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Further Plovdiv explorations

Plovdiv and Shipka


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Well, we certainly fitted a lot into this morning and the first half of the afternoon!

The very first thing I did after breakfast was walk to an internet café to print off Mum's boarding pass for her. Reception at our hostel didn't have a printer, but they told me how to get to a place where there was one. Something I've noticed in Bulgaria is that internet cafés are much rarer than they are in Ecuador - this was the first time I'd been to one in Bulgaria. It was mega-simple though - walked in, didn't even need to log on to one of the for-public-use computers as the girl in charge set up hers quickly for me instead; three minutes, cost about 20 stotinki (8p)! On my way back I stopped at a fruit & vegetable market and bought Mum a bag of cherries.

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First stop together was the Ethnographic Museum; I'd been there before, in March, but Mum hadn't. Our favourite exhibits were; the traditional musical instruments and mummers' costumes, the large wooden attar of roses container which had been steeped in the stuff for so long in the past that it still smelled wonderfully of roses, and the huge, fluffy (sheepskin?), colourful rugs on one wall. Mum also particularly liked the embroidery as well.

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From there we headed down the road to Hadji Aleko's House, via a souvenir shop where the owner's wife weaved mats and wall hangings on looms at the back of the shop (she wasn't actually in action when we went, but there were half-made things on them and the owner told us his wife made them).

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Hadji Aleko's House is a National Revival building now used as an art gallery. Downstairs was filled with contemporary paintings for sale, whilst upstairs had a permanent exhibition. My favourite contemporary painting was of a colourful Firebird. Lots of original antique furniture as well, especially upstairs.

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Once we had looked round the gallery we were feeling quite hungry, so I took Mum to a restaurant I knew of at the foot of Danov Hill. Back in March I tried to have lunch there but was thwarted by the public holiday crowds, so I was keen to return! My tarator and potato balls were delicious; the dish of cooked red pepper slices surprised me by being cold, but were nice all the same.

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Our last proper stop before returning to the hostel was done on an impulse at a small mosaic museum which I think was connected to a Roman forum excavation nearby. The mosaics were impressive and we also liked the well-lit and colourful collection of amulets and scent bottles made of Roman glass. It was just the thing to round off our Plovdiv visit!

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After picking up my stuff from our hostel and saying goodbye, I took a taxi to the north bus station. The bus journey back to Veliko Tarnovo was uneventful, though we did stop for ten minutes at Shipka. The golden domes of the Russian Church gleamed over the rooftops. Right in the middle of the parking area was a cherry tree absolutely dripping with ripe fruit; I enjoyed several ultra-fresh, sweet and juicy cherries before it was time to get back on the bus.

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Mum had a couple of hours to go in Plovdiv before her lift to the airport; apparently she went for another walk and saw a Bulgarian bagpiper performing outside a shop. This is something I really want to see before I leave Bulgaria.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:57 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains art market museum buses traditions bulgaria mum plovdiv roman_remains house_museum bulgarian_cuisine traditional_customs shipka_pass Comments (0)

Lunch with a view

Veliko Tarnovo


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I was teaching in the morning and I thought Mum was going back to the fruit & vegetable market while I was gone, but when I arrived back I found her just finishing off deep cleaning my bathroom! She hadn't gone to the market after all.

After a while we headed out to lunch at a place I had not taken any visitors to before. It's a little restaurant/ café down a set of steps off the main road; we ate on the wooden balcony with a fantastic view of the sword monument hill and around. This time Mum had pepper burek and salad, while I had mishmash and chips. Mishmash is a mixture of scrambled egg, crumbled up white cheese and chopped up and cooked peppers and tomatoes. It was fantastic; I could tell the ingredients were ultra fresh.

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It was still sunny at this point, but after walking across the bridge to the sword monument, it started raining. Typical! Neither of us had brought our umbrellas. Oh well, it was still nice to look round and get the views of the houses on the hillside opposite. We spotted the balcony where we'd just had lunch. No snakes to be seen this time, though some small lizards skittered about.

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From there we moved on to the supermarket. When we came out of there the rain was hammering down, so we went back inside for a bit until it had subsided a little. We started walking back, but then decided to get a taxi to save us getting completely soaked.

After an hour or two of rest, we went out again, this time to the craftsmen's street but via historic Gurko Street. The sun had come out again by now. I left Mum in the craftsmen's street as I had to go back to work.

When I got back from work at about 9.50pm, Mum had dinner ready! Flattened meatballs with a vegetable sauce and some of the seafood-shaped pasta Kate had given me for my birthday. For pudding we had an 'Eton mess' but made with tinned mandarins instead of strawberries.

Posted by 3Traveller 23:55 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged lizards bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street assen_monument extreme_weather Comments (0)

Frescoes, baklava and more strawberries

Arbanasi and Veliko Tarnovo


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Going to Arbanasi today was a priority for Mum, as she was really keen to see it and we hadn't managed to go there when she visited me last October. We arrived at about 9 o'clock because the weather forecast had predicted sunshine in the morning but then a thunderstorm later on.

First of all, seeing as the sun was out but might not be later, we went to the magnificent viewing point where I had taken previous visitors.

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Then we went into the Church of the Nativity (stopping at an outdoors gym on the way - we tried out one or two of the machines!). Mum absolutely loved it, just like I thought she would. It's just so colourful and atmospheric inside! It started off with just us there, but then a party of young American men came in with a guide. This turned out to be quite beneficial to us, because we could overhear all the interesting information the guide had to offer the group. She showed them (and us) the painting of the Wheel of Life with its days, seasons, signs of the Zodiac, man at different life stages and the angels pulling on ropes to turn the wheel; the bad tradesmen in hell, suffering punishments related to their crimes; the shepherds in appropriate period dress (including one sitting in the Turkish manner, playing a pipe); the unicorn amongst the animals being named by Adam; the remaining original frescoes from the 15th century and the second layer of ones from 1681; the dragons on top of the iconostasis; and more. We also overheard her say that figures of the Ancient Greek philosophers were painted on the wall or ceiling of one of the rooms, but we couldn't spot them when we went to look.

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From there we went on to Konstantsalievata's House, the house museum I'd taken previous visitors to. I described this is a previous blog entry so I won't write more about it here, except for that Mum particularly admired all the heavy carved wooden chests and the wonderful carved wooden ceilings.

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After that we were both quite hungry but it wasn't lunchtime yet, so we had a coffee/ hot chocolate and some baklava at a café instead. We both loved the baklava; it was different to any we'd had before, being in a large slice like a slice of tart or pie. It was very syrupy and delicious; quite often (especially in the UK) baklava is very stiff and solid and stodgy, but this wasn't.

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Our next destination was the Church of St Atanas; I hadn't been before and didn't know anything about it, but I thought it would be interesting to check it out. Well, unfortunately it was closed when we arrived! We did however see a huge quantity of red and black beetles on the steps.

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By the time we'd wandered over there and back again it had started drizzling. We decided to have lunch slightly early; however Arbanashki Han, the place where I took people for lunch before, had a big party arriving soon, so we decided just to go back to the same place we'd had baklava. I had pepper burek (stuffed peppers with batter or breadcrumbs on the outside) and tarator and Mum had breadcrumbed chicken bites with a salad garnish.

The rain was tailing off by the time we left the café and headed to another place I'd been to with previous visitors; the monastery of Sveta Bogoroditsa. We both bought and lit candles there and wandered around both rooms, admiring the icons, frescoes and flowers. This time, instead of tulips, daffodils or carnations, they had roses and sweet williams in vases along one side. Two or three lambs munched on leaves outside.

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Our walk back to VT went well - we took the same route as I had taken with Kate and Andrew. The vegetation had overgrown even more than when they were here two weeks ago, but it was only a problem in that since it had only just stopped raining and Mum was wearing flipflops, she kept sliding on the grass in them! The sun came out relatively soon into the walk, however, plus the path became less overgrown, so the problem didn't last. It was a lovely walk and Mum enjoyed it too.

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Once back at the flat it was between 4 and 5pm - we'd left at about 8.50 in the morning! We put our feet up for a couple of hours before going out for dinner at Hadji Nikoli. I took her here when she was here last October and she had requested a return visit. Since the temperature was so mild, this time we sat in the courtyard. No pianist this time unfortunately, but the food was just as good. Mum had grilled tiger prawns and vegetables and I had tarator (of course!) and cannelloni.

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We both had coffees (I had Turkish) but didn't have any pudding there because we knew we had strawberries waiting for us back at the flat. More strawberries with rosehip syrup - a perfect way to round off the day.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:26 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged museum monastery roses bulgaria mum icons veliko_tarnovo church_of_the_nativity orthodox_church house_museum bulgarian_cuisine river_yantra arbanasi 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)

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)

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