Like John Denver sang, we are on the road again.
This time we are travelling from Bansko to Plovdiv.
Situated on the Maritsa River, Plovdiv was once the meeting point of two ancient transportation routes. The old town features lots of 18th and 19th century baroque houses, which sit alongside museums, mosques, galleries and Byzantine ruins. It’s one of Bulgaria’s wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities. It’s a student town loaded with great restaurants, galleries, bars and a thriving cultural scene.
No sooner do we arrive, than we meet our guide for the afternoon. Like Sofia, Plovdiv is home to the most incredible Roman ruins. Amongst them is the magnificent ancient Roman stadium, built during the 2nd century BC and the location for many a gladiator match.
There is a cool 3D movie about the arena, but there’s no time for that today – perhaps tomorrow morning.
The heat is unbearable this afternoon, which makes the guides job hard because I’m not sure how many of us are actually thinking about sitting in the shade with a cool drink or icecream rather than listening to her tell us about Plovdiv. Which is a shame, because she knows her stuff.
Trudging further up the street, we come to the next reminder of Roman civilisation – an amphitheatre. Built some time in the second century AD, it was only rediscovered after a freak landslide. The amphitheatre would have held around 6,000 people and it still plays host to special events today. Overlooking the city, I couldn’t think of a more spectacular setting.
We follow a cobblestone street to the site of Nebet Tepe – a former hilltop fortress with excellent views of the city before heading down hill to the 15th century Dzhumaya Mosque which is still in use today.
Plovdiv is home to many workshops of the traditional masters of old Bulgarian arts and crafts. Along Strumna Street, you’ll find coppersmiths, farriers and potters.
And again in the same vein as Sofia, Plovdiv also has a long shopping street which runs down the centre of it. Most interesting is its McDonalds restaurant — because despite the number of different countries I’ve visited I can’t remember seeing any other store with the McDonalds logo translated into the subject language. I wonder how they swung that!
We then had the afternoon to ourselves and I’d love to tel you I made the most of my limited sightseeing time in Plovdiv, but it was just too damn hot and I was feeling a little tired from all the travel of the last couple of weeks. And theres oony one thing you can do when you feel like that – a nice shower followed by a nanna nap.
I still have tomorrow morning.