A Travellerspoint blog

Bulgaria

Balabanov House, the Roman stadium and more

Plovdiv


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At lunchtime we were due to catch the bus to Veliko Tarnovo, but we managed to fit quite a lot into the morning.

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The first place we went was another gorgeous National Revival house (the Old Town is full of them).

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In the courtyard we admired the roses - right now we are in the middle of the rose season in Bulgaria.

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From there we walked down the road to the Roman stadium remains, popping into one or two antique shops on the way (one of these shops had lots of amazing old painted wooden chests - we both coveted them, but potential transportation difficulties put us off buying any).

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The stadium lies in front of Dzhumaya Mosque, in the middle of the main shopping street. The seating in the stadium is made of the same gleaming white marble as those in the Roman amphitheatre.

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Our next destination was the intriguingly-named 'Singing Fountains' within Tsar Simeon's Gardens. I visited this park back in March, but it was still a bit wintry-looking then, plus I didn't go as far as the fountains. This time all the trees were fully in leaf and the flowers had bloomed. The fountains turned out to look quite impressive, set within a massive pool which I was desperate to swim in. The sun was very hot and the water looked so inviting! No evidence of singing though...

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After staying there a while we suddenly realised what the time was. Quick march back to Guesthouse Old Plovdiv! On the way back we saw part of a procession celebrating the Day of Culture & Literacy. This public holiday celebrates the Cyrillic alphabet in particular.

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We took a taxi to the North bus station, where I bought our tickets to Veliko Tarnovo. We had a bit of time to kill then, so we took turns to go next door to Lidl while the other person stayed to look after the bags.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:47 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art mosque museum hostel roses bulgaria mum procession plovdiv roman_remains house_museum Comments (0)

Return to Plovdiv - this time with Mum!

Plovdiv


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Half term has just started in the UK, so Mum has come to Bulgaria for a week! She's flown into Plovdiv this time, rather than Sofia. I've come to Plovdiv to meet up with her; tomorrow I return with her to Veliko Tarnovo, where we'll stay until next Thursday. She flies back from Plovdiv too, so on Thursday I've arranged for us to go back there via the Shipka Pass, Kazanlak and the Valley of the Roses.

Mum arrived in Plovdiv yesterday, while I was still in Veliko Tarnovo. I had work yesterday and this morning, so I wasn't able to come until this afternoon. In my absence she had a nice walk around, taking note of all the architectural details on the colourful buildings, before joining an excellent free city walking tour. Apparently, two days ago Plovdiv found out that it had won the competition to be European Capital of Culture for 2019, so the whole city is still celebrating. Before the tour started she saw people in traditional dress going down the street, and once the tour had started and had reached Nebet Tepe (the hill with ruins on it), they saw hundreds of helium balloons released in the distance. Credit to Mum for the following two sets of pictures;

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After the tour finished, she went back for a proper look round the Roman amphitheatre and some antiques and handicrafts shops, including one where she could see weavers at work in the back and another which had the most amazing painted wooden chests.

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Meanwhile, I was on the bus from VT; great weather, wonderful scenery... lots of poppies in bloom now, by the roadside and in fields. I arrived at a different bus station to the one I was expecting, but I'd cunningly brought the free city map I'd saved from March, so I found my way to the hostel easily enough. I arrived only five minutes after my ETA of 18.30. We're staying at the same place I stayed at in March - a hostel/hotel in a wonderful wooden National Revival building right in the middle of the Old Town.

We had dinner at a restaurant in a historic building which used to be the Muslim equivalent of a monastery for the mystical sect of Islam (Sufism) that had whirling dervishes in Ottoman times; in fact in the main dining area dervishes used to whirl. The building had two floors and a garden - there were extensive wall remains built into the main dining area. We ate in the garden; bread, tarator and a mixed grill of kebapche (flattened meatballs), kyufte (similar to kebapche but enlongated), a pork chop, two curly sausages on a skewer and some chips. We also shared a salad of roasted red peppers, raw onion, parsley, olives, tomato, cucumber, a mixed vegetable dip-like mixture and some large white beans in a garlic sauce. The beans had a taste and texture very similar to potato.

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After that we walked to Nebet Tepe and wandered around the ruins while looking at the sunset over the city spread out before us. The air was balmy and there were lots of locals sitting in groups on the fortress walls. Mum said it reminded her a bit of Calton Hill in Edinburgh, with groups of local youth congregating in the fresh air in the evening. The atmosphere was very pleasant.

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On the way back from Nebet Tepe we looked in some art and jewellery shops which were still open.

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Posted by 3Traveller 08:39 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night hostel buses bulgaria mum plovdiv fortifications roman_remains bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Bridge across the River Yantra

Veliko Tarnovo


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Today I had no scheduled classes, so I decided to do something that had been on my mental to-do list for quite a while. I walked across the railway bridge. I'd heard about the ricketty nature of the metal pedestrian lane and thought it sounded interesting, plus I wanted to take some photos as I knew I'd get a different viewpoint of the town than usual. Another thing was, I often hear trains passing over this bridge as it exits the tunnel under VT; the low BOOM-BOOM, BOOM-BOOM, BOOM-BOOM, soon fading into the distance as the track bends with the curve of the valley, is strangely comforting. I remember mistaking the noise it made for the drums of a procession in the first week I was here. It doesn't sound like UK trains at all (not that I'm an expert, of course).

I could tell that people don't often cross this bridge on foot, because the steps and path down the side of the hill to the crossing were very overgrown. Trees and undergrowth almost obscured them at times. The day was extremely hot and sunny, however, so the shade was welcome.

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The pedestrian part of the bridge was indeed pretty ricketty. It was tacked on to the side so closely to the train track that if a train had passed by while I was walking over, it would have gone within only a foot or two of me. The part I walked on was made of a succession of very thin metal sheets, each one a couple of feet square. Inbetween each one there was a small gap, allowing me to view the river Yantra below.

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On the other side, instead of continuing forwards along the side of the track I turned a sharp right and pushed through some more overgrown vegetation to the path on the riverbank. I walked under the bridge I'd just crossed, round the corner to a tiny near-white river beach, then back.

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From the bridge it was a five to ten minute walk along the riverside to the big stone bridge, where I crossed and made my way up the hill back to my flat.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:28 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges trains beach bulgaria veliko_tarnovo river_yantra Comments (0)

Spectacular thunderstorm

Bozhentsi and Veliko Tarnovo


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Bozhentsi has very similar architecture to Tryavna, complete with slate roofs. We walked round the village for around 45 minutes before having some dinner - for me, tarator and some stewed rabbit with potatoes and vegetables. It was past 9 o'clock by the time we finished.

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It had been hot and sunny most of the day, but about an hour after we got back to Veliko Tarnovo a thunderstorm hit us. I've never seen so much lightning before! I just stood at my bedroom windows and watched both sheet and forked lightning strike the hills opposite. It was well after dark by now so every time lightning flashed, for a split second it lit up everything within my panoramic viewpoint. Some went dangerously close to the village of Arbanasi - I hope they were OK.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:15 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bulgaria veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine extreme_weather Comments (0)

Tryavna revisit

Tryavna


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Tryavna is famous for its woodcarving and icon-painting traditions and also for its National Revival buildings. There is a difference between the buildings in Tryavna and the ones in Plovdiv, Arbanasi, parts of Veliko Tarnovo and elsewhere, however; the roofs are tiled with slate rather than terra cotta. Not slate tiles as we know it, either, but big, hefty, uneven slabs of it.

The first place we went to was the Church of Archangel Michael, deliciously cool inside and a feast for our eyes as well. As you might expect in a centre for woodcarving, the iconostasis and pulpit were wonderfully carved. The dark wood contrasted well with the colourful icons.

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The church is on the corner of the main square; a very distinctive clock tower stands on another side of it. I remembered this from last time. We asked if people can climb up it, but unfortunately it's closed off to visitors at the moment.

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Instead of that, we popped into a sweetshop next door - Tryavna has many of these, selling things such as Bulgarian delight, sheets of sesame snap and colourful curly lollies which look like rock.

After making some purchases (I got some sesame snap) we moved next door to the Old School Museum. We went under a stone archway and emerged into a small but wonderfully atmospheric courtyard. The school was built in 1839 and is similar to a house, with only one room actually a classroom. On the ground floor were craftsmen's workshops and on the first floor were the classroom, canteen and rooms for teachers, guardians and pupils from mountain villages. The school was the first secular one in Tryavna.

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The ground floor rooms weren't part of the museum and were closed, but upstairs I looked at an exhibition of colourful paintings and wooden sculptures of people done in the primitive style by the contemporary Bulgarian artists Nikola and Dimitar Kazakov, the old classroom, an exhibition of timepieces imported by 19th century Tryavna families (it included an 'reverse handed' clock - one where the numbers went anti-clockwise) and an exhibition of 19th century school textbooks and student reports.

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The latter exhibition didn't have any English text accompanying them, unfortunately, but it was still interesting to look at. One of these reports was actually from a school in Bucharest and was written in both Romanian and Latin - I liked comparing the two and seeing how similar the languages are.

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The classroom was interesting too because it was set up how it was in the 19th century. The front row was for infants and had little sand boxes for them to outline words and letters in; the second row had slates and was where the infants moved to after a year of sitting at the front. The third and fourth rows had inkpots; students only moved there once they were trusted to be able to write with pen and paper. An old-fashioned version of the Cyrillic alphabet was on the wall.

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After the school museum we walked on to the same café I'd had hot sand coffee at with F in January. It was too hot for coffee this time, so a cold drink was in order.

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From there we walked on to the 'Fountain of Love', something I'd seen back in January but hadn't known the background. It's very small, but has a beautiful carving of a woman; apparently whoever drinks from it will have a happy and long-lasting marriage. Both 'S' and I drank from it!

The fountain was opposite Daskalov House, the beautiful house museum with the carved suns in the roof that I had been to back in January. I had a sit down and admired the sculpture outside while the others went in.

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Another drink at a another café followed, before we left Tryavna and went on to Bozhentsi, a small village about five km away as the crow flies but actually about 20 km to drive due to the roundabout route you have to take through the hills.

Some general photos of Tryavna:

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Posted by 3Traveller 05:11 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges art museum traditions bulgaria icons clock_tower orthodox_church house_museum tryavna traditional_customs Comments (0)

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