Visit Plovdiv, Bulgaria!
I've already written about Plovdiv here but Plovdiv is a town that I can never get enough of. There's always another cafe to discover, a fresh view from one of the hills, a new exhibit at the many galleries and museums. I spent the last weekend rediscovering the city yet again and here are my updates.
This time, I joined the Plovdiv Free Walking Tour and just as I hoped, learned a lot of new information.
Plovdiv was originally a Thracian settlement dating back to 6000 BC. Its first recorded name Philippopolis comes from Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great), who, without excessive modesty, named it after himself in the 4th century BC. Since then, the city has been attacked and sometimes conquered by Persians, Greeks, Huns, Goths, Turks. For a few decades it was even a Duchy under the Flanders knight Renee de Trois during the Fourth Crusade.
Many reminders of the numerous cultures that shaped the city remain today. Some of the most important ones are the Roman Stadium, the Ancient Roman Theatre, and the Mosque.
The Mosque is one of the two oldest in the Balkans - some historians cite it as the oldest, while others assign it second place after the mosque in Edirne, Turkey. Either way, its location right next to the well-restored Northern part of the Roman Stadium (the Stadium of Trimontium) is a powerful symbol of cultural cohabitation.
One of the most wonderful discoveries of this visit was the Icon Exhibition at the City Art Gallery. On display are splendid examples of religious works dating from the 15th through the 19th century, including many works of the most influential Bulgarian National Revival artist Zahari Zograf.
Plovdiv is often called the city of seven hills but only six remain today - one was blown up and the syenite rocks used to pave many of the city streets. Nebet Tepe offers some of the best views of the city, the river Maritza and the Rhodope Mountain. The legend of the Rhodope is a beautiful one. Queen Rhodope of Thrace was the wife of Haemus. Haemus was vain and haughty and compared himself and Rhodope to Zeus and Hera, who were offended and turned the couple into mountains - the Balkan and the Rhodope. The story is mentioned by the Ovid in the Metamorphoses.
During the warm months, seeing a performance at the Ancient Roman Theatre is a memorable event. One of the most intriguing upcoming ones is Neo Dervish - a modern whirling dervishes show that will be staged and performed by Turkish and Bulgarian actors on June 20th. You can purchase tickets here.