Plovdiv is the type of very cool city that arises from having a lot of people on horseback building stuff there because they – like you – realized that its a nice place to spend time in. A trip to Bulgaria usually directs you to Sofia, the southern Mountains or the Black Sea Coast. As ever, do what the Macedonians and Romans did and head for Plovdiv, a university town located around 7 very defendable hilltops on the horse and tank-crossable plains about 120 kilometers south east of Sofia.
Bulgaria made the switch from Turkish occupation to an independent state in the late-19th Century, so unlike much of Eastern Europe, it didn’t have it’s time under the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The Romans left a very nice theater from the time of the Emperor Hadrian in which, that week, famed 1980’s-era Scottish band Marillion were due to perform. I didn’t stick around, although I wanted to.
The Ottomans, the last to vacate, provided the still active Dzhumaya mosque from the 13th-15th centuries with a nice coffee shop out front.
Plovdiv old town is still pretty much set in the 19th Century with Ottoman-style houses and is very wander-able.
People often take a break from their wandering for a street side coffee in the Kapana, a mostly 19th-century neighborhood. If you’re looking for a place to hang out and get a coffee or beer, this part of town – north of the mosque and between the north-south streets of Yoakim Gruev and Tsar Boris III, is a good place to go.
In the evenings, the 2nd Century AD Roman amphitheater is used for concerts and other events.
Street art #Plovdiv The Mongols got pretty close.
For aviation geek-out time heading out to the nearby Aviation Museum at Krumovo Airport – about a 15 euro cab ride – make sure that you are not taken to the passenger airport but to the Aviatsiya Muzhehe (http://www.airmuseum-bg.com/eng/) on the opposite side of the airport. There is a sign specific for that off the main highway. Here you can see a variety of mainly Soviet-era aircraft, as well as some remnants from other invaders.
If you have to geek out, go large. Who’d have thought that an intact Soyuz capsule would be found in Plovdiv, Bulgaria? This is what returned of Soyuz-33, in 1979, a bit charred from re-entry, with a Bulgarian Cosmonaut having been onboard, natch. Note the advanced glass-screen technology.
I used the train from Sofia to get here and returned on the bus. Both are fine with the bus slightly faster, but note that the rail station, located on Bul. Hristo Botev is a 15-minute walk south of the center. Beware that there are two bus stations, one co-located with the rail station – however Sofia intercity buses use the separate South Bus Station located about 300 meters east at Bul. Hristo Botev 47.
I stayed at the Noviz Hotel at bul. Ruski 55, which was decent and a pleasant 10-minute walk east into the center.
A good place for the evening is Plovdiv’s only craft beer bar, the Cat and Mouse (Котка и Мишка), located at ul. Hristo Dyukmedzhiev 14, in the Kapana area.