Shrewsbury Museum and Medieval Centre Self-Guided Walking Tour

I can’t believe I haven’t been out for almost a full week! Well, I have been going for daily walks with Puppy around the neighbourhood, but that’s been it. I had an unexpected burst of work that kept me very busy indeed! It wasn’t an unmanageable amount, but between that and Puppy and house duties, there wasn’t much time left except for an hour or two of Netflix in the evenings. I had the day off today, so I was able to head out to the Shrewsbury Museum, the only thing left on my to-do list for Shrewsbury proper.

Puppy and I had lunch, then I took her for a walk before settling her in her crate for her afternoon nap that meant that she’d barely know I was gone.

Spring is springing in my part of England. These are from the garden here.

I headed downtown by way of the route to the train station. Not sure if it’s a short cut, but it lets me do a loop. I like this row of cottages along a walk and bike path. They all have different coloured doors.

The museum is off High Street. It’s so strange to see here a bank I use in Mexico.

Market Square.

The Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery is in the old Music Hall.

Admission to the museum is £4.50 and well worth it! This museum is a trove of treasures! There is absolutely no way I can do justice to it as that would involve recounting 2,000 years worth of British history, for which I have an unfair advantage over most of you. So I’ll just share a few things that caught my eye.

You start in a very thorough exhibit about Roman Shrewsbury, starting in the Late Bronze Age and into the Iron Age to set some context. There was an exhibit inside a miniature “roundhouse” that explained how those people lived.

The ceiling:

Here’s what a roundhouse would have looked like.

The roof:

I learned in this exhibit that there are 70 hill forts in Shropshire, more than anywhere else in Britain, and that they had purposes beyond defence.

The Roman invasion was “a terrifying and shocking experience for the local people.” For some, life went on as before. Others took advantage of the situation and provided the soldiers with goods and services. New materials and technologies appeared. Think of what would happen in North America some four or five centuries later.

An interesting fact I learned is that the Romans introduced tombstones to Britain. Here are some Roman tombstones:

Here’s what a farming settlement might have looked like at the time. This was not a primitive society.

I saw some wonderful mosaics that reminded me of those I saw in Bulgaria.

One of the innovations the Romans brought was writing. “There is no evidence of the written word in Shropshire before the Romans arrived.” The soldiers who conquered the region would have been literate.

Wealthy Romans had all the comforts most of the developed world enjoys today, included glazed windows, painted walls, central heating, and running water. The underfloor heating was particularly ingenious. “Hot air from a furnace circulated under the floors and was sent up pipes built within the thickness of the wall and roof, something like a modern central heating radiator.”

Of course, the Roman period moved into the so-called Dark or Middle Ages. By 650 AD, the nearby Roman city of Wroxeter was abandoned. “What is certain is that bit by bit, the grand buildings of this once-fine city rotted and collapsed.” I hope to get a chance to visit the ruins of Wroxeter before leaving here.

Here is the most incredible artifact I saw today, a silver mirror that would have been held by a slave. It is “the finest Roman mirror found in Britain”!

The Shrewsbury Hoard:

I had fun playing with mosaic tiles.

Just a tiny bit of some of the Roman artifacts I saw. These are all jewellery or pieces used to tie togas and tunics.

I headed upstairs and found this signage rather confusing!

Into the medieval section.

I recognised this straight away, having spent quite some time poring over it when I was in university! It is the Great Domesday Book of 1086, a great survey undertaken by Willian the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest of 1066 to learn who owned what and its worth, all for taxation purposes. This segment is about Shrewsbury, whose townsfolk felt they were being overtaxed.

The medieval section has a timber frame ceiling.

Shrewsbury as it would have been in the 16th century.

This shows what the English Bridge would have looked like during the Middle Ages. It originally had two sections, with an island in the middle.

This was a fun game. There are magnets that you need to place in the correct spots to create a medieval town. I got to work!

Ta-dah.

It’s a real family!

Medieval tiles.

This did not go well.

I actually have real quill pens that I purchased when I went to Washington DC in 1997.

This screen by Shrewsbury Abbey played an episode of Cadfael.

There he is.

Medieval armour.

Next, I went into the exhibit about Tudor Shrewsbury, starting around the end of the 16th century. By this point the town’s economy was stagnant, the population was dropping, and buildings were in disrepair. The reformation of the church had left the abbey and friary buildings in ruins. But by the 1560s, there was a revival of the woollen cloth trade and the town began to prosper once more.

A bed owned by the Corbet family of the area.

The embroidery was exquisite and all done by volunteers according to traditional patterns.

Looking back to the medieval section. There were so many children running around that I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked. 🙁

Daniel Defoe, in his A Tour through the whole of the island of Great Britain, 1724-26, described Shrewsbury as “A town of mirth and gallantry.”

Then came a hodgepodge of exhibits where I learned a very surprising fact that I’m shocked I didn’t know: Shrewsbury is the birthplace of… Charles Darwin!

There was a very interesting bit about the natural history of the area and I got to hold a mammoth tooth!

I learned about the ceramics and porcelain trades here, made possible thanks to the good Shropshire clay.

Near the end of the regular exhibits, I saw a panel that said something I’d never been explicitly told, but knew implicitly, that “teenagers” are a very modern concept dating to the mid to late 20th century.

I also learned that the Victorians were mad about ferns and that led to some species becoming locally extinct!

“Trying to Find my Ancestors in a Cross Cultural Word,” is a portrait that “parodies passport photo-booth images and combines the artist’s own face and those of Victorian ethnic stereotypes.”

They combine to form this famous face. Amazing!

Finally, there was a special exhibit about British nursery rhymes.

I had never heard the “go to Spain” line of this classic nursery rhyme.

I love this!

There was another room upstairs, but I’m not sure what for. It did give me a great overview of the “miscellaneous room”and its ceiling:

And the exterior of the music hall.

There’s loads more to see at the Shrewsbury Museum, but that’s what I’ve got to share with y’all. Then, I was off to take a self-guided walking tour.

Back of Market Place (museum behind me).

The museum has a bunch of self-guided walking tour guides. I picked the top three that interested me the most. If I get through these, I’ll go back for more! They are really well done and detailed, so the £1 cost is very fair. I have maps at the bottom of the post to orient you once the walk recap is done.

The Medieval Centre brochure had this to say as an introduction: “Shrewsbury was an important town in medieval times. William the Conqueror put a strong baron, Roger de Montgomery, in charge of this lawless border region and the settlement was fortified as a strategic town to defend England against the Welsh. The Normans also reorganised the church and the importance of religion in daily life can be deduced from the remains of the Abbey, three friaries, and four parish churches in the town centre. Shrewsbury became an important market town and trade centre, attracting merchants who built substantial stone mansions in the 13th and 14th centuries and timber-framed buildings in the 15th century.”

The tour starts at the Music Hall, which incorporates Shrewsbury’s most intact 13th century stone house, Vaughan’s Mansion, owned by a leading fleece exporter.

From there, I walked back towards High Street, crossed it, and found myself in Grope Lane, which was referred to as long ago as 1324. It is one of the rare Grope Lanes that retained its name through the centuries. Its name came about for exactly the reason you think.

This is a good spot to see some of the old timber framing up close.

Grope Lane leads to Fish Street, from which you can climb the Bear Steps.

“The complex of buildings at the top form the core of medieval Shrewsbury. It was built and altered over many years and dendrochronology shows that the earliest timbers date from 1358.” So that answered a question, how they date the buildings.

This is the area where the medieval market would have been held.

I then headed to St. Mary’s Church, “the only great medieval church in Shrewsbury to have survived intact.” Its core dates to 1150.

I can relate (pun not intended) to this sign I passed on the way to my next stop.

What I’ve been calling the main pedestrian street is actually Pride Hill. In the Middle Ages it would have been lined with shops, just like today.

Next stop on my medieval Shrewsbury tour was the McDonald’s. Really.

Check out its basement! It would have been the cellar of a business on Pride Hill.

I circled back to the High Street, passed Grope Lane, and found myself at the Golden Cross Passage, which is typical of Shrewsbury’s shuts, or short cuts between two streets. The Golden Cross Pub has been dated to the late 15th century!

I emerged on the other side to take Milk Street and then turned on Wyle Cop to stop just after the Lion Hotel.

There, I could see two medieval timber-framed buildings, one of which was built in 1406.

The tour then took me through Barrack’s Passage.

These well-preserved buildings are 2 of the 32 surviving 15th century timber buildings in Shrewsbury.

From Barracks Passage, I descended Belmont Banks to get to the Town Wall.

Here’s a bit of the town wall.

There was no good vantage point, so it’s hard to show how high up the wall is. The wall was “terraced into the river bluff at the edge of the river flood plain. The whole wall was 3.2km long and was built between 1220 and 1250, on royal orders, following the successful attack on the town by Welsh forces. … The major part of the wall encircled the high ground and ran down to the river, where there were gatehouses on the two bridges. Much was destroyed in the 18th century and this is the best remaining section.”

I then retraced my steps and went down Beeches Lane to turn onto St. Julian’s Friars.

Instead of crossing this foot bridge, I went under it to the tow path.

These cottages are all that remain of the perimeter buildings of the Franciscan Friary founded in 1245.

I continued along the tow path to English Bridge.

Having been to Shrewsbury Abbey, the next stop, already, I didn’t go back since I’d been gone quite a while and needed to get home to Puppy. Instead, I continued to walk along the river.

These arches are part of the remains of a Dominican Friary.

It was then time to head back to the centre of town along St Mary’s Water Lane. It was a pretty steep climb.

The last stop of the tour is the castle. I’m undecided if I will go there because I’m not that interested in the military museum it houses.

“The castle was built within three or four years of the Norman Conquest [1066]. Its primary purpose was to dominate the town, to monitor and intimidate the population, and suppress rebellion. From here, the garrison could survey the whole town, including the approach through the neck of the meander, any movements on the river fords and hostile gatherings in the market place. Today, the inner bailey has stone curtain walls built in the 12th century on top of the original Norman ramparts. The crenulated parapets were originally medieval, though they have been repaired or replaced several times. The hall, with flanking circular towers, is mid-13th century.”

From this final stop, it was an easy one-mile walk home along the river.

Here’s a general overview of my afternoon:

And a more detailed map of some of the highlights of the walking tour.

Revisiting the Rijksmuseum

Work went super fast this morning and at noon, I had an 1.5 hours left to do. I was torn between finishing and then heading later to the Rijksmuseum, or going to the Rijksmuseum for a few hours as a break, then coming home to finish. The latter choice felt more logical as I would have a solid four hours to see the museum. I suspected I only needed to spend two hours there, but I didn’t know how bad the queue would be to get in. Since the job was easy and I’m so well rested these days, I could finish up at my leisure before a later dinner.

It was really cold today, with frost on the grass in the square outside my flat and at the park I cut across to get to the Museum Quarter. Rather pretty!

I wandered around the Museum Quarter for a bit and found a street lined with stores featuring expensive designers.

The Chanel store was rather pretty, faced with clear green glass tiles.

There are a bunch of food stands on the plaza between the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. I’ve been pricing burgers for a bit and the burger I got here wasn’t cheap at 6 euros, but it was decent value for Amsterdam and tasty. It got cold fast, though! 🙂

I went next door and got a cafe cortado, which came with little cookies exactly like I fell in love with at the Mediterranean place in Sarajevo, and which was just 2.10 euros! I would never have guessed I’d find the best value of coffee so far in Amsterdam right on the Museumplein.

The lineup to get into the Rijksmuseum was interminable, a sharp contrast to the day I took this picture:

I got into the special line for folks who don’t need to go to the ticket desk. It wasn’t nearly as long as the regular line and it moved much more quickly. Can’t say the same for the coat check line and I kicked myself for forgetting I could have gotten a locker instead.

Since I’d already done a fast tour of the Rijksmuseum, I had a much better and more efficient plan of attack for today. I first headed to the special ground floor exhibits. I had no trouble getting in a second time with my Museumkaart, but some folks with a different card were told they had to get a ticket since their card was not scannable. The ticket was free, but they could not jump the queue to get it. I was devastated for them.

Like in so many museums, you can’t use a flash at the Rijksmuseum, so I’m going to try to be discerning and not show too many blurry ones.

So The ground floor has exhibits from 1100 to 1600, as well as special exhibits, where I started.

The first special exhibit I visited was the model ships. These were built true to life at miniature scale in the 19th century, a time when the technology of shipbuilding was growing in leaps and bounds thanks to such inventions as the steam engine. These scale models could be used to explain innovations to a lay person and to aid in the building of the full size models.

This is the figurehead from the frigate Prins van Oranje. As you can see, it’s a man in full armour.

A lighthouse model:

I wasn’t that interested in the gun gallery (armoury), but I learned that “the Netherlands was once a leading centre for the production and trade of arms.” I have to say that some of the guns were works of art.

Then, I went to the pottery exhibit, one of my favourite parts of the whole museum. It’s actually broken into two parts, with other exhibits mixed in.

Blue and orange together make me happy.

This coffee and tea service shows that the application of enamel colours to porcelain was still a great challenge in the 1700s as evidenced by the fact that some of the pieces are more purple than pink.

This was an interesting object. It is a necklace made of four pieces of stovepipe. Surely meant as a concept and not something to wear!

The musical instruments were also works of art. They were mixed in with a few other exhibits as well.

Love this bat pin.

And the dragonfly pin. Lovely detail on the comb.

A group of violins.

The lute (I think) that has a face is a hoot!

One of the things that enchanted me on my first visit was the Magic Lantern exhibit. These were the earliest forms of modern projectors. Images on plates of glass were projected. When the plates were changed in rapid succession, you got a moving picture. Very cool! They date back to the mid-1600s!

Here are some magic lantern plates.

We got to see one in motion. The arms on this windmill appeared to be moving.

I then went into the Delftware (blue on white) exhibit, which had tiles and other decorative objects as well as practical items.

This is a roulette board.

This tile panel with a vase of flowers would have been fitted into a fireplace to give it interest when there was no fire burning.

I loved this dish with pomegranates and grapes because of the unusual colour choices the painter made. The grapes are orange and the pomegranates are blue and white.

This is a game box.

This is a beaker of ice glass, “an effect achieved by plunging the blown glass while still white-hot into cold water in order to produce cracks. When the glass is reheated and blown further, these cracks get bigger.”

There was a display of boxes.

Locks and keys:

There was an exhibit all about miniature silver things. Here are some mocked up in a dollhouse:

“Around 1700, porcelain vases of this size were extremely rare and prestigious.”

Coming back out of the model ships, I spotted this one. See the little figures on the deck? They are holograms! They were 3D and moving around. I’d never seen anything like it.

Next up was the exhibit about the Middle Ages, which I was not impressed with when I went through last time as it’s all religious art and objects. Yes, I know that was the theme of the day, but there was art that showed common life as well. So I rather blipped through this part of the museum.

Loved the colours on this painting:

A scene depicting the St. Elizabeth Day Flood.

The only known portrait of a black man in early European painting. He may have been been one of Charles the V’s archers, Christophie le More.

The ground floor of the Rijksmuseum has a picnic area for school groups and those with their own lunches. Look at that vaulted ceiling!

The Asian exhibit is tucked way in the back on its own. I don’t think people would know it’s there unless they studied the floor plan.

I loved the exhibit of kimonos.

This one was particularly unusual.

I was really impressed with this figure on my first visit. Look at the eyes!

I love Japanese pottery.

The museum has modern parts added to the old. So this would have been an exterior wall once upon a time.

Behind it was an exhibit of interesting photographs that did not photograph well. They were of collages of objects. The effect had a  3D texture that seemed innovative.

I would later see many more cabinets in this style. I think this is my favourite.

I headed up this back, almost secret, staircase to see the exhibits from 1700 to 1900.

There was a very cool light fixture that would “blossom” as it dropped down.

I wasn’t the only one who as mesmerised by it!

The staircase is really lovely. Shame its hidden away in a corner like that.

I watched the lights from the top for a bit.

Hope you can play this video!

There was more Asian pottery in the stairwell.

Next up was an exhibit of taxidermy about all the exotic critters Dutch explorers encountered.

Boa constrictor:

Capybara, an animal that is so exotic to me it might as well be a unicorn.

A llama.

So soft! I can now understand what all the fuss is about petting llamas!

Yes, that was allowed! 🙂

This entire hilarious sign is worth reading.

The museum has lost a lot of its period charm outside of what was once the main entrance, but you get the odd burst of it.

An Italian scene under umbrella pines.

A scene in the Rhine Valley. I can’t believe I remember that.

Pretty goblet.

This painting reminded me of the paint by numbers “style.”

I saw a couple more Van Goghs! This is Undergrowth:

One woman and her daughter came up to this one and said it must be Van Gogh. I knew it absolutely wasn’t, so I translated the sign for them (they only spoke French). The artist was, however, inspired by Van Gogh. The mother said that it was odd how the top is classical Dutch artwork, like dark like Rembrandt, and the bottom is Van Gogh. I explained that Van Gogh started in that darker style and then moved to the lighter, so this painting was rather like looking at the evolution of Van Gogh’s style. I hope she goes to the Van Gogh Museum!

Some wandering around later, I climbed up what had once been the entrance staircase to go see the exhibits from 1600 to 1700, including the Rembrandts and the Vermeers. There is beautiful stained glass in this part of the museum.

And more vaulted ceilings.

Looking out into the main hall of the museum where you don’t need a ticket. Yes, this is an interior space.

The hall is gorgeous. I’m glad I got this picture last time as there were too many people today to make such a shot possible!

This painting depicts a breech of the dam. I love how your attention is drawn to that bright red cape billowing in the wind and conveying the drama of the scene.

Now, a hodgepodge of stuff.

Another incredible cabinet. Pretty sure this was made from hundreds of tiny pieces of wood in different colours.

Not sure if these incredible items had a function.

This enamelled violin was just a decorative object and could not be played.

Just wow…

More wow.

I would love a four-poster bed with a canopy. 🙂

Another incredible cabinet.

The painter of this red ibis with an egg was my kind of woman. Her name was Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) and she was an artist and a naturalist. In 1699, when she was 52 and divorced, she and her youngest daughter sailed to Suriname!

Grey as it is, I really love the drama of this one.

Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch:

Vaulted ceiling in the great room holding the Rembrandts and the Vermeers.

Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. To be honest, I don’t remember learning about Night Watch in my art classes, but I definitely remember discussing The Milkmaid and how the milk being poured is the only sign of movement in the whole thing.

Another mosaic in the entrance hall floor.

This cheap crown was meant to be a gift for the King of Ardra on the west coast of Africa, but it never reached him.

Here is one of those box beds I saw at Rembrandt’s house, only his were proper cabinets with doors that shut.

A crib.

A map of the Iberian Peninsula. The bright blue lapis lazuli has faded to grey.

I loved these stained glass windows!

Her crooked eye is a lovely human detail.

Two oaks.

Another one of Rembrandt’s famous paintings.

Yet another magnificent linen cabinet. Just be grateful I’m not showing you them all!

William II, 14, and his bride, Mary Stuart, 9.

A hat with a bullet hole in it.

I was happy to see imperfect items on display.

Vases.

A composition of exotic fruits.

A feast of turkey pie.

The olives are so life-like.

As is the fruit.

Next, I headed upstairs to the section about 1950 to 2000, which I missed on the first trip. This is a researched and imagined view of Moscow by an artist who had never been there.

I then had to go all the way back down the way I had come, cross the museum, and go all the way back up to the exhibit about 1900 to 1950.

Love this painting.

And these vases.

A war-themed chess set.

A numbered prison coat from the Lenzig-Pettighofen concentration camp in Austria.

I rather like this piece except for the chrome legs.

A pressed glass set from the 1930s in a style that never caught on, so not many were produced.

I was done, so I rode the elevator all the way back down. Here’s the main lobby, facing the entrance to go left to the Asian exhibits.

Behind me is just a small part of the ticket line. Imagine twice as many people (at least) waiting outside! It was three by this point, so, really, I think these people are wasting their money as the museum closes at five.

Looking towards the café.

Back out in the bitter cold and needling rain.

The Rijksmuseum is a truly incredible space. The layout definitely seemed a lot more logical on this trip than my first. I just don’t like how the 1st and 2nd floors are out of order when it comes to dates, although I surmise that it was done that way so that Vermeer and Rembrandt could have the Great Hall. This is an expensive museum (17.50 euros per adult), so I recommend spending at least three hours in it. I spent about five hours total in it and that was plenty for me. If you get a Museumkaart, you can go in multiple times.

There are a few more museums I’m interested in, but there’s nothing hugely pressing. I still have five days to fill and seven museums on my list, so  I am off to do some holiday closure research. 🙂

Also, I will have another post up in a few hours, a 2016 recap.

A Second Very Full Day in Plovdiv

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.

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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!

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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.

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I passed this statue of a family. Do you see what’s on the tree stump in the foreground?

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Like Sofia and London, Plovdiv utilises barriers to discourage people from crossing busy streets at places other than crosswalks or underpasses.

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I was curious about this obviously Jewish monument.

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I got shivers when I read this. Remember that Bulgaria saved all its Jews during the Holocaust!

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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!

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Nice mosaic on what appeared to be an abandoned building.

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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.

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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.

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Crossing the tunnel on foot sucked. It was loud, echoey, and smelly. 🙂 I emerged and noticed this interesting church:

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Trakart is located in the underpass below Tsar Boris at Patriarh Evtimiy.

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I got a shiver as I read this, beginning to understand why the tourist info guy had sent me here!

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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! 😀

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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!

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This is the entrance floor. That broken bit in the middle would have been a fresh water fountain.

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On the walls are mosaics from other sites.

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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.

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I liked how they showed that we could walk on the glass.

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The swastika is a truly ancient symbol.

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Part of the original lead sewer system.

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Besides the mosaic, you can see Proto-Thrace artifacts dating from prehistory (4-3,000 years BC):

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The venue also has a stage.

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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!

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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).

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I made a new friend!

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Looking towards the Unknown Russian Soldier.

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This little guy was so affectionate!

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Looking towards Nebet Hill in Old Town, which I climbed my first night.

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Graffiti made this fountain scary!

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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Ooookay. LOL

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!

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Here’s the evangelical church, worth the effort made to find it!

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Wonder what those are. They are related to parking.

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The road here was in bad condition.

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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!

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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!

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I stopped partway to enjoy the view:

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Notice that gold and blue dome?

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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!

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Looking towards the clock tower.

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I headed back down, partially using the stairs.

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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!

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The crest of Plovdiv and its motto: Ancient and…

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eternal.

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This informational sign in English was surrounded by thorns!!! There was no way to get close enough to read it. 🙁

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I passed this car as I headed home. The Bulgarian counterpart to El pollo loco?

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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.

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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:

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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!

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There was an event going on at the stadium, the DroneUp IFF, and they had cushions out for the spectators.

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A drone.

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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.

Center of the West, Cody, WY

I’ve had no trouble filling the last three days in Cody.

Sunday was a bit of a down day for me. Vicki left for work around 7:00 and I got up very shortly thereafter. I got started on some work due Monday and didn’t go out until the afternoon, walking up and down Sheridan Avenue (main street) to get a sense of Cody’s tiny downtown.

Cody is, of course, named after William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the man who brought the Wild West to the world. It is my favourite kind of tourist town, similar to Dawson, as it is a robust community that exists outside of its tourism draw. There’s lots to do, plenty of good food, and the locals are very friendly.

Monday and Tuesday were eaten up by my visits to the massive Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This centre is actually five separate and unique museums. The centre is so large that your admission ticket ($19 for an adult) is valid for two consecutive days.

I started with a visit of the Draper Natural History Museum, all about the geography, ecosystems, flora, and fauna of the Yellowstone region. I liked how it was laid out, starting at the top of a mountain at about 6,000 ft, and then gently guiding you down to lower elevations. I especially liked the video on how to deal with a bear encounter and the giant mosaic map of the region.

Next, I went to the Buffalo Bill Museum. This was my favourite of the five! I really didn’t know much about either the man or the actor and this was a very comprehensive exhibit, full of artifacts from his life and shows. My favourite part was that there was actual video of one of his 1910 shows! This was so amazing to watch (especially the bit where we could hear him speak!) that I came back the next day and watched the video again! The video showed among other things, the popular “attack of the Deadwood stagecoach” portion of the show… with the actual stagecoach right behind me, restored to brilliant yellow! I saw a lot of myself in Buffalo Bill and I’m glad that I got to know him here.

Then, it was time to break for an early lunch. There was a coffee and sandwich bar at the museum that I decided to check out since I would otherwise have to walk back to town (not a long distance, maybe half a mile, but I didn’t want to spend the time). I was pleasantly surprised to find gourmet coffee and custom made sandwiches at a reasonable price and enjoyed my lunch so much I had the same thing (with different sandwich fillings) the next day!

I finished my day at the Plains Indian Museum. I kind of went quickly through this one, planning to do a second circle of it the next day since I was getting a bit tired. Lots of beautiful beadwork on exhibit and I liked learning about how the coming of the horse didn’t so much change local culture, but rather enhanced existing practice.

Before heading home, I stopped at the centre’s gift shop, where I picked up a pair of moose stud earrings. The cashier said that they were the most Canadian thing she’s ever seen, LOL.

By the time I got back to the campground, it was close to 2:00. I worked a bit until Vicki came home and then we did the grown up thing and went out to do laundry. We were supposed to have leftover soup from Sunday for dinner, but by the time we got done with laundry we were beat and instead decided to try the restaurant attached to the business where she works since she gets a hefty discount. The discount was enough that I went ahead and had the steak and prawns!

Tuesday was very similar to Monday. I got up and did some work, then headed out late morning to the museum. The man at the ticket counter recognised me (!) and thanked me for coming back.

I started with the Whitney Western Art Museum which had not appealed to me for some odd reason. No idea why since it was filled with sculpture and paintings of my favourite landscapes. I might not have been born in the West, but I always knew I would live there on the open plains. This museum had an audio guide, so I spent a lot more time than I thought I would.

Next, I went to the Cody Firearms Museum, of which I had about zero interest, but which gun nuts could easily spend a day or two in! So many firearms, from the mid 1400s all the way to today, and by all the major manufacturers. I tried my hand at “shooting a pistol” (no ammo in it) and did like the older weapons with a lot of carvings that made them works of art, but really didn’t spend much time.

Coming out of the firearms museum, I noticed a gallery along the walls of the mezzanine holding the administration offices, so I went up to check it out. I was perplexed to find a painting depicting a scene from Vancouver Island!

It was a bit early for my final exhibit, so I went back to the Buffalo Bill Museum to rewatch all the videos of him and then did a final circuit of the Plains Indian Museum.

Finally, I attended the raptor demonstration outside, where I saw a great horned owl, a peregrine falcon, and a red tailed hawk. This was an informal talk where the raptors sit on their handler’s hand and do not fly or perform tricks. It was very informative and I liked seeing the birds up close.

I’ve traveled all over this continent and have been to all manner of attractions. Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West ranks right up there for me with Montréal’s Biodôme, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and the City Museum in St. Louis — a destination unto itself.

I’m not sure what I will do Wednesday. I have work to do in the morning and there’s not really anything more for me to see in town (the lovely gals at the vistors’ centre all pointed me to things outside of town), so I’ll probably just pop into the Irma Hotel and then walk around off the main drag. Vicki and I do have plans for Thursday a short distance from Cody!