"Bulgaria's Second City..." Top 5 Page for this destination Plovdiv by johngayton
Plovdiv Travel Guide: 452 reviews and 1,220 photos
Even though I arrived on a cold, damp, dark November evening and only had one full day here (during most of which it snowed) Plovdiv did impress me.
As the train pulled into the station the train guard made a point of telling me that we were arriving - good job too as even when I got off the train I still couldn't see any sign that said Plovdiv (bear in mind that I CAN read Cyrillic). I did my usual trick of getting lost looking for my hotel (this time due to the lack of street signage, nothing to do with the various beers enroute). Backtracking to the station and taking the next main road my surroundings started to match my mental map. It really is about time that Bulgaria learned to sort out its sign postings!!
The hotel turned out to be pretty much perfect - modern, clean, comfortable, friendly receptionist, working WiFi and even a 24 hour bar!! After a quick freshen-up and check of emails it was time to search out a bite to eat.
Heading back towards the railway station I found a little mehana where I had quite an interesting meal (well it was cheap and filling and the service was friendly in an off-beat sort of way). Then back to the hotel (without getting lost), a brandy nightcap and a good night's sleep - not that I really needed the brandy as I'd been travelling for about 30 hours but old habits die hard.
Plovdiv certainly is a city of contrasts. During the socialist era the city became part of the planned industrial economy with several major manufacturing plants built, along with the workers housing. Despite a blip following the collapse of communism the city is still a growing industrial and business centre.
The ancient city too was an important commercial centre with its history traceable back to the 7th millenium BC. The Thracians established a fortified town here and there are records of the hosting of trade fairs in the 4th century BC.
In 72 AD the Romans took over and established a major garrison which soon achieved city status to become what the writer Lucian of Samosat described as "The largest and most beautiful of all cities". Though it should be noted that Lucian was a satirist and without the context the quote should be taken with a pinch a salt.
In between the ancient and the modern there's also been periods of Bulgarian rule, the Turkish Ottoman rule and then the eventual return to Bulgaria in 1885.
The last 2000 and some years have all left their physical imprint on the city with Ottaman mosques sitting atop Roman ruins. Concrete and glass office buildings rub shoulders with Bulgarian National Revival houses. At the top of Bunarjik hill the Soviet monument shares its space with the 1878 Liberator's monument overlooking the whole thing.
This makes Plovdiv a fascinating place just to wander and wonder - then come home and try to make sense of it all!!
The Roman name for Plovdiv was Trimontium, the city of three hills, but there were in fact seven. And just to keep things confusing one of the hills, Markovo Tepe, was levelled in the early 20th century and its rock used for street paving.
The three connecting hills of the Roman city, Taxim, Nebet and Jambaz, now form the foundation of the restored Old Town. The other three, Sahat, Dzhendem and Bunarjik, provide centrepieces for some of the city's many parks.
Two of the main parks are Tsar Simeon's Garden, almost in the Old Town, and Liberator's Hill. The former is a formally planted garden, ideal for strolling whilst the latter is built on the hill itself and is more of a woodland park. So no matter where you are in the city there's always plenty of green spaces to escape the bustle.
Plovdiv has now been revisited (Jan 2010) but the same intro still applies - even with 4 inches of snow to shuffle around in this is still a great city to visit. The better I get to know it the more it grows on me - but I really must visit in the summer, and hopefully before the airport makes it a mass tourist destination LOL!
And a further very short revisit has been made in June 2011 with the sun shining! It's still the same city just a bit warmer, the girls even sexier and a midnight beer on a balmy evening finished my day perfectly ;-)
- Pros:Friendly Folks and Interesting Old Town
- Cons:A Little Scruffy In Places - But Hey! So What?
- In a nutshell:Nice Train Station, Must Research the Airport ;)
Bulgarian taxis have long had a very bad press, including some contributions from myself, but whilst there are a few... more travel advice
My two previous visits to Plovdiv had both been in the winter but this visit in early June let me see the city in,... more travel advice
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