I hit the pavement still relatively fresh despite a seven hour bus ride from Istanbul to Plovdiv. For this happy condition I thank a nanna nap on the bus and purposely travelling oh, so light. Having packed for only a few days, I easily strolled my way under peaceful, green canopies to my guest house – quirkily called My Guest Rooms. Hmm…
The building itself was a grand old dame with parquet floors and no elevator! I questioned once more why there always so many stairs in my life??
Settled in, I quiz the owner for some restaurant suggestions. In the process he hands me some colourful, personal tales.
‘Your English is good.’ I say.
‘Courtesy of 3 months at The US president’s pleasure back 30 odd years. I used my time in the slammer studying English’, he quips.
Thus he explains how in the dark communist days, our hero had attempted to visit what is now Trump’s kingdom via a land crossing at an unofficial Mexican border crossing.
This adventurous guy suggests his language skills may get to improve further still as he’s yet to visit the Big Apple, a place he wishes to see. His initial escapades had resulted in a life-long travel ban to The States but he was considering giving breaking in another go. Better get to it before that Mexican Border wall is up and running, I say.
But I digress.
For me at least, entering Plovdiv was a breeze.
Off I set through the delightful city park in search of fodder. It was resplendent with fountains and dancing folk. Happily, I looked for and found pork and good red wine, the dream of many pig eating foreigners living in Turkey .There are many delightful parks in Bulgaria and certainly this one was well attended and appreciated on this dappled, summer evening. I had been told this particular park served as a ‘beat’ by a gay friend of mine in Istanbul.
Well, maybe he would know, but I saw absolutely no evidence of this, the most salacious activity I witnessed a weekend puppet show for the kiddies and locals strolling hand in hand along the pretty promenades. I was later informed for illicit encounters I would need a special app!
Next day, I hit Plovdiv’s central European pedestrian street. An Adelaidean, such as myself, would call this a mall but in the Adelaide sense of the word not the Turkish or American understanding of the term. This was no MMMAAAALLL. Rather it was what some refer to as a delightful, pedestrian ‘zone’.
This ‘zone’ is now apparently the longest pedestrian strip in Europe, having knocked Copenhagen off her perch by adding to its length in the last couple of years. Take that, you Danes, you.
Regardless, it’s very pleasant meander and has all kinds of nice ice cream shops and a mosque that used to be a church and some decent ancient ruins smack bang in the middle of it all.
A few streets from here, Plovdiv’s hipsterville beckons. Kapana or The Trap in Bulgarian, was designed some centuries ago by merchants to ‘entrap’ clientele.
Now, as then, it is a web of cobble stone streets currently decorated with pretty flags and walls of arty graffiti. It boasts coffee shops, juice and wine bars, tourists and local groovers and until a few years ago it was pretty down and out.
Happily, with pLOVEdiv being named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, creative locals have been subsidised to set up shop, which continues to reinvigorate the area.
Last of the primary sights of interest is the ‘old town.’
Plenty to see and do here also, with old homes displaying art exhibitions and the ‘piece de resistance’ Plovdiv’s own Roman Stadium.
So with Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Turks all having left their mark it safe to say Plovdiv is well worth a look and not just for the pounds of pork purchased by my mate to return to Istanbul with.