It started snowing really heavily as I left Sofia. Due to some organisational mistakes on my part,1 I got a coach instead of the train. Thankfully the coach driver seems to have a handle of driving in the snow. We went past big snow plow trucks on the road. I regret not being on the train right now.
The coach driver has a picture of Todor Zhikov in the windscreen, accompanied by the following text:
При лошите комунисти се работеше до 55 години, a сeга при добрите капиталисти - до памперс
Що бе господа?
run through google translate:
The bad communists worked until age 55, and now the good capitalists - to diapers
I get the idea but can’t find where this comes from, and wasn’t able to ask the driver at the time (he was busy negotiating the snowy road). Is it a quote from Zhikov?
Plovdiv has a large post office at the eastern edge of Tsar Simeon park.
The wide blocky building is surrounded by a wide pedestrian square, and seems unusually prominent for my expectations of a post office in a medium-sized town. I should have had a look inside.
On the other end of the square is the Plovdiv State Philharmonic; in the evening some people stood outside the building with a sound system and started blasting out classical music for anyone walking through the square. I appreciated the performance.
Overnight the snow storm caught up to me. I went out to visit the old city.
What you see of the old city today is only the part which survived through the 20th Century. Some parts of it had been destroyed by an earthquake and a burst of modernising zeal. A panel in the city historical museum explains with some regret:
The demolition of emblematic buildings was the result of inappropriate decisions… Good opportunities were missed for preserving and socialising parts of the millenial heritage of Plovdiv.
There was another modernising attempt around Daskalov Street in the 1970s, the warren of old buildings was to be cleared away to make way for new development. Plans were drawn up and demolitions were organised, but the project was stopped after public opposition.
The curator of the city museum gave me an old photo showing one of the buildings which was since demolished.2
Here’s the Kapana district as seen from the Academy of Music, Dance, and Fine Arts.
I was determined to get a better view so climbed the Alyosha hill - named after the statue which stands above it.
The steps going up were surrounded by patches of snow.
There was nobody around, just silence, crisp air, and the city laid out below. You could see for miles in every direction.
I didn’t take a picture of the Alyosha statue itself. It’s difficult to demonstrate the scale of the statue. From up close he’s too big to see, and from far away his outline above the hilltop looks like a perspective trick.
I visited the house of the printer Hristo Danov, which told a story about Plovdiv as a centre of printing, and following on from that the role of language as the basis of the Bulgarian national movement. Several of the printers moved between producing novels, textbooks, and political newspapers.
Here is a Bulteks 40 electronic typewriter, with cyrillic keyboard.
I also saw a Pravets 16A computer, part of a line of domestically manufactured PCs in Bulgaria in the 1980s. Plovdiv is a pretty exciting place for anyone interested in strange old computers.
Following his publishing career, Hristo Danov ended up becoming a member of the parliament of Eastern Rumelia, located in Plovdiv. Danov then became mayor of the city, and one of the hills in the city is named after him.
I saw some people out celebrating Baba Marta, a traditional holiday. Here are some girls wearing costumes for the occasion.3
I walked across the pedestrian bridge over the river Maritsa, which is lined on either side with stalls and small shops. A modern take on the old built-up medieval bridges. I don’t know anything else about the bridge or its history but it stuck out as unique for me.
Finally, I saw the golden brick at the junction of Patriarch Evtimiy and Saint Paisius streets.
The text on the brick reads “seventh hill”. I guess the brick is a marker, but beyond that I don’t know the story.
There were a few more things in Plovdiv I could have visited. I didn’t go south of the railway line, didn’t venture much north of the river, and didn’t walk out to the big park to the west of the city. Still, two days was enough to see most of the museums and things in the centre.
Next town, Stara Zagora.
The Sofia central coach station and Sofia central train station are both right next to one another. I believed I was in the train station buying a train ticket, but I was actually in the wrong building. Silly mistake. ↩
I was the only visitor at the museum, which is typical of most of the smaller museums I’ve been to so far. ↩
Puffy jackets are customary for the weather but not part of the traditional costume. It was quite cold. ↩