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Roman around Plovdiv

sunny 35 °C

I woke up this morning feeling a little under the weather and put the blame squarely on a frappe I had yesterday. For the last couple of weeks I've been drinking bottled water, but the frappe was filled with ice, so I guessed that was the culprit. However, I soon came right and once I was on the bus I had good reason not to feel sorry for myself, when a boy aged about 8 or 9 threw up for our entire three and a half hour trip. I had some travel calm ginger tablets which I gave him, but nothing would help, and I felt so sorry for him.

Needless to say, the road was winding and bumpy, and we traveled over a mountain pass. The scenery up in the mountains reminded me a lot of what I saw in Romania, with small villages and people working in the fields. I think many of these communities must be muslim, considering each seemed to have a minaret, and the local women getting on and off the bus were all wearing head scarves. Perhaps its part of the legacy that remains from the time of Ottoman rule.

I am now in Plovdiv, the longest continuously inhabited city in all of Europe. For over 8000 years people have lived here, and they've all left their mark in one way or another. Once I'd checked in, I set out with my Lonely Planet guide book to see if I could follow their suggested walking tour. I skipped the first bit because it was coffee and shopping, but soon found myself at the centre of the old town where you can see what remains of a Roman stadium and forum.


It's quite interesting to see young people sitting on the ancient seats chatting and enjoying a cold drink, when you consider what the view from that seat would have been thousands of years ago.

Just near the stadium, is the mosque with its towering minaret. One thing that really makes an impression on me in Bulgaria, is the way all the various religious buildings sit so close together. Bulgarians seem to be very proud of their cultural, religious, and historic diversity. And rightly so.


I then followed Lonely Planet's directions to reach Plovdiv's most famous landmark - the 2nd century AD Roman amphitheatre. It really is quite stunning and as you can see, they still use it today.


After this, I left the Romans behind and headed up the hill to the 5000 BC ruins of the Thracian settlement. Unfortunately, there is a lot of modern rock art now (graffiti tagging), but it was still pretty cool to romp around on such a historic site. The view of modern Plovdiv is good from up there too.


After seeing all these ancient sites, I went for a complete contrast, and walked along the main pedestrian shopping street.


Bulgaria has been a test of endurance for me. How can one country have so many shoe shops?? I tortured myself for a while by having a look in some, while mentally calculating how much I could dump from my backpack to fit my purchases. Fortunately, I didn't give in to temptation, as the receptionist at my hotel said later that the quality of the shoes isn't the best. Still, I felt like I'd let this bloke down, as he was holding the shopping centre roof up for me, which doesn't look easy.


Finally, I figured out why 7 million people need so many new shoes. The "cobblestone" pavements here, are nothing of the sort. They're just stone pavements, and not suitable for any type of shoe other than tramping boots. Not surprisingly, I have yet to see a baby stroller here.


Despite my interest in history, I have been a bit slack visiting museums on this trip. Generally, I've been content just to wander around looking at historic things. However, given the history of Plovdiv, I was keen to check out the Archaeological Museum. It's quite small, but excellent. They have items on display from the Neolithic period right through to medieval times. Perhaps what I liked most was the collection of coins, dating back to 500 BC, and even before that, the fish hooks they used as money. There is jewellery, statues, carvings, pottery, weapons, and tools from all through the ages. Most of it was found here, so visiting the museum was a good way to get an overall view of the 8000 year history of Bulgaria's second largest city.

Posted by Gotmybindle 07:34 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bulgaria plovdiv

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