his performances. One time a high ranking communist official came to the club where he was playing and said “When are you leaving?” And Sasha publicly replied “More importantly, when are you leaving?”
He was taken away to a labour camp and died eleven days later.
After the walking tour, we went just outside the old town to the Small Basilica (Roman ruin) where the beautiful floor mosaics were displayed under a glass floor.
We rested back at the apartment before going out to a lovely, traditional Bulgarian restaurant in the old town. We shared large (and I mean large) plates of chicken hearts in butter( Graham’s choice), Tripe and beef tongue with cheese (my choice) and a chicken/vegetable korma hot plate (John’s choice). Graham and I often like to try the more unusual things on the menu. Company, food and atmosphere made it an enjoyable last meal in Bulgaria.
We passed one of the old churches on our way back to the apartment. At night time they have the steeple lit up with a red light in the window and white flashing lights around. It gives it a disco vibe...I’m not sure that was the effect they were going for.