A day exploring Plovdiv,Bulgaria

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June 4th 2013
Published: June 8th 2013
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Not a gelato but an ice cream today and this time it was the first I have ever had that was weighed in the cone and charged according to the weight!

We decided on breakfast BBA V2 style despite the price in the hotel restaurant only being Lev4 each.You can never be sure what you are going to get and we like to get a serving of yogurt inside us each day and we still had toast bread from the other day to clean off.

We had had a long Skype call the Chris and Marilyn last night and hadn't got to bed until after midnight so we were a bit slow in emerging this morning not that we had a great deal planned for the day.

We had observed the bus numbers travelling up the road outside the hotel yesterday when we were out walking and it appeared we had a few we could catch to get to and from the city.All we then had to do was find out where to get off although in the past someone on board a bus has always taken us under their care in this regard.

Like other buses we have travelled on in the more eastern European countries the bus this morning had a ticket collector not that you would have known if he was official or not as he didn't have a uniform on but as everyone else was giving him the Lev1 fare we did the same and got across to him that we wanted to get off at the Post Office as the tourist office was next door.

The standard of bus in Bulgaria was much better than Albania and the seats were comfortable and the interior condition looked like it got some maintenance.A quarter of an hour later and a fairly straight run to town(we watched out just in case we have to walk the 3.5km home because we can't find a #66 to get home)the ticket collector tapped me on the shoulder and indicated the next stop was ours and he pointed to a ramp that would take us up to a bridge from where we would see the PO.

Our first impression of downtown Plovdiv was one of lots of greenery as there is a large park with a forest of dense trees giving shade to those strolling along the paths.It must get fairly hot here in the summer and this park would bring some relief while enjoying nature.What it looks like in mid winter though with the trees bare of leaves one would prefer not to think about because from photos we have seen shows that when snow arrives it comes heavy!

The man in the tourist office was very helpful with a new map that had been produced for tourists of the sights in the old city area and we set off down the pedestrian mall lined with mostly clothing shops.The downtown area is closed to vehicles making walking about very easy.

First historical site was the ancient stadium which is still partly buried under the pedestrian mall.When the stadium was found they were able to preserve a very small section by digging a hole to expose what was there and restore it to give you an idea of what it might have looked like when it ran the length of the mall holding up to 30,000 people.The stadium was constructed in the 2nd century AD and was modelled on the one we had seen Delphi.They had done a good job preserving what was uncovered by actually putting a cover over part of it and there was easy access either by steps or a lift as it was a storey below the current street level.

We walked into the old city area which is situated on one of the four hills that are left of originally seven that used to be in this city on a vast flat plain.What happened to the other 3 hills we are not sure but perhaps they were in the way of development at some stage.

We were only a short way up the road and stopped to check the map which is not something we usually do once we get near an attraction as it tends to show you up as a tourist and can open opportunities to 'locals'to introduce themselves to you for what could be devious purposes.And sure enough this happened when a guy in his twenties and a bag across his shoulder came up to us.We were pretty quickly onto him as he was just too 'smooth' and he appeared to have a friend a few metres away who was heading our way.We made it clear we knew where we were going and walked off as he was talking to us hoping he wouldn't follow.He didn't and we felt a little relieved.

We spent the next half hour wandering the streets and taking in the old architecture known as the Bulgarian Renaissance style and picking our way over the roughly cobbled streets which looked and felt under feet as original.

Then as we started downhill again,the young man we had met half an hour ago appeared walking up the hill towards us.Gretchen was slightly ahead of me and brushed past him but he tried to stop in front of me pulling a sheaf of typed papers from his bag.Muttering something about 'these are in English',I waved my hand at him and walked on by.

We felt that if was going to continue to appear and bother us that we would give up our walk around the old town which was a pity because we hadn't yet come across the ancient theatre also from the 2nd century AD which is one of the finest left in Bulgaria,and we would miss it.However we felt a little threatened and although we could have stayed around where there were more people we decided to head off and walk up another of the hills away from the downtown area where there is an impressive looking statue.

With the sky looking a bit more threatening with rain in the distance we walked up the winding paths to the top of the hill to admire a statue of an unknown Russian soldier commemarating their involvement in the Balkan Wars of 1912/13 when Bulgaria and neighbouring Balkan nations finally got rid of the Ottomans with the help of their neighbours.You can see the statue from several kilometres away such is the height of the hill and the statue on top of it.There was also a war memorial nearby but with all the writing in cyrillic it was impossible to understand what it was dedicated to.

There were some great views from the top of the hill in all directions although beyond the downtown area where there were lots of red tile roofs and the green trees in the park to give some colour to the scenery,further out the chimney stacks of the industrial area and the dour looking apartment buildings didn't make the city from that aspect look very attractive.

We decided we should head for home as rain drops started to fall and we should have retraced our steps as we got a bit lost looking for the road that the bus had brought us in on and it took a bit of map reading and standing on three sides of a roundabout trying to figure out the name of the streets before we got back on track and were soon on a bus going in the right direction.

We had dinner in the hotel as although the weather had cleared we hadn't come across another restaurant that we liked the look of in our walks around the area of the hotel.The BBQ chicken skewers,a greek salad and two of the local beers all for Lev12 or €6 for the two of us......an absolute bargain!!

We are hoping that the apartment we are heading for on the Black Sea coast will have a proper bed as the hard foam mattress of the past two nights has been hard to take.

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