Two Wrongs Make A Right?
“I’m not sure I understand what all the hype is about Plovdiv, it doesn’t seem all that great to me,” I tell Carrie. “You’re too harsh. It’s a great city. We just aren’t doing it justice.” She counters. I shrugged and let it go hoping that I’m not stuck with writing the Plovdiv post.
But, as is usually the case, I was wrong and she was right. Actually, that’s not entirely true; we were both partially wrong and partially right. There are a few reasons why we didn’t completely do Plovdiv justice and on the flip side why we did do a few things very well. First, it was damn hot! For much of the day the heat was oppressive, to the point that we became demotivated. Sitting in our deliciously cool (a term coined by our Airbnb host. More on them later) Airbnb apartment was just too comfortable to leave.
Secondly, we had now been in Southern and Eastern Europe for around four months and we have seen our fill of Roman/Greek ruins, forts, churches, old towns, and Plovdiv’s claim to fame is mostly of these things. I guess that sounds a bit jaded. But don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed all those things, we’re just a bit pickier than we used to be.
Plan A Didn’t Sound Good, So Off To Plan B
So, what to do in Plovdiv, if not the traditional tourist things? Well, we did do a few touristy things, but we focused on the parks and everyday life in Plovdiv. In other words; what were the locals up to? We put these three items on the agenda:
We couldn’t completely ignore the Roman ruins and the historic old town. So we picked two of the larger and more famous ruins to visit and had a walkabout old town. We picked the Roman stadium and the Roman theater. Only a small part of the stadium is accessible to the public. The interesting thing is that Plovdiv city streets are built directly over top of the stadium. The second ruin that we picked was the Roman theater. A huge, well preserved, and still in use facility. Since Pink Floyd seems to enjoy doing concerts in Roman ruins (i.e. Pompeii ), perhaps we should all write to the band and suggest they do a show here. I would definitely go! A small rant: We did not actually enter the theater complex. It wasn’t about the entry fee, it was reasonable. The rub is that they wanted to charge an excessive fee for the privilege of taking photographs. And to me any fee for taking photos at a site is excessive. Anyone who enters is a tourist and photos are memories. All tourists want to remember their experiences. So please, those in charge of setting fees; think. Set an entrance fee appropriate to the site and be done with it. End of rant. The old town was small, but quaint and afforded some good photo moments of local life.
- We walked around the ‘hip’ new section of Plovdiv, affectionately called The Trap because the streets were a maze, and
simply observed people running errands, working, or just enjoying a coffee with a friend. Oh, and every once in a while we would take a photograph. There was also a very nice green space located near The Trap. Here, we would settle in on a nice park bench, people watching and taking photographs, while eating our lunch and consuming a nice wine or cold beer. And what did we eat you ask, while we were enjoying those lovely little picnics? Some exotic Bulgarian cuisine? Nope! We found an Argentinian Parilla and Asador.
Nothing says picnic like meat on a stick and little potato balls. Sated, we would head back to our apartment to avoid the midday heat and read, write, or nap. We found napping to be a very important part of coping with the heat and re-energizing for the evening venture back into the wilds. In the late afternoons, we would sit on the shaded ‘deliciously cool’ balcony, which is how it was described on the Airbnb site.
Our Gracious Hosts
Our third agenda item was to get to know our Airbnb hosts, Martin and Blaga a bit better. We met Martin immediately upon
arrival into Plovdiv, as he had graciously volunteered to pick us up at the bus station, and we hit it off immediately. We learned that he was French and that his wife was Bulgarian. They met in Bulgaria while he was traveling around Eastern Europe, promptly fell in love, and he never left. They have since made a handsome baby boy. Blaga was also fluent in French, so I had some opportunity to practice my French. On their Airbnb profile, they mentioned that for them, the Airbnb experience was more than just a money maker and that they enjoyed the process of meeting people from various parts of the globe. Our first evening was spent having drinks in The Trap and solving the world’s problems. We had a great time, so we invited them to join us for dinner one night. We told them to pick the place. And a
lovely place they chose: a locals’ restaurant in a residential area with tasty, traditional Bulgarian food, outdoor setting, and mama cats nursing kittens under the table. A truly memorable experience and once again the world’s problems were solved.
The moral of my little tale is that there are many ways to explore the same place. Sometimes the obvious, the most accessible, aren’t the most interesting. Sometimes it’s better to shelve the guidebook and take a closer look around to find the pulse of a place. What you might find is the time of your life. I’m sure glad that I got ‘stuck’ with writing the Plovdiv post.
Hike Drink Live Laugh (Apero Time) More photos below…
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2 thoughts on “Plovdiv, Bulgaria: The Romans, The French, and Just Daily Life”
Cobblestone streets, Roman ruins and the stonework looks like it will still stand a couple centuries from now. My curiousity always gets the best of me, why did you pick Bulgaria as a place to visit ?
We picked Bulgaria because of its history, its wine, and just because we had not seen much of Eastern Europe. We’re trying to see as much of Europe as we possibly can.