Day 19: It’s A Trap!

Today is our last day in Plovdiv before we head to our last city on this trip, Sofia.  There were only 2 sights left that we wanted to see in Plovdiv – Tsar Simeon Garden and the Kapana.  We (Pa) woke up bright and early and we headed down to another outstanding hotel breakfast, then headed out to the post office, sent some more postcards, and headed into the Garden.


The Garden is apparently recently “renovated” and boasts fountains, ponds, art and “art”.  One of the recently refurbished fountains is Demeter’s Fountain, dedicated to the Greek goddess of the same name.


The Garden had all sorts of sculptures and statues, some beautiful, some thought provoking…


Finally we arrived at the “Singing” Lake, a large man-made fountain/pond that when approached it, was BYOS (Bring Your Own Singing).  There was a lovely covered cafe beside it, so we sat down and enjoyed some espresso con panna while some of the waterworks in the lake started, but no singing.  Apparently on Friday and Saturday nights, there is music and a light show.


At the end of the Garden is tall monument dedicated to Philip II, who named the city Philippopolis, is seen here with both eyes (according to Pa he lost one at some point) and died under mysterious circumstances (was it his wife?  His ambitious son, Alexander the Great?  We’ll never know…).


After our stroll through the garden, we headed back to the ruins of the Roman Forum, this time from the other side to get a better view.  It’s amazing to think that under so much of the city are Roman ruins, which were built on top of Greek ruins, which were built on top of Thracian ruins.


Heading back to the main pedestrian street, we walked through an arts festival, and some big steampunk grill with chicken cooking.  It smelled amazing.  Definitely one of the meals I’ve fallen in love with in Bulgaria is chicken kebab and Shopska salad.


A few minutes on foot and we were at the Kapana, also known as the Trap.  The Kapana is a section of Plovdiv that houses restaurants, shops and galleries.  There was an awful  lot of food windows hawking shawarma and falafel, and it smelled outstanding.  Had we not just had ice cream, I would have eagerly snapped up a chicken and baba ghanouj shawarma.  The length of the main street of the Kapana was mostly purse, shoe and questionable men’s fashion shops, but one store caught my eye – Inglot.  I went in and picked up some nail polish and shimmer dust (necessities) and by that point, the rain had really started to pick up, so Pa bought me an umbrella and we headed back to our hotel to warm up before a delicious steak dinner at Hemingway and cake and coffee at the hotel’s cafe before turning in to pack for the 2nd to last time (one of the worst parts of travel for me).


Day 18: Wobble

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.


Day 17: Oldie But a Goodie

Today we woke up to another grey and blustery day in Sozopol.  We packed our things and headed down for our last breakfast on the Black Sea.  Our wonderful innkeeper (we never did find out his name) gave us a bottle of Bulgarian red wine to take home before handing us over to the capable driving hands of Ivan, the sweet gentleman who had driven us from Veliko Tarnovo to Sozopol (we hired him again because we like him so much).  By 0945hrs we hit the road, the soundtrack from Evita on the car stereo, heading west, towards the city of Plovdiv.  Pa has been really excited to see Plovdiv because it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, and has evidence of habitation from the 6th millennium BC, and has changed hands between the Romans, Thracians, Ottomans and others plenty of times.  Pa is mostly interested in the ancient Roman ruins.

By 1400hrs and after a boring drive (what do I know, I slept through most of it) we entered the city limits of Plovdiv and found our hotel.  We’re staying in a boutique hotel here, and it looks like the hotel owns most of the street – two hotel buildings, a bakery, and a special relationship with a really good restaurant across the street, Hemingway.  Also across the street from us, is this:


Ruins of a Roman Odeon from the 2nd century AD, also known as the Odeon of Philippopolis (the city was once called Philippopolis as it had been conquered by Philip II of Macedon).  The ruins were uncovered in 1988 and restoration has been somewhat continuous.  The Odeon still houses performances and shows!

There is a lot of old, ancient Roman and Thracian ruins and buildings around the city, including the crown jewel of the ruins, the Roman Amphitheatre, but we wanted to pace ourselves.  We went to Hemingway for a late lunch (more shopska salad for me) as well as bruschetta, spinach salad, beers and cheesecake, probably the best cheesecake Ma and I have ever had.  After lunch we decided to stroll along the main pedestrian street and see what kind of old stuff we would come across.


Plovdiv was selected to be the European Cultural Capital in 2019, so they have all sorts of signage and improvement projects around the city.


A short amble up the pedestrian street from our hotel we came across uncovered parts of the Plovdiv Roman Stadium, also known as the Stadium of Trimontium.  Again from the 2nd century AD, the stadium (only a part of which can currently be seen) seated 30,000 and housed all sorts of Olympic-type games and spectacles.  Pa was nerding out big time.


What I like about the ruins is you can walk freely through them, touch them, sit on them.  They are still an interactive yet respected part of the city.


Through the tunnel underpass of the Stadium was a wall built by Hadrian (not Hadrian’s Wall) and the remains of an aqueduct.


Climbing out of the ruins we came across Dzhumaya Mosque, built by the Ottomans in 1363.  The Mosque marks the start of an artsy and funky district known as Kapana, or in English “The Trap”.  We decided to save Kapana for a later day on our trip.


Attached to the Mosque is a Turkish coffee house, and Pa and I can’t say no to that potent, thick sludge.


We wandered back down the pedestrian street, looking in the shop windows and admiring all the fashion and “fashion”.  There are a lot of menswear shops, some with beautiful suits and jackets (those who know me know how much I loooooove a beautiful coat on a handsome man) and some hawking the worn-and-torn-yet-bejewelled jeans I have seen far too much of on this trip.


It was dinner time by the time we got back to our hotel, and we weren’t particularly hungry, so we settled for some pastries and coffees and snuggled down for the night.