Second Bite of Bulgaria

Plovdiv is not a small town, but it seemed more manageable after Sofia!

It is going to be the 2019 European Capital of Culture, and it is definitely deserving of the title. There is an incredible amount of history here, but what amazed me was it is still being discovered.

The Roman Amphitheatre (98-117 AD) is one of the world’s best preserved ancient theatres, and it was only discovered from 1968 to 1979.

There has been extensive reconstruction as a large part was destroyed in the 4th century by fire or earthquake.

It is still used regularly for concerts. This is a screen grab from the Sting concert in June 2018

Plovdiv is known as the oldest city in Europe, and one of the six oldest in the world.

Plovdiv has seven hills, three of which are in the Old Town. View from the ancient fortress of Nebet Tepe.

There is a very long boulevard that stretches all the way through the Old and New Towns.

Did you know the bagpipe (gaida) is a Bulgarian traditional instrument?? It’s true!

The Roman Stadium of Philippopolis (2nd century) begins at the end of the Old Town by the Dzhumaya Mosque, and stretches for 240 metres under the boulevard. It could seat 30,000 spectators.

The Forum of Philippopolis (1st century) is another site that was discovered behind the central post office in 1988 but looks more deserted. It’s interesting that the Forum was the original center of administration, and still is!

The Archaeological Museum was very well done, with excellent English descriptions.

Note the date of this beautiful bowl with lid

This guy has a story to tell! It is an extremely rare iron and silver helmet and mask (1st century) found in 1905. In 1995 it was stolen in a brazen armed robbery but found in Switzerland in 2015 and returned.

A huge problem now is the race for the archaeologists to find and secure sites before they are robbed and destroyed.

In another area the Bishop’s Basilica, the biggest early-Christian temple in Bulgaria, was found. They are building a huge complex around the floor mosaics (like these). I would love to come back and see it when it’s done.

This is Alyosha, an 11 metre Soviet soldier that was installed in 1954-1957 to commemorate the soviet casualties during their occupation of Bulgaria in World War II. Obviously such a prominent reminder of that period is not welcome, and is a frequent target of graffiti.

It was quite a hike up the hill, but I didn’t even notice as I was talking with Anne, a fellow Canadian from Vancouver. It was a fun day as we explored the city, and I enjoyed the opportunity to speak English!

Old East Gate

Repairing the mosaic

Then it was a 5 hour bus trip to Sozopol on the Black Sea coast. Anne and Jon were on the same bus!

Sozopol Old Town is a compact jumble of old wood and stone buildings, cobblestone streets, and dozens of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. This stretches along the coast where there are other beaches.

It’s hard to believe that from June to September it is jammed with tourists, as it is a ghost town now. Except for a few businesses, the Old Town and beach area are shuttered for the winter.

My two-storey penthouse (the 🔵) is on a steep hill overlooking the Old Town, and not far from businesses the locals use.

If you know my story, I haven’t had a home for two years, so this is really ‘my home’ for a two week break from being a ‘tourist’. I am enjoying the opportunity to cook and just enjoy the view. And getting good exercise climbing the hills!

Sozopol was originally an ancient Greek port known as Anthea, then Apollonia from 5th century BC.

Medieval church from 10th-17th century built over ruins from 5th-2nd century BC

I’ve counted at least six of these little chapels around town.

Southern walls and gate from the 5th century

The Archaeological Museum has a good collection of Greek artifacts but was disappointing as there were no English explanations

There have been cats everywhere in Romania and Bulgaria. I expect they could use a better spay and neuter program, but while they are thin they look healthy. The kittens are cute but skittish so I can’t get close for a photo.

Everyone seemed to get their firewood delivered the same week It has been a flurry of chainsaws and stacking.

Its been difficult to adjust to a slower pace here, but it has been a needed break after three months.

For variety I took the bus (30 minutes) into Burgas, a industrial port city. I just needed to walk for a few hours on flat ground while distracted by people and shops. But it was good to come back and just watch the fishing boats return to harbour.

They do love their coffee here. There are self serve kiosks everywhere, and little shops that sell coffee, cigarettes and such through a window, though this shop was lower than usual.

Bulgarian Shopska salad is similar to Greek salad, but the sirene cheese (like feta) is grated. I had one olive for garnish, and oil/vinegar are on the table.

Restaurants are often Turkish, with grilled meat. This is an Adana kebab, which is seasoned ground meat cooked on a skewer. Note a bite missing before I remembered the photo!

There are pizza and donair shops everywhere

Time to leave this one-horse town! Next stop, Istanbul…

4 thoughts on “Second Bite of Bulgaria

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