ARTICLES 
Plovdivs Pleasures
Article by Marlene Smits, The Sofia Echo 18-24 March 2005

Our car has broken down. Id never thought Id make a problem out it, but travelling to Plovdiv by Public Transport didnt seem very appealing to me. But I decided not to be a baby and just get on the bus. In fact, I must say that it wasnt bad at all. The bus was clean and air-conditioned and the people looked similar. Funnily enough, the only disturbance that I experienced was caused by two very loud Italians who obviously didnt realise that they were the only ones, except for the bus engine, producing sound during the two-hour trip.
We arrived. Friends greeted us at the station.
They took us to our hotel (Hotel Bulgaria), which was situated in the heart of Plovdivs centre. I was impressed, it was only a three star hotel, but I can say in all honesty that it looked similar to, if not better than, many of the four and five star hotels that I have stayed in in Bulgaria. When we gave our names, the receptionist gave us our key without looking at any papers or checking any documents. She just asked for our ID and that was that. A helpful smiling bellboy brought our luggage up. The room was clean and tasteful. Emerald green curtains decorated the windows which looked out onto the main square. I inspected the bathroom and bed sheets and with contentment left the room to eat something, knowing that when we got back, we wouldnt have any unpleasant surprises.
Our friend and chef, who was with us, recommended eating in a restaurant called Hemmingway. Off we went. We had a nice late lunch; I had a green salad with bacon and cheese and some potatoes with cream. And here and there I stole some Serbian beans, meatballs filled with cheese and some Arabian bread. All was good. When we finished our lunch it was already dark. But that didnt stop us, we decided to head for the old town. Walking along the main shopping street in Plovdiv, I thought it looked quite promising. We walked past the mosque, which has a coffee shop offering the best Turkish sweets in town, according to my friend. It became one of my priorities for the next day. Meanwhile our journey continued. We walked up the steps to the old town. It seemed deserted, but this made it look all the more mysterious. We peeped through the window of an old-fashioned apocathary. I love all the glass pots and porcelain heads of medicines great people. Then we stopped at the House of Argir Koyoumdjioglou, which was built in 1847.
One of my friends being a lover of history and of Plovdivs old town told me the heartbreaking story of two young lovers that died under the tree in front of this house. This happened just before the young man in question was supposed to get his parents from France for their wedding. They were kissing their goodbyes when lightning struck the tree under which they were sitting. The young lovers died, and now the tree grows in two parts, sprouting from one trunk. And indeed the tree is still there. On we went through the night, all the way up to the ancient theatre of Trimontium, which was built in the beginning of the second century by Emperor Trajanus. Concerts and performances are still given in this theatre. One of the most amazing things is that when you are inside you dont hear anything of Plovdivs busy traffic. After gazing at the amazing view that you have over the city from this point, we decided that it was time for dinner. Hungry and thirsty we arrived in Gusto. Apparently the basement was a better place for dining, but unfortunately it was full.
So we made do with upstairs, which was a luxurious version of the Happy Bar & Grill. After some grilled pork chops and some cheese and tomatoes, I simply couldnt keep my eyes open any longer. It was good luck that this restaurant was so close to the hotel. The next day it was time for cake and coffee in the Viennese Salon, two steps outside our hotel. Everything was great! After a yoghurt cake, coffee and some club sandwiches, I was ready for the day. We planned to visit a small museum in an underpass, the residential building of EIPHIN from the times of ancient Thracian Philipopolis (Plovdiv). In fact its much bigger than the museum, but because excavation is still continuing, only part of it is open to the public. Its extremely interesting and the woman in the museum tells us with great enthusiasm all the remarkable things about the mosaics, the structure of the house and the importance of this house to the Thracian history of Plovdiv.
Next is the Saint Marina Church (1856), which is also quite special because its built over the relics of an old Christian temple. The iconostasis cant be described in any other way than impressive. Some of the icons were made by the famous icon painters Nikola Odrinchanin and Stanislav Dospevsky. We have little time before our bus leaves and we decide to try the Turkish sweets at the mosque, Dgumiata. Unfortunately its not as great as it looks on the outside. Fake floors and dirty floors are never a good sign. But to be fair, their Baklava and Turkish coffee is great. So with full bellies we stepped on the bus back to Sofia.

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