I spent the time on the train watching the mountains drift past.

The train station at Stara Zagora is undergoing renovation, and the underpass going from the platform out to the street is still a construction site. The tunnel is lit by dim electric lamps, there are flimsy sheets of plastic laid across the floor. I walked past two guys cutting up polystyrene insulation.

train statue

After such a calming journey, I logged onto twitter in the evening, only to see people talking openly about the possibility of escalating to nuclear war with Russia.1

I walked around the city centre, visited the Eski Mosque. The walls inside are painted, and it’s one of the only remaining ancient structures in the city so it has some historical importance, otherwise it’s a normal old mosque. The floor is dug up and you can see the different layers of successive civilisations. Each new religion built their temple on the same site, so underneath the mosque are the remains of an early pagan sanctuary and a Christian church.

stara night

As night fell, the birds came out chirping noisily in Stamboliyski park.

Next morning I went past the regional library.

regional library

The streets of Stara are on a grid system, which is only interrupted by these Roman ruins.

roman ruins

The Roman city was also built along a grid, but rotated at a slightly different angle to the modern street layout.

There’s a lot of nazi graffiti around the streets here, enough to be noticeable beyond the occasional few swastikas. The old name of the city is Beroe, and a few times I’ve seen that sprayed on walls with the ‘o’ replaced with a Celtic cross, like berꚛe.2

There are lots of little coffee vending machines around on street corners, dispensing paper cups of instant coffee for 0.40-70лв. I won’t say anything about the quality of the drinks, it’s good for a cheap and quick shot of caffeine on the go. This green cup is branded with the logo of the local football club, PFC Beroe.

street coffee

The club is popularly known as ‘Greens’ (Зелените), for obvious reasons.

I walked up Metropolitan Metodiy Kusev Park. There was a hall of mirrors at the top. So, I had some fun.

hall of mirrors

The park is covered in trees, at one point there was a clearing with a view over the Samara Flag Monument.

stara skyline

I probably should have walked out to see that monument directly instead of going up here.

On the way back I took the long way down around the military base and industrial zone north of the city. A truck full of bored-looking soldiers drove past me on the way up the rocky track towards the city.

stara apartments

Tomorrow is Liberation Day, and the town hall is covered in big flags ready for the occasion.

stara municipality with flags

  1. In 2022 if you’re not worried about getting killed by the next wave of the global pandemic, you can always consider the surging possibility of nuclear annhialation. 

  2. I’m aware that Brenton Tarrant visited Bulgaria in 2018; it was in the back of my mind when seeing all the graffiti.