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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Day Tripping: Plovdiv Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sunday, 29 June 2014 5:24am

We got up a little earlier today for another day trip a little further afield, to Plovdiv. Plovdiv is a site that's been inhabited for the past 6000 years or so, by Thracians, Romans, as part of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and briefly as the capital of Eastern Rumelia, and then as the second most important city in Bulgaria.

It was a bit of a trick to get there. We had another tourist join us in our minibus, and his hotel was hard to find (our driver/guide asked many people where it was, even when we were (in retrospect) a couple blocks away, and nobody knew), and once we picked him up, even getting back on the highway towards Plovdiv was complicated by that fact that construction has closed a lot of on ramps. Google maps wasn't much help. It wanted us to make a u-turn in the middle of a 4 lane highway.

We did eventually arrive in Plovdiv, and parked just outside the Old Town, for a nice morning of wandering around the cobbled streets. We saw a number of houses built in Bulgarian Revival styles, and visited the ethnographic museum, which has converted the rooms of one of the largest of those houses into example rooms from various kinds of Bulgarian homes of the period.

We climbed up one of the hills and found the Roman amphitheater, which has been well-restored, and is in use again. There was to be a performance of La Traviata there in the evening, so I was able to poke around the stage and see props for a modern opera in a backstage that dates back thousands of years.

It seems that Plovdiv was an entertainment center, with not only the amphitheater, but also a huge chariot track. One end of it has been excavated, and the rest of it runs under what is now the principal shopping street. It's possible to stand down at the level of the track and look up past white marble tiers of Roman seating up at a red brick Ottoman mosque and a blue pastel Revival building.

After a saunter down the shopping street (with stops for popcorn, ice cream, and popcorn again, plus pastries), we got back in the minivan and drove to Koprivshtitsa. The drive took us up into the mountains, past gorgeous meadows full of wildflowers and through pretty fir forests.

Koprivshtitsa's location isolated it from the Ottoman rulers to some extent, and it became a center for Bulgarian Nationalist sentiment and a hotbed of revolutionaries. Many of the old houses there have been converted into museums that commemorate the former inhabitants and their struggle for national freedom. The first shots of the 1876 revolution were fired in the town, and the Ottoman retaliation resulted in the shift of public opinion of the Great Powers of the time towards liberating Bulgaria, which the Russian army did in 1878.

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