Not so pedestrian after all!!

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hikers hostel

Flag of Bulgaria  , Plovdiv,
Monday, December 7, 2009

Arrived at the ungodly hour of 3.45am and went through 3 taxi drivers before one would listen for long enough to make some effort to find out where I wanted to go. Should have written it down in Cyrillic!! Was feeling a little desperate by the time I found the place and rang the gate bell a couple of times, much to the dismay of the guy in the hostel who was very upset that I might "wake the whole hostel" Nevertheless, he made me a lukewarm cup of bitter, gritty coffee and I went up to get some sleep, but started coughing (something to do with my cold and the hot dry room) and got yelled at by a cranky Italian, so went downstairs and sat a table reading and dozing until 8am and breakfast. When the coffee was hot and the hostel guy was a lot more friendly!

Plovdiv was well worth the visit though, the old Bulgarian houses are really colourful and the architecture is different from anything else I've seen in Europe. It is the 'cultural capital' of Bulgaria and there are lots of art galleries to prove it. I always like to see the art of different countries, says something to me about the character of a country and Bulgaria is no exception. In the Govt gallery it was wall to wall portraits pre 1940s, most of them severe or sad and mostly women, painted by male artists, but nothing remotely lascivious except one of a semi naked gypsy girl who was no more than 13 or 14yrs old with a very sexually confronting expression. Someone's fantasy?? Some of their modern art (60s and 70s) was good, but nothing outstanding and all was very heavy, bordering on depressing, probably not surprising for a country under communist rule...also reflected in the few landscapes on display.

Went on a day trip to a monastery in the mountains, with a couple of American guys in the hostel, one of the oldest in Bulgaria, circa 1200s, to see some very old frescoes that were all covered in black soot from a fire they had...but the icons were out there with their silver and gold  halos, baby Jesus legs and saints hands (how do they decide which bits should be metal??) and carefully painted, life like faces. Strange mix.

There is a Roman amphitheatre there too that is still used in summer for performances, not a patch on the ones in the middle east or France for that matter. Several strange, neglected Roman ruins of forums and agora in the art nouveau (reminded me of Riga) commercial part of town, surrounded by graffiti, in 'holes' in the ground. Most neglected Roman ruins in the world??

Outside the old town and the shopping walking street mentioned above, Plovdiv is block after block of ugly, concrete, soviet apartment buildings and factories, not unlike Talin, my favourite old town so far. Well left Plovdiv in the snow, yes finally got my snow and expecting a lot more considering the weather in Europe at the moment. Was seen off at the train station by a lovely German guy that I share a lot of life experiences with and had some great laughs with, said good bye with the strong feeling that our paths will cross again, another nomad, who has been at it a lot longer than I.

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