A city I’ve had the good fortune to visit no less than seven times so far, one short article cannot hope to do it enough justice. Having a beautiful female friend there to look after me is obviously a magnetic incentive but Plovdiv itself is Bulgaria’s second city and cultural capital, a juxtaposition of modernity and history with all the amenities one might expect, and simultaneously one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.
Its history dates back some 6000 years, and since becoming a Roman city it has retained many of its old Roman structures and buildings, including its famous amphitheatre. With incredible views over the city it is unsurprising that many events and festivals are still held there today. But the amphitheatre is merely one such vantage point in the city offering panoramic scenery. Plovdiv has historically developed on seven syenite hills, earning it the name ‘The City Of The Seven Hills.’
Step back in time with a walk up through the Old Town and see the river from the hill with the old walls, or make your way up to the statue of the Russian soldier at Alosha from where the vista over the city on a sunny day will carry you for miles.
Plovdiv also boasts the largest sports complex in Eastern Europe, and the 2km Olympic rowing channel alone is apparently visible from space. A great place to walk, enjoy a coffee and take in one of many beautiful sunsets.
The town centre is a modern pedestrian zone overflowing with colourful shops, cafes and bars, and some of the best ice cream available anywhere. An aptly named dessert restaurant named Dreams is worth the walk down the main street alone. In amongst the bustle, one gets a hint of Ottoman ancestry in the cobbled paths and the stunning Dzhumaya Mosque with its opulent minaret.
Not far from Plovdiv are some of Bulgaria’s treasures, such as the Roman ruins of Hissar, an entire complex of ruins and walls reminding you of Bulgaria’s dual heritage from dynasties on either side of its borders. A favourite of mine is Asenovgrad, upon whose cliffs rests the Asem Fortress dating back to the 9th century. I’ve enjoyed its peace and serenity many times, and it will probably be there for another thousand years.
Plovidiv’s relative position within Bulgaria means it is also possible to get to many amazing places further afield, including the Rhodope Mountains, some of the country’s many mystical caves and the famous Bachkovo Monasteries. Braver people than myself paraglide off the lofty peaks of Sopot but I have enjoyed a refreshing plunge into the crystal clear pools within the national forest at Kalofer.
One can even go horse-riding through the hills and find a secluded waterfall near the beautiful Sushitsa Reservoir. That was a truly incredible ride.
I have travelled from Plovdiv to the beaches of the Black Sea, along the stunning Kaliakra Coast and inhaled the aromatic roses in the Balchik Botanical Gardens.
If you’re willing to drive a few hours more and find some accommodation the mountains of Pirin offer some great hiking and spectacular views.
A big draw for yours truly is always the food, and Bulgaria has some of the tastiest anywhere. The Thracian soil is famously very fertile with hardly any artifice or fertilizer used, resulting in naturally succulent produce. Shopska salad, one of their national dishes, is heaven on a plate, and there are no end of great eateries to sample it and other delicious dishes. And it doesn’t hurt that your meal may be accompanied by pulsating live music and gyrating girls!
On each visit I have made to Bulgaria I have discovered something original and remarkable, and yet there is still so much more to see (the Rila Lakes, for example, are on my list). Plovdiv does supreme justice to a country that really should make huge revenue from enticing visitors to its many wonderful sights and attractions. Whether your poison is food or history, skiing or mountaineering, nature trekking or beaches, this beautiful nation of roses has something for everyone in abundance.
These images were taken with a variety of devices, the best camera I have invariably being the one in my hands at the time. All processed in Lightroom for my typical postcard look and then reduced in size, quality and watermarked as a single action in CS6. I realize a post like this doesn’t offer the technical instruction or information as other posts on PL but photography has taken me to many places and I hope that like other contributors to this site my images can perhaps bring some of those places to you. And, more importantly, I hope they encourage you to go out and take photos of your own. If nothing else, consider it a convenient space filler until the next, more worthy post comes along.
I extend my sincere thanks as ever to my dear friend Genka for helping me make so many wonderful memories. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a small sample of them here.