Plovdiv is the 6th oldest living city in the world and it is the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia dating back to neotlithic settlements 6000 BCE. When Philip II of Macedon, (after which the city was named Philippoppolis) father of Alexander Great conquered it in the 4th century BC, and later came numbers of civilisations like Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks. Finally, in 1878, Plovdiv was liberated from Ottoman rule by the Russian army and it remained within the borders of Bulgaria.
Being situated on 7 fertile hills on the two banks of the Maritsa River, it is often linked to the Roman settlements as there are numerous famous sites since that times.
This incredibly rich history has given Plovdiv one of the most charming old towns in Eastern Europe, mixing the antic sites with mediaval streets and sacral buildings, recent communist era statues and building and nowadays modern squares and pedestrian roades.
This was my entrance to the city of huge contrasts: for the moment I thought I am passing Dubai. I must admit, the bus driver had a special taste for folk music. -_-
Anyhow, the ancient myth of Orpheus in the lands of ancient Thrace, is right here in Plovdiv, situated between the Rhodope Mountains (the legendary homeland of Orpheus). Thereby, the Ancient theatre of Philipoppol as one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in the World!
The other important ancient site is The Stadium of Trimontium in Plovdiv. It is among the largest structures from the time of the Ancient Rome in the Balkan peninsula. The citizens still nowadays like to gather at the attached Forum / Agora and socialize, as the modern coffee places and bars are incorporated into the site.
As I said, the city was built on 7 hills of Rhodopi mountain. On the one of the hills is nowadays placed the Old town. The complex has been formed as a result of the long sequence of habitation from prehistoric times to present days and combines the architecture from Antiquity, Middle Ages and Bulgarian revival.
Behind me, up on the hill is the House of Argir Hristov Kuyumdzhioglu, a merchant from Plovdiv, who built this house in 19 century as a prominent homespun trader who owned a company in Vienna.
The house is mostly made of wood with sophisticated decorations.
After the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878, Argir Kuyumdzhioglu left Plovdiv to settle in Istanbul (Constantinople). The house was converted into a girls’ boarding house.
My favourite part of Plovdiv is the Kapana district! The part of cty where the craftsmen and rich merchants lived. Kapana means ‘the trap” since once you enter its narrow and tangeld streets, you get lost easily.
The district was a business-centre for craftsmen 5 centuries ago, so don’t be surprised of street names like Kozhuharska (Leather Str), Zhelezarska (Iron Str) and Zlatarska (Gold Str). Nowadays you will not find traditions craftsmen here but contemporary creative entrepreneurs converting the district into a real art centre and dedicated to creative industries.
Speaking about the streets named by craftsmen, I couldn’t not to see the street named after my birth city, also famous by craftsmen and it’s Old town Kaptol.
All little streets are part of the city’s pedestrian zone, so I really enjoyed walking around noticing galleries, workshops, ateliers, studios, cozy restaurants and shops, as well as other art spaces…
Another interesting district was the one with old factories. In 1939 there were 16,000 craftsmen and 17,000 workers in manufacturing factories, mainly for food and tobacco processing. During the Second World War the tobacco industry expanded, mostly led by Jews. It was the time of economic boom.
In 1943 the first deportation of the bulgarian Jews to concentration camps have started, factories are to be shoted down for the war times…
During the communist times it was in a full speed, producing heavy industrial products, being crowded with busy working class mostly used by the governent.
The district is nowadays is destroyed completely but with the idea to be re-newed again, especially since the Plovdiv is selected as Bulgarian host of European Capital of Culture in 2019.
From that time, the witnesses are many communist monuments and flat buildings with big letters, typical for the architectural style of socialism.
Typical example is the post office of the photo below. I learnt, that once stood there a beautiful Bauhaus building…
After the World War II, Bulgaria was deliberated by the Soviet troops, which is perpetuated with the Alyosha Monument – the momument to the unknown soviet soldier that commemorates the arrival of the Soviet troops. It also marks the end of World War II.
The manin street is entirely pedestrian zone with many shops, as the commercial sector is developing quickly in Bulgaria.
But what I mostly liked in the main street is the statue of Muljo – the deaf wanderer.
Apparently, Muljo was a citizen, likeable by the others, but unfortunately dead. The city of Plovdiv, after his death decided to raise the monument dedicated to his social spirit.
Bulgaria is known by the good wines, as the vineyards around Plovdiv are some of the oldest in the world.
My Bulgarian colleagues have brought me to a very specific and traditional place where we stayed long in the night.