Monday, November 23, 2009

Пловдив (Plovdiv)

Thanks to an in-service training conference, I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days exploring what many consider to be Bulgaria’s most compelling city – Пловдив (Plovdiv). One of Europe’s oldest cities, with a history dating back further than even Rome’s, Plovdiv is many things – historic, cultured, cosmopolitan, photogenic, and eminently walkable. There is plenty of information about Plovdiv on-line, and I won’t rehash it here. If you want to learn more about the city and what it’s like to live and work there, I encourage you to check out this blog written by a pair of fellow Peace Corps Volunteers who are currently serving in Plovdiv and who served as gracious hosts during our visit.

I'm neither insightful enough nor talented enough to capture the essence of Plovdiv and its many layers in words or photos, but if you scroll down you can take a walk with me through The City of the Seven Hills and see some of the reasons why I enjoyed my time in Plovdiv so much.

Plovdiv’s most iconic symbol is the Roman Amphitheater found in the heart of old town. Built in the 2nd century AD under the orders of Trajan and rediscovered in 1972 following a landslide, the amphitheater now hosts concerts and plays during the warmer months of the year.

Like Veliko Turnovo, Plovdiv has a rich collection of homes built during the Bulgarian National Revival, a period renowned for its characteristic architecture. Plovdiv’s old town is a showcase for these homes. This is the Georgiadi House. Built in 1848, the house is now home to a historical museum.

Constructed in 1829, the Lamartine House now is owned by the Union of Bulgarian Writers.

This is the Balabanov House. A bit of a phony, it was reconstructed in 1980 in accordance with the original blueprints after being completely destroyed.

This is the Kuyumdzhiev House. Built in 1847, the house is now an ethnographic museum.

Another of Plovdiv's iconic symbols, the Hissar Kapia (getting it's name from Turkish and meaning "The Gate of the Fortress") is one entry way into old town.

Exiting old town through the Hissar Kapia.

A couple street scenes from old town.

Old town also is home to a number of interesting churches. Built in 1844 on the site of a 9th-century shrine, the Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa marks another entrance into Plovdiv’s old town.

One of the largest churches in Plovdiv, St. Nedelya Church was built in 1578 and restored in 1830.

The Church of SS Konstantin & Elena is Plovdiv's oldest. Originally built over a Roman church, the current structure dates mostly to 1832. The church is known for its art, especially the richly colored frescoes that decorate both the entrance to the church and its interior.

Crowned by a monument commemorating the liberation of Bulgaria by the Russian army from the Nazis, Bunardzhika Tepe is one of Plovdiv's seven hills and provides 360 degree panoramic views of the city. Here are some views from the hill.

I wonder what this guy was thinking.

Found at the north end of old town, Nebet Tepe is another of Plovdiv's seven hills. Rubble from an ancient fotress crowns the hill, which provides outstanding views of the city below.

Plovdiv also is home to several interesting markets. Here are some photos from the largest such market.

Plovdiv is home to two working mosques. This is the minaret of Dzhumaya Mosque rising above the nearby buildings.

A classic Bulgarian scene along Plovdiv's pedestrian mall: Dzhumaya Mosque, which is believed to have been built in 1364, standing above the remains of part of a Roman stadium that is thought to have held 30,000 spectators.

This is Imaret Mosque, built in 1444.

Plovdiv's long pedestrian mall is a great place for people watching, drinking and dining (and probably shopping for those so inclined). Other than the signs in Bulgarian, this area has a very different feel to it than anywhere else I've been in Bulgaria. It seems more like Western Europe than the rest of Bulgaria and oozes with an optimism otherwise lacking in most places in Bulgaria.

Plovdiv's many parks offer sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of city life and were particularly pleasant on our visit.

A pleasant and unexpected surprise ... we went and saw the Harlem Gospel Choir perform while we were in Plovdiv. This is the choir, along with some new Bulgarian friends, performing "We are the World."


  1. Brian,you've written very significant article for Plovdiv.I think you've caught the spirit of the city perfectly even for few days.I hope you'll be back again.

  2. Wow, I met that Harlem Gospel Choir earlier in the day. They had some joint performances with a local girl's choir.

    Nice post.