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Published: October 5th 2010
The Plovdiv Roman Amphitheatre
The piece de restistance of Plovdiv old town. To be honest, its not very big and probably would have been more interesting if we had bothered to pay the money to walk inside.
If you love cheese, then you will love Bulgarian breakfasts. Because they seem to be all about cheese. Or so it was at our hotel anyway - 3 different types of cheese, served with a side of cheese, and to finish it all off, some crackers and cheese. Day 3 started in Plovdiv, second largest city in Bulgaria, and known for its well-preserved old center and Roman ruins.
We started off in the more chique part of Plovdiv downtown, which is a big strip mall, most memorably lined with lots of ice-cream vendors selling really cheap ice-cream, including fabulously great rose flavoured ice-cream (Bulgaria is famed for its roses). Apart from the ice-cream though, its just your typical strip mall. Oh, except for the big half-excavated mini Roman amphitheatre tucked at the far end. And a statue of Alexander the Great's father, who apparently was born or lived or something in Plovdiv. That is a nice thing about Europe - the mix of the old and the new - something we definitely never see back home.
The mall ends where Plovdiv old town begins. This is a well-preserved cobble-stone alleyed complex that is now the home to art galleries,
A Bulgarian Kebab
Bulgarian kebabs have french fries in them! A great combination.
music schools, and university students with too much time on their hands. Lots of winding alleyways, restored houses, and of course, the most important garnish - tourist souvenir shops. Its a nice place to waste a few hours just meandering, but not much else to do. One interesting stop was a huge restored Roman amphitheatre which makes for a nice photo.
We then headed back to the main mall for lunch. As with many middle-eastern influenced countries, a standard snack is the ubiquitous Kebab. Bulgarian kebabs have french fries in them though, which makes them extra special. We were busy chomping on a few of these when we had our 'encounter'.
Previously in this blog you ould have read about how we were attacked by marauding gypsies in cold blood. Okay, not really attacked - but they did try to rob us. Since then, everybody was a suspect. So you would understand our reaction when we were sitting at a table outside a kebab shop eating our kebabs when a rather scruffy-looking teenager started loitering around us. He kept making shifty glances, and would quickly look away as soon as we caught eye contact. Our hands warily reached
Alexander the Great's dad
Philip II of Macedon's stature sits perched up high in the middle of Plovdiv mall.
for our bags - mischief was undoubably afoot.
And then it happened. He walked up to us in broad daylight. How bold - the audacity - a mugging a in broad daylight, we thought! Possibily he had a knife, maybe even an HIV-infected syring. Sadly, all he did was ask us for a bite of our kebab. Okay ... so on second looks, he did look scruffy, and possibly that scruffinies was a sign of poverty rather than the results of a life of crime. Ah ... but we weren't born yesterday. You see - we were smarter. This was a ploy - a mere distraction. Surely as we were being distracted, some secondary urchin was crawling under our table, or slicing open one of our back pockets with a razor. Alas, no secondary urchin. But we weren't taking any chances - my defensive claws went up and I shooed him away.
Attack avoided. Then we saw it. Another diner threw half his kebab in the bin a few minutes later. At that point, the young boy dashed to the bin and started picking at the remains. Okay .... maybe he was out to get us ... maybe
Wow, this place is amazing
What a cultured 1 year old we have. Thrilled by cobblestone roads and architecture. Or perhaps it was that ice-cream she ate 2 minutes before.
he was just hungry ... and maybe we had let our paranoia just go that little too far across the that line where we become heartless selfish scum. Poverty is a heart wrenching thing. Suffice to say we left him the rest of our kebabs, although in hindsight the right thing to do would have been to buy him a fresh one.
It was now noon and time to move on our second destination for the day - Kazanluk, better known as the valley of the roses. Apparently Bulgaria geberates 60% of all rose oil in the world, and most of it comes from the area around the town of Kazanluk. We figured it must be one aromatic city. Alas our expectations of fields of roses were met with vast rows of bland green bushes. I think we did see one tiny patch of roses, but the rest was just thorns and leaves.
Kazanluk however does have a secondary draw - its home to a whole slew of Thracian tombs. Now if you haven't heard of the Thracians then shame on you - what were you doing in history class. Then again, join the club, because we had
Yes! Thats the end of the old streets
Plovdiv old town got a tad dull pretty quickly. Its quaint cobblestoniness is nice ... but I guess we've seen one too many old European places.
no idea who the Thracians were. Turns out that around Bulgaria, they were the climactic ancient culture and were best known for lots and lots of treasure. They also buried their dead in mounds, akin to the barrows you find in the UK.
We stopped over to see what was promised to be a must see sight - the largest discovered Thracian tomb, complete with restored carvings. What we found instead though was a supposedly near perfect replica of the original tomb (and kudos to them, because it really did look like it could be an old musty tomb, complete with faded carvings and frescoes). The disappointing thing though was that it was the size of a regular bathroom. Poor Thracian kings - your subjects musn't have thought much of you if that's all the space they gave you to spend your eternal afterlife in.
So Kazanluk all in all was a bit of a disappointment. Nevertheless, it was nice drive, particularly as the next part of the road that would take us to Veliko Turnovo, took us through some rather fun hills - fun in that if you enjoy driving fast around mountain roads. Best site along
Old-town back streets
Kind of quaint ... but kind of similar to many other old towns around Europe.
there was this distant church with a brilliant gold dome, so gold that you could see it glistening from miles away.
Oh yes, one more thing. I did get in trouble for speeding. I accidently was going 100km/h in a 50km/h - got caught out just at the edge of a town - you know, when they suddenly drop the speed. So easy to miss. The Bulgarian cop was scary. That is, until he saw my Australian drivers license. At that point, he put his arm around me, smiled and said, "oh, we Bulgarians and you Australians are good friends. Yes we are!!" And then he laughed and shooed me along. Not sure what that was a about.
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