If you want to look at an ancient amphitheater and other ancient remains, you don’t have to go to Italy. This can be done in Bulgaria as well. It is enough to go, for example, to the city of Plovdiv, located on six hills, surrounded by picturesque nature.
As for me, I think that this city is one of the most beautiful and interesting in Bulgaria. And it is not only my opinion – many tourists from different countries come here every year. Plovdiv is located 150 km from Sofia and is considered to be one of the oldest cities in Europe. We have already visited it several times and explored the historical center. But every time we find out something new there.
The Roman Heritage
Those, who are not familiar with the history of the country, may wonder – why in Bulgaria there are Roman buildings and ruins. I would like to tell about this in more detail.
Bulgaria has a very rich history. Previously, this territory belonged to the Thracians. And then the Romans joined it to their empire. The favorable strategic location made the settlement always a desirable target for invaders. One period it was named Philippopolis – in honor of the father of the famous Alexander the Great. Plovdiv is so ancient that it is even older than Rome and Athens. There was a time in its history when the town was ruled by the Byzantines and Greeks.
That is why now you can see there the remains of a stadium dating back to the second century AD, as well as the ruins of forum, the basilica, etc. As for the theater (the first picture of the article), it has been restored and looks, in my opinion, just great. It was found in the 20th century by accident during a landslide. Now this theatre regularly hosts concerts and various performances. It stands on top of the hill and offers an impressive view of the old part of the city. Entrance is paid but tickets are not expensive.
In 815 AD Plovdiv became part of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. Then, when the whole country was captured by the Ottomans, the city received the name Filibe. The Turkish rule lasted for 500 years. The city was released during the Russian-Turkish war, like the rest of the country.
The Cultural Capital
Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia. There are many educational institutions and enterprises here. It is also considered to be the cultural center of the country. And for 2019, it was chosen to be the cultural capital of Europe, taking over this title from the Maltese Valletta.
The most interesting for tourists is the old part of the city, which is located on the right bank of the Maritsa River. It is exciting to walk along the streets and to look at the architectural monuments dating back to different eras. The variety of styles will not let you get bored.
On the main pedestrian street Knyaz Alexander Batenberg, like on the Arbat, you can see musicians, artists, puppet shows for children, etc. There are many shops, boutiques, cafes and souvenir shops along the street.
The relief of the city also adds charm to its external appearance. Plovdiv stands on hills, while walking, you have to go up and down. By the way, on one of the hills stands the famous monument to the Russian soldier, better known as the “Alyosha” monument.
As in any Bulgarian city, there are Orthodox churches in Plovdiv. One of the most famous, the Church of the Holy Mother of God, is situated on the hill near the ancient theater I mentioned earlier. It was built in 1844. The church is rather interesting due to its unusual frescoes.
The church of St. Marina, one of the oldest, is the main temple of the Plovdiv eparchy. It looks remarkably because of its original wooden bell tower. Its height is 17 meters. The iconostasis is also decorated with wood carvings. This church was built in 1851.
It should be noted that the influence of the Turks is also noticeable in the city. In the old part of it you can see the impressive Jumaya Mosque, which immediately attracts your attention. The building has one minaret and nine domes.
The construction of this mosque dates back to the 14th century. And earlier in its place the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Petka Tarnovskaya was located. The mosque is active, to visit it, you must observe a certain dress code.
My impressions of Plovdiv are very positive. I think that all guests of the country should visit this city. Besides, the mountain landscapes around it are simply unforgettable.