It was a very late night yesterday, yet again. One of my clients had an “all hands needed on deck” express job and the pay compared to the effort I’d have to put out was such that it was extremely worth powering through and doing my share even though I was exhausted. But, thankfully, I had a good night’s sleep. I was up too early to even think about going out to look for coffee, so I did a bit more work for the client. Fridays are pay day with them, so after two slow weeks, I was keen to pad my current invoice with small jobs that would only take 15 or 30 minutes of work and not feel like a huge effort. Eventually, though, I couldn’t ignore my growling stomach, so I dressed and headed out.
I did some research last night about Bulgarians and breakfast and it confirmed my impressions, so I conceded that I wasn’t going to do any better than a plain croissant and a tiny coffee at the bakery right next to my hotel (they didn’t have food yesterday). It was a meagre meal, but I have to confess I like the excuse to eat croissants! 🙂
I then headed towards the Maritsa River to visit the Regional Natural History Museum. En route, I passed this truly remarkable map showing all the points of interest in Plovdiv, right down to public washrooms.
Research told me the natural history museum was under heavy renovation and there was barely anything to see, but for 4BGN, it was worth assuaging my curiosity. After walking through a construction site and being led to a smelly basement with a few fish tanks, I really wondered why they didn’t just close down as, really, the “museum” wasn’t worth a detour. And then, I saw that there were a couple more rooms I could visit and one had snakes! I enjoyed watching a couple of boas, hurried past the tarantula tanks, and spent a few minutes ogling a chameleon. Its eyes were really neat, reminiscent of a camera lens. I also got to see a bearded dragon.
I then went to an upstairs room to see a working beehive, fossils, and some mounted butterflies. No photography was allowed in the museum, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a pic of these giant lobsters!
I think the museum will be incredible when the renovations are complete, but, for now, I suggest you skip it.
A man at the tourist info centre had told me yesterday that if I liked the archaeology museum, I just had to visit Trakart. He wouldn’t tell me why and suggested strongly that I go in cold! So that was my next stop this morning, but I took my time getting there, just enjoying the sights of Plovdiv. I liked this street a lot.
I passed this statue of a family. Do you see what’s on the tree stump in the foreground?
Like Sofia and London, Plovdiv utilises barriers to discourage people from crossing busy streets at places other than crosswalks or underpasses.
I was curious about this obviously Jewish monument.
I got shivers when I read this. Remember that Bulgaria saved all its Jews during the Holocaust!
There are coffee vending machines all over Plovdiv and Sofia. People actually use them, even this disgusting looking one! I don’t get it, even with the price of 0.40BGN per cup. I guess I should try it one day!
Nice mosaic on what appeared to be an abandoned building.
Isn’t this smart? Folks coming into Plovdiv can see where there is parking available. Downtown is extremely car unfriendly so it would be a relief to me to know where to go to drop my wheels.
I knew exactly where Trakart is because it’s really near my hostel and I opted to get there through the tunnel under the Old Town. It was neat to see familiar sites from below.
Crossing the tunnel on foot sucked. It was loud, echoey, and smelly. 🙂 I emerged and noticed this interesting church:
Trakart is located in the underpass below Tsar Boris at Patriarh Evtimiy.
I got a shiver as I read this, beginning to understand why the tourist info guy had sent me here!
I paid the 5BGN entry fee. The lady apologised and said that they were out of English programs, but they had French and German. French worked! 😀
And so, this is Trakart. Mosaics from an ancient house excavated in situ! I spent so much time ogling everything and went around multiple times to make sense of the space and match up what the guide said with what I was seeing. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr. Tourist Info Guy!
This is the entrance floor. That broken bit in the middle would have been a fresh water fountain.
On the walls are mosaics from other sites.
This space dates from the time of the transition of apostolic Christianity to the official Christianity of Emperor Constantine the Great! Above the fountain is text that says, “Welcome. Have a happy and peaceful stay.” Unlike other buildings of the era, this one did not have heating.
I liked how they showed that we could walk on the glass.
The swastika is a truly ancient symbol.
Part of the original lead sewer system.
Besides the mosaic, you can see Proto-Thrace artifacts dating from prehistory (4-3,000 years BC):
The venue also has a stage.
Trakart was absolutely amazing. Please give the tourist info centre guy a raise!
I got an ice cream after and then headed back to the hostel to do a bit more work. It was not even 11:30 by the time I got there! By 12:30, I was ready for lunch and really wanted a burger. Research didn’t come up with a definitive place to get one, so I decided to head back to Happy Grill, where I had sushi my first night, to see if they had a burger on their menu. If not, worst case, I’d have sushi again. 😉
Well, they had a burger… with bacon. Cheese. Fried onions. And… honey mustard sauce. Dang was it good! Even the fries were yummy! Only 9.50CAD with the tip, including a small beer. Amusing moment: me opening that red packet expecting ketchup and being disappointed by the moist towelette!
I then had to walk off my heavy lunch. It had been positively cool this morning and still wasn’t too bad, so I decided to climb the Clock Tower and Liberator Hills. First stop, Clock Tower Hill (Sahat Tepe or Danov Tepe).
I made a new friend!
Looking towards the Unknown Russian Soldier.
This little guy was so affectionate!
Looking towards Nebet Hill in Old Town, which I climbed my first night.
Graffiti made this fountain scary!
I headed down to go find the evangelical church before going to the next hill and took some time to enjoy the Roman stadium again:
It was getting hot by this point and I was tired, so I couldn’t decide what I wanted more, a fresh pressed grapefruit juice or a coffee. I came to a halt when I passed this sign: coffee and juice (including grapefruit!) for 3.50BGN! Now I understand why I see so many Bulgarians with both juice and coffee in front of them. This must be a common pairing for them.
The restaurants in Plovdiv are so much less intimidating than those in Sofia. I just plonked myself down at a free table and a server came immediately with a menu. I pointed to the sign and confirmed that I just wanted coffee and grapefruit juice. She returned momentarily with this:
The juice really hit the spot. Yum! I prefer coffee with a bit of milk, but they know how to make espresso here, so I can enjoy it black (no sugar!). The little rolled up piece of paper was kind of like a fortune cookie, but with what I assume is a proverb:
I meandered through some residential streets and was amused by this sign posted on several gates, announcing that work was going to be done. Love the picture!
Here’s the evangelical church, worth the effort made to find it!
Wonder what those are. They are related to parking.
The road here was in bad condition.
I finally got to the Liberator Hill, Bunardzhik. It’s off of my tourist map and all the street signage around there is only in Cyrillic!
There are two choices to get up to the statue. You can follow a meandering path with a gentle rising slope around the mountain or go straight up using stairs. I started with the stairs until I realised that the path would take me to the same place. No problem climbing a tall hill with a gentle slope, but it’s a lot of effort to lift your legs to climb stairs!
I stopped partway to enjoy the view:
Notice that gold and blue dome?
My tour guide mentioned that after the Monument to Communism was vandalised in Sofia and the soldiers painted to look like superheroes, some very enterprising folks enveloped the unknown Russian soldier with a red cape. What a feat!
Looking towards the clock tower.
I headed back down, partially using the stairs.
It had gotten increasingly hot as I climbed and I’d used up all my water. So I was really glad to find this fountain. Tap water is generally excellent in Bulgaria!
The crest of Plovdiv and its motto: Ancient and…
This informational sign in English was surrounded by thorns!!! There was no way to get close enough to read it. 🙁
I passed this car as I headed home. The Bulgarian counterpart to El pollo loco?
I came in and did another small job before starting on this post. I got a call as I was doing that — a rental car company with a car for me at a price I was willing to pay for a week of freedom on wheels! I have mixed feelings about that in that like many of the smaller car rental companies in Bulgaria, they only take the deposit in cash. So I have no protection if something happens to the car or if they say something happened to the car (my credit card has a car rental insurance policy). I know, I know, I’m a worry wart but 300BGN is a lot of money. The only reason I agreed is that any of the larger international companies had prices that were at least twice what the little companies charge, so even if my deposit is stolen, I’ll still be ahead. We shall see… I’m still not sure yet what sort of route I’m taking to the Black Sea, but I suspect I will not be there tomorrow and rather arrive on Sunday. Working out my itinerary will be tonight’s project!
By 6:30, I was famished, so I headed out to Gusto, which is in front of the Happy Bar. I’d checked out the menu today and it had something I hadn’t seen since I got to Bulgaria, so it was on my mind all afternoon!
Behold broccoli! Oh, I’ve missed you ssoooooooo much! 😀 With it is a chicken breast and a blue cheese cream sauce. Yes, I had blue cheese yesterday. Hey, I haven’t had blue cheese in ages either. 🙂 One thing I knew about more traditional Bulgarian restaurants is that you don’t get any sides with your meal (which is why prices seem so low). The mashed potatoes were inexpensive and would be a good vehicle for sopping up the sauce, so I went with that.
It was sooooo good. I haven’t had a bad meal in Plovdiv yet! I cannot believe the prices I’m paying. I would not be able to afford meals like these in Western Europe or in Canada:
I gave a 2BGN tip, so that came out to 13.30CAD, and it includes wine! Contessa, notice the price for the wine glass, 2.66CAD. Then, you have my potatoes and finally the chicken and broccoli. I still had a bit of room after and wasn’t ready to go in, so I grabbed an ice cream (cherry cheesecake!) and went for a walk towards the stadium. I passed a store that sells Ipanema sandals! Love mine. What a great buy they were!
There was an event going on at the stadium, the DroneUp IFF, and they had cushions out for the spectators.
The crowd was a bit rowdy for my taste, so I headed back to the hostel, where I settled up my bill. I’m expected to pick up the car around 10:15 and I didn’t want to have to chase down the host in the morning. My total was 90BGN (68.40CAD) for the three nights. Great deal! I am going to reconsider my stance on hostels. I wouldn’t want to be in a huge one sharing a crappy bathroom with 50 billion other women, but it hasn’t been an issue in a small place like this and they are fastidious about cleaning. Of course, I’m past the dorm room scenario and would only stay in places with my own room.
Well, I’m off to figure out where I’m going tomorrow. I am so stupidly nervous about having the car that like when I RV, I want to know where I’m parking it tomorrow night before I go anywhere and I want the route to that parking spot mapped out! 🙂
I’ve had a wonderful time in Plovdiv. An evening and two days here has been just the right amount of time.