Today we were up and ready to go after a great night’s sleep now that temperatures have cooled off. Our hotel provides an outstanding breakfast, so we helped ourselves and were on our way, ready to tackle the Plovdiv’s old town.
Our first stop was at an exhibition called TrakArt. It’s ancient Roman mosaics and glass works from the 2nd century AD, uncovered 20 years ago when city workers were digging an underpass. They have left the mosaics as they are and built a boardwalk overtop of them.
After marvelling at them, we headed north towards the old town, searching for Plovdiv’s crown jewel of Roman relics – the Amphitheatre. Plovdiv is known for having 7 hills, and the Amphitheatre is built between two of them, Dzhambaz and Taksim. The hike up the hills is lined with beautiful orthodox cathedrals and churches.
After desperately trying to not roll our ankles on the “cobblestones” (more on those later) we were upon it – the Roman Theatre of Plovdiv, built in the 1st century AD and still in use to this day.
We were allowed to walk freely around the theatre, except for the stage as workers were setting up for a Bulgarian folk performance later tonight. We sat in the theatre and just took in the setting, the Rhodope Mountains in the background. The theatre was built under Emperor Domitian, damaged in the 5th century AD by Attila the Hun, then covered by a landslide and forgotten until the 1970s, when it was discovered and spurred a massive restoration.
Just as we were ready to leave the Amphitheatre, the sun started to come out, so we headed into the old town to see the Old Plovdiv Houses in beautiful, warm weather.
A note about the cobblestones – they are not really cobblestones. They are randomly shaped and sized rocks placed about to form some sort of road. We had to watch where we were walking for a few minutes, stop, then look around. Walking and looking about at the same time would have spelled compound fracture for one of us.
The old town of Plovdiv takes you from ancient Rome to 18th and 19th century Ottoman Empire, and there were many beautiful, symmetrical homes built in the Ottoman style and many of which have been beautiful restored.
Walking around the hills of the old town, especially on a day like today, was like walking around Byzantine Montmartre – it was green and leafy, lots of little shops and cafes tucked away, as well as artists and studios.
One of the “must-see” old houses is now the Ethnographic Museum. It’s surrounded by a beautiful garden of fragrant roses and rosemary.
We made it to the top of another one of the hills and decided it was time for a drink, so we found a recommended beer garden with a sunny patio that overlooked the city, so we grabbed a seat and a couple of pints and enjoyed the view and each other’s company.
When we finished our beers (Ma had a Bitter Lemon) and decided to check out the Craft Street. As it turns out, there wasn’t much going on, so we decided to hike back up the wobbly hill and head back to the main pedestrian street by our hotel to grab some lunch, as it was already approaching 1400hrs.
We found an Italian restaurant that came recommended, had some late lunch (we wouldn’t recommend this place) and decided to go to a fountain-side cafe for some coffee and ice cream. The ice cream was absolutely delightful and nursing our sore joints, we wobbled back to the hotel for some down time of reading and postcard writing before grabbing a small dinner in the cafe downstairs and turning in for the night, hopefully getting enough sleep for our last day in Plovdiv.