Plovdiv: A Living Testament to Over 80 Centuries of European History

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30 Intriguing Facts You May Not Know about Plovdiv

Location, location, location

  • Plovdiv is located on the banks of the Maritsa River, the longest river in the Balkan Peninsula, within the historical region of Thrace. Throughout the centuries, Plovdiv has served as the central hub of the region, now referred to as the Thracian Lowland.

  • Plovdiv is next to the Rhodopes,  the oldest mountain in the Balkans Peninsula, also known as the Mountain of Orpheus, in honor of the legendary Thracian bard, musician, and prophet, Orpheus. Orpheus was not only a renowned musician but also a celebrated poet. According to legend, he journeyed with Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece and even ventured into the depths of Hades to rescue his beloved wife, Eurydice.

  • Although Plovdiv is famously known as the city of seven hills, only six of these hills remain today. The seventh hill, Markovo Tepe, was dismantled at the beginning of the 20th century, and its materials were repurposed for road construction in Plovdiv and other cities.

  • The history of Plovdiv traces back to the sixth millennium BC when a Thracian settlement emerged on the northern hilltop known as Nebet Tepe. This ancient settlement predates Rome, Athens, and Constantinople and existed concurrently with the civilizations of Troy and Mycenae. Over time, it evolved into a Roman city, later becoming Byzantine and eventually part of the Ottoman Empire. Presently, Plovdiv stands as Bulgaria’s second-largest city, with a population exceeding 380,000.

  • Throughout its history, Plovdiv has borne various names, including Kendrissos, Evmolpias, Philippopolis, Pulpudeva, Trimontsium, Ulpia, Flavia Julia, Plapdiv, Puldin, Ploudin, Filibe, and others.

  • During the Roman Empire, Plovdiv (then known as Philippopolis) was an integral point along Via Militaris, a 920-kilometer ancient road connecting Singidunum (Belgrade) to Constantinople (Istanbul). Constructed during the reign of Emperor Nero (37–68) in the 1st century, it was finalized during the rule of Emperor Trajan (53–117). This Roman military route has continued to serve as a critical communication artery between Western Europe and the Orient from the days of the Roman Empire to the present.

  • Plovdiv stands as one of the few European cities where aqueducts have been unearthed. In antiquity, delivering water to cities posed challenges, especially when located on flat terrain. To overcome this issue, the Romans accomplished one of their most remarkable feats of engineering: the aqueducts. These aqueducts represented some of the Roman Empire’s most significant public investments. The ancient city of Philippopolis was supplied with fresh drinking water from the Rhodope Mountains. Two primary water sources were identified near the present-day villages of Kuklen and Markovo. By the 2nd century, Philippopolis had established a complex pipeline network capable of providing around 480 liters per second or an impressive 43,000 tons of water annually.

Where to Go and What to See?

  • Plovdiv boasts a remarkably well-preserved Roman amphitheater, which dates back to the 2nd century AD and is one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world.

  • The city’s Old Town features a unique blend of architectural styles, with preserved Ottoman, Bulgarian Renaissance, and Thracian remains.

  • The Ethnographic Museum showcases Bulgaria’s rich cultural heritage through its diverse collection of traditional costumes, crafts, and artifacts.

  • The Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis offers a glimpse into the city’s sporting history and is a testament to its ancient roots.

  • Plovdiv’s Kapana district, once a craft center, has transformed into a trendy neighborhood filled with galleries, workshops, and cafes. From the beginning of its existence, it has been the most inhabited part of the city – the Charshiya. Such kind of trade and craft areas during the Middle Ages existed in all larger settlements in Ottoman Bulgaria. Some of them still exist, in Haskovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Lovech, and Blagoevgrad… However, the Charshiya in Plovdiv, is the largest and the most preserved up to date and this is “Kapana”.

  • The Dzhumaya Mosque, an Ottoman-era mosque, is a significant religious and architectural landmark in the heart of the city.

  • A trip to Plovdiv isn’t complete without exploring the Hisar Kapia gate, part of the city’s medieval fortifications.

  • Plovdiv’s Roman Odeon, an ancient amphitheater-style building, hosts various cultural events and performances.

  • The City Garden is a peaceful oasis in the city center, offering relaxation and a chance to enjoy nature.

  • For panoramic views of the city, visit Nebet Tepe, one of the seven hills that Plovdiv is built upon.

  • Plovdiv’s pedestrian-friendly main street, known as the “Main Street,” is lined with shops, cafes, and historical landmarks and with its length of 2,750 meters is considered the longest street in Europe.

  • A day trip to the Bachkovo Monastery, one of Bulgaria’s oldest and most important monasteries, is a short drive away.

Culinary Delights and Fine Wines

  • Plovdiv offers a gastronomic journey that delights both locals and visitors. The city is renowned for its diverse and flavorful cuisine, blending traditional Bulgarian dishes with international influences. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor dishes like “kavarma” (slow-cooked meat and vegetables), “banitsa” (a flaky pastry filled with cheese or spinach), and “kebapche” (grilled minced meat).

  • Plovdiv’s dining scene also embraces modern trends with a variety of trendy restaurants, cafes, and food markets that cater to different tastes and dietary preferences.

  • The city takes immense pride in its wine heritage, with a long history of winemaking. Explore local wineries and tasting rooms to experience the rich flavors of Bulgarian wines. The Thracian Valley, where Plovdiv is located, is particularly known for producing exceptional wines.

Affordable Charm and Aylyak Lifestyle

  • Plovdiv stands out not only for its historical significance and cultural attractions but also for its affordability. The city offers a remarkable travel experience without straining your budget.

  • Accommodation, dining, and entertainment options in Plovdiv are relatively affordable compared to other European cities, making it an excellent destination for budget-conscious travelers.

  • Visitors can enjoy a range of budget-friendly activities, from exploring historic sites and museums to enjoying local street food and attending cultural events.

  • Beyond its attractions and affordability, Plovdiv is known for its “aylyak” lifestyle, which embodies a relaxed and leisurely approach to life. Locals often take the time to enjoy the city‘s parks, cafes, and cultural events, embracing a balance between work and relaxation.

Flourishing Cultural Scene

  • Plovdiv’s cultural tapestry is woven with a vibrant array of artistic expressions. The city hosts an impressive lineup of cultural events, festivals, and exhibitions throughout the year, catering to diverse interests.

  • Art galleries and studios abound, nurturing both established and emerging artists. The Kapana Creative District is a hub for artistic exploration, offering galleries, workshops, and studios that breathe life into Plovdiv’s contemporary art scene.

  • Plovdiv’s Opera and Philharmonic Society stages performances that range from classical operas to modern compositions, enriching the city’s cultural offerings.

  • The Ancient Theatre hosts theatrical productions, concerts, and performances against the backdrop of ancient ruins, creating an unforgettable experience that marries history and the arts.

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