Plovdiv, Bulgaria: A Historian’s Dream

Somehow we ended up spending most of the day in Plovdiv, the second city of Bulgaria. We had woke up with the ambition of getting as close to Istanbul as we could, but were realistic enough to know that we would not get all the way. As it turned out we are glad we didn’t get very far, as I think Plovdiv is not to be missed by any traveller in Bulgaria. It definitely beats Sofia for sights and atmosphere!

We followed some instructions from hitch wiki to a good hitching spot just beyond Sofia. This meant getting a tube towards the outskirts on the city, and onto a motorway.

This seemed simple enough until we got to the end of the tube line and 3 inspectors came to check our tickets. One rather large lady demanded Fletch pays the equivalent of £12 for his bag, after the smaller lady inaccurately measured it with a tape measure (it was not the time to correct her use of standard units of measurement). This seemed a little excessive, and he rightly refused to pay initially. The three of them, including a large man, became quite aggressive and one of them pulled a couple of notes from Fletch’s wallet and put them in her breast pocket. Fletch didn’t have any more Bulgarian currency to give them so they turned to me. I have been in similar situations to this before and refused outright to give them anything so proceeded towards the exit where I hoped we could lose them. They were quite persistent and followed us asking for more money. It was only then that we spotted a couple of policemen in a security booth. We told the police that the 3 ticket inspectors were asking us for money and questioned if it was allowed (they didn’t speak English). They seemed to understand what we were saying and began shouting at the inspectors. It was clear that the police were on our side and the inspectors then stopped asking for money. However, I realised that she still had 2 bank notes from Fletch’s wallet and blocked her exit from the booth until she gave it back. Stuck between myself and the police she had no choice but to hand the money back. We won! I have since thought about becoming a bouncer.

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With that initial drama over we were able to start hitching again. This time we were positioned closer to some traffic lights. Our thoughts were that the traffic could stop at the lights and have enough time to see us and think about us before driving off. This didn’t work at first as we were standing there quite a while.

Eventually we were picked up by a truck driver with a bucket full of peaches. He gave us a lift but in exchange we had to eat a few of his peaches. Fletch had the pleasure of finding a maggot in his second one. I’m sure it’s good protein though.

He dropped us just before the city of Plovdiv where we quickly got picked up by our first independent lady. I thought this was quite a brave move of hers as we were 2 ‘men’. She spoke very good English and offered to take us to the centre of the city. En route she convinced us the city was worth exploring in detail, and since time was moving on we decided to take her word for it.

We had lunch and booked into a cheap hostel before having time to take in the city. We ate some biscuits given to us by as beautiful a women as you can imagine and admired them, and her, for while.

As the evening began we joined a free walking tour of the city with some people from our hostel. This was a really good decision as it meant we saw and heard about things within the city that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. Our tour guide was very informative and told us lots of tales about the city, which everyone seemed to find fascinating.

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Despite the unique statues and stories of individuals within the city, the main attractions were the roman remains. Plovdiv is built on an ancient roman town and in recent years numerous interesting things have been uncovered. One of these things is the stadium, another a meeting place for the senate. However, the most spectacular for me was the roman amphitheatre. This has been uncovered recently but now stands in front of the vast hills of Plovdiv which sandwich the modern city, including mosques, between them. Together it makes for quite a sight.

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As it turns out, Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in the world. As a result it has been within several different empires. It was an important place for the Romans, following its ties to the Greeks. It also provided a home to many merchants in the Ottoman Empire as well as having Christian and pagan routes. This, amongst other rulers, makes the cocktail of culture and tradition in Plovdiv very unique. As is probably obvious, I enjoyed learning about it.

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Our tour ended as the sun began to set over roman ruins looking over the ancient city. This made for a wonderful view and photo opportunity.

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We managed to find our way back to the hostel in time to reheat some lentils and finish a bottle of Bulgarian red with a couple of German girls and an American. A good day ended, but back on the road in the morning.

If you like your historical facts and monuments, Plovdiv is the place for you.

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