Visiting Plovdiv With a Dog – Bulgaria
Plovdiv was a city that we knew we had to visit without really knowing why. Simply put: It was peer pressure. Everywhere we went people would say: You must see Plovdiv!
Normally that means a Google Images search for us before we decide; but for some reason — that never happened. We just mentioned it to our hosts as a must see on our list and trusted them to deliver without really knowing what to expect. And deliver they did, when we stopped there for lunch and a few hours of sightseeing on our drive back to Sofia after a few days on the Black Sea coast.
Situated in south-central Bulgaria on the two banks of the Maritsa River, Plovdiv has grown over time on the slopes of seven hills, some of which are 250 m (820.21 ft) high. Because of this, it is often referred to in Bulgaria as “The City of the Seven Hills”.
Sidebar and our first Plovdiv travel tip: There are HILLS and in most places cars are not allowed. So be prepared to walk, up and down… a lot! Fun Times!
Although the second largest city in Bulgaria with a population of over 340,000, it is the 6,000 years of history that drew us in. You see Dear Reader, we are not generally attracted to big cities and normally avoid them. All we wanted to see of Plovdiv was the Old Town district also known as the Ancient Plovdiv Architectural Reserve. And that is what we did.
We parked in a residential area accross a busy highway that seperates the rest of Plovdiv from the three hills that mark the Ancient Plovdiv Architectural Reserve where well-preserved historicaly significant buildings cover a relatively small area so that visitors can take walks through different historical ages, see ancient buildings adapted to a more modern way of life, and feel the spirit of the town from the Bulgarian Revival Period, without having to stray to far.
Using an underground passage way to cross the big and busy city street that hummed with speeding vehicles, like only a brutal highway can, we emerged unscathed and started our slow assent into the Old Town. We were immediately charmed. Ancient cobble stone streets with stones often out of place and loose, wound like a gurgling brook around houses that could only be described as pictures jumping out of some Slavic Fairytale.
Sidebar and our second Plovdiv Travel tip: Watch where you put your feet! Although there is no need for hiking gear, do wear shoes that hold your feet. This site is not flip flop (or any shoe open at the back) friendly!
Homes painted in blue, pink, yellow, grey, tan and green have the loveliest shape: square on the bottom with the tops arching outwards towards the light. All the doorframes and windows adorned with hand painted motifs remineded me of the homes from Sozopol, only … more ornate. As if dressed up to go to some fancy ball. You could spend hour’s just taking pictures of them. Old or new, the houses are the main attraction as well as Plovdiv’s dedication to art. Art schools, murals, statues, mini-gardens, everything has esthetics in mind as well as function.
With noon now well behind us, we really needed a bite to eat. Stopping at one of the prettiest buildings converted into a restaurant, we made our way to the courtyard at the back. We knew this was a good spot for us; we had seen a dog with its handlers at the front terrace, and there was another one sleeping on the steps at the back. Not wild dogs either! These were pampered pets. It seemed that on top of being arguably one of the most esthetically pleasing cities we had come across, Plovdiv was also proving to be one of the most pet friendly.
With the historic and ornate, three story building on one side, a Medieval city wall at the back and side of the courtyard; and enormous trees almost blocking out the sun, we found refuge from the heat and settled in for a feast.
We ate like kings, enjoying meat dishes cooked and served on hot metal skillets, mounds of fresh fries and colslaw salads. And the ice cold beer seemed to hit the spot for everyone as well. We lingered for a while, the bipeds having a coffee while Pepi and I caught a well deserved nap. Cooled, well fed and with extra water bottles in our bags we were ready to move on.
Sidebar and our third Plovdiv Travel tip: Bring lots of water. The town is not on the coast and the air is heavier without the sea breeze. You will need a lot of water to remain cool and hydrated in the warmer months. Bring enough for your pet!
We walked the little streets, always going up … and up … and up. There is so much to see its almost overwhelming:
- Over 200 archaeological sites including the remains of medieval walls and towers,
- Ottoman baths,
- The well-preserved old quarter from the National Revival period with beautiful houses,
- Orthodox churches
- Narrow cobbled stoned streets,
- Numerous museums,
- Art galleries,
- Cultural institutions.
It’s no surprise really that this beautiful setting hosts musical, theatrical and film events all year round. It is really pretty. But to crown it all, Plovdiv is also among the few cities to have not one but two, ancient Roman theatres.
The one we loved the most was the ancient theatre of Philippopolis, also known as the Plovdiv Roman Theatre. It was striking under the hot summer sun with its white walls shimmering in the summer heat. The sign at the main gate says: no dogs allowed but when we asked the man that sells tickets if he’d make an exception; he said he would for the really little ones like me. After all he argued (mostly to himself) that I would likely do less damage than most of the unruly tourist kids. This made Mom smile her secret smile.
We didn’t have much time left, so we slowly we made our way back down the hills back to our mini-van. And although I doubt we would want to stay in Plovdiv for more than 2-3 days, we all felt that somehow we had not seen nearly enough.
But we had gotten a very good feel of the cities essence: Ancient and Eternal; that is Plovdiv’s motto. And the city wears it well, because … it is Dear Reader. It really is.