We left Veliko Tarnovo via train and headed to Plovdiv, our next Bulgarian destination. We had a private coach for the duration of our five hour ride. It was by far the most luxurious we had been in. We paid the extra $6 to ride in first class and it was well worth it.
We exited the train station in Plovdiv and I was happy to see our hotel was right next door because the less distance we have to haul our bags, the better. My relief was short lived, however, as we entered the hotel and the woman working met us at the door and said, “It isn’t working”. We were confused and of course asked, “What isn’t working?”, thinking their computer system was down or something. “The hotel, it’s not working.” “You mean you’re closed?” Phil asked. The woman responded yes and Phil told her we had a reservation and had already paid for the room. She said her colleague should have contacted him and then repeated, “The hotel isn’t working”. She did not apologize for our inconvenience or offer to let us sit in the hotel as we tried to make other arrangements. She just ushered us out the door with another, “The hotel isn’t working.”
Hot, tired, kind of pissed off, and still somewhat confused, we leaned against a small half wall in the parking lot and (after disputing the charge for the hotel with the site we booked it through), we found another hotel closer to the old town that would meet our needs. We opted to skip the 20 minute walk and took a short taxi ride instead.
Our room wasn’t ready so we dropped our bags off and decided to walk around a bit. The neighborhood where we were staying was called Kapana and is the arts district. A lot of cool little shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants make up the neighborhood.
After grabbing a quick bite, we decided to walk to a nearby park and clock tower to check out some views of the city. We could see our hotel from the tower and after looking around a bit, found a path that brought us down off the hill, right beside it.
Our hotel was very large though it appeared as if only one section was being used for guests. Other areas were in various states of renovation. It seemed as if the hotel was once a very happening spot that had fallen into disrepair, was then purchased, and the new owners are attempting to restore it to it’s former glory.
The roof had a huge two story bar area that is not currently in use, except by us to take in the sunset. A giant rooftop bar with a view is a hot commodity in most cities and I hope they get it back up and running because with a little TLC, it would be a great spot.
The next morning we walked through the Tsar Simeon Garden which contains lovely fountains and flowers.
Plovdiv was originally named Phillipopolis (cool name) and has ancient roman ruins of the old city, dating back to the 1st-4th century AD.
Next we visited Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis. A museum now sits atop the ancient ruins of the historical spot that dates back to the second century. It originally served as a pagan temple and a few hundred years after, a Christian Basilica, and later, a cemetery.
The museum houses some of the best mosaics we have ever seen. Besides being beautifully preserved and detailed, one can also observe the layers in the mosaic flooring, the original pagan designs peaking out from underneath the newer basilica floor. It was really cool, though difficult to capture in a photo.
The mosaic floors of the basilica were huge and largely still intact. A raised, glass floor has been built over the mosaics for all to enjoy without damaging them and we were given paper booties to wear during our time in the museum.
The woman working the front desk of the museum was very nice and chatted with us a bit on our way in and out. She informed us of a combined ticket package available for 15 lev (roughly $7.50) that would allow us to visit five historic locations in Plovdiv (from a list of ten). We really wanted to visit some of the restored homes in old town and many were on the list. Additionally, she recommended we visit the restored pharmacy in the old town as well. The 15 lev was well spent.
The first home we visited was The House of Veren Stambolyan. Built in the second half of the 19th century, the two story home has a courtyard and archways leading inside and is a beautiful blue and white.
We were asked not to take photos in the house and I am (more often than not) a rule follower, so I don’t have many photos of the interior. Lucky for you, my husband is not a rule follower, so I do have a few.
Bulgarian artist, Dimitar Kirov lived and painted in the house in the 1960’s along with his wife and muse, Ro. I actually did snap a couple of photos of his paintings. If you look at the photo of me in the house above, you can see the artist’s photo between the staircases.
As we walked around old town after touring the house, we spied some outdoor mosaics by Dimitar Kirov as well.
We went on to visit The House of Nedkovich, which was built in the 1860s, and has some of the original furniture owned by the original owner of the home, a merchant named Nikola Nedkovich.
The next day we continued our Old Town tour, beginning with the House of Hindlian built in 1834-35; Stepan Hindlian was a famous merchant originally from Armenia. This may have been my favorite historic home we visited. As with all of the homes, the ceilings were works of art. They even had a rose water fountain in the upstairs living room! Bulgaria is famous for their rose water. Every tourist shop has rose water and there are some higher end shops that exclusively sell rose water lotion, oil, and perfume.
We also visited the Hippocrates Pharmacy Museum
and the Klianti House
While in old town, we also stopped in the City Art Gallery which housed an impressive and large collection and was arranged chronologically with older paintings on the first floor and contemporary art on the third floor. I snapped photos of some of my favorites, including Bulgarian artist, The Master (who I mentioned in part 1).
Another great museum in Plovdiv is the The Regional Archaeological Museum. I was actually a little reluctant to go. After having seen a lot of ancient pottery, ruins, and artifacts this summer, I was almost archaeology-ed out. Kind of like seeing a lot of Catholic churches, sometimes you need a little break. I am, however, very glad we decided to go to the museum. They had a unique exhibit of The Panagyuristhe Gold Treasure, a luxurious table set consisting of nine gold vessels of different shapes. Made at the beginning of the 3rd century BC of 23-karat gold; they were found by three brothers (The Deikovi Brothers) in 1949. The pieces were really unusual and so detailed.
In addition to the gold exhibit, the museum also houses a large mosaic from the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis that we visited a few days prior. The mosaic, featuring Neptune, the God of water and the seas, was stunning and so well preserved.
While in Plovdiv, a great spot to take in the sunset (aside from our kick-ass hotel roof), is at the The Alyosha Monument, high atop one of Plovdiv’s hills. The Alyosha is monument is dedicated to the Soviet Army for liberating Bulgaria from the Germans in 1944. It is huge and can be seen from different places throughout the city.
We really enjoyed our time in Plovdiv and I recommend it to anyone visiting Bulgaria! Stay tuned for more from our final stop in Bulgaria, its capital, Sofia.