inside bulgaria: plovdiv in the rain

June 19, 2012 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

before we left for plovdiv, i caught our guide going to the church at the rila monastery to light a candle and make an offering. it would be for tomorrow’s safe journey, she said. it would take five hours to reach our destination and involve some narrow and steep drive across another mountain range. the scenic view should relax everyone except the driver.

although it rained most of the night, the sun came out late in the morning as we were leaving the monastery. “the forecast is rain today,” our energetic guide said. “let’s hope the weather man is wrong this time.”

our guide offered to share her personal experiences under the communist rule as a diversion from the monotony of sitting helpless in the bus. as i listened to her monologue, i put on my sunglasses just in case i’d fall asleep. i did find a couple of her stories compelling. though.

the first story was about working in the government. she said while employees pretended to work, their boss pretended to give them a raise. the work environment was very relaxed. it offered long coffee breaks and time to read all the daily newspapers that told about the same thing. although productivity was not a big concern, perfect attendance and punctuality were strictly enforced. anybody coming late to work ran the risk of losing his paycheck for the day.

the second story was about the authorities’ almost puritanical attitude towards sex. for example, couples who weren’t married couldn’t book a room at the hotel. that posed a problem when she was dating her future husband. when they needed privacy, they had to be creative. one way was to go on a double date. the guys would rent a room and the women would rent another room at the hotel and then make the switch when nobody was looking.

we stopped by a rose field to stretch our legs. it was kind of muddy so i didn’t venture far and stayed close to the stand where the workers brought their bags of roses for weighing.

it was a back-breaking work as the workers had to bend low to harvest the roses. the roses were being harvested for making products like rose oil, rose wine, and rose soap. after an hour in the field, we drove several miles to visit a winery where the roses were to be delivered.

on the way to the winery, we noticed the sky darkening behind us. we stopped by the side of the road to get a better view. in the foreground, you could see a man selling fruits on the hood of his car seemingly unaware of the coming doom. as we proceeded on our journey, we waved to him and pointed to the sky. he just smiled and waved back.

soon we were engulfed in a hailstorm complete with a thunder and lightning show. we could hardly see outside of our vehicle. to our relief, the weather eased a bit when we reached the winery.

after touring the facilities and sampling their wines, we hit the road again and drove the final leg to plovdiv.

it was past five in the afternoon when we arrived at the hotel. i was tired. i thought of skipping the free dinner at a restaurant a couple of blocks away, but i was glad i changed my mind. otherwise, i would have missed the delicious grilled meat on stick specialty of the house.

plovdiv is the second largest city of bulgaria. it has been referred to as the land of the thracians and considered to be europe’s oldest city. like the rest of bulgaria, it had been cross-pollinated by many cultures mostly through war and conquest. in the old days, it fell under the rule of the greeks, the romans, the byzantines, and the ottomans.

it was raining on or off during our stay in the old town section of the city, which made walking around a little problematic. it didn’t help that crosswalks were few and far between and drivers were reluctant to give pedestrians the right of way. if there was any consolation, i could see more signs in english.

the ancient ruins of a roman amphitheatre built by roman emperor trajan in the 2nd century AD. i’d been told that public performances such as plays and concerts are still being held there.

interested in looking at 2,000-year old graffitis? on the left, something that looks like a leaf or a heart. on the right, a symbol combining a cross and circle.

we walked around the neighborhood in the rain and visited several historical houses built in the 19th century. as usual, photos weren’t allowed inside.

we drove to the town of kazanlak and visited its museum of history featuring artifacts excavated from a thracian tomb dating back in the 4th century BC. we also went to the original site of the tomb to see it for ourselves.

we went to a couple more ancient tombs: the royal tombs of kosmatha and king sevt iii built in the 5th century. again, no photos were allowed.

by the way, who were the thracians? they were the oldest inhabitants of the central part of the balkan peninsula. they were warlike people known for their horse riding skills. the ancient greeks considered them barbarians. it might be to disparage an enemy who allied with the trojans against them in the trojan war. thracian artifacts collected from archaeological sites had revealed a civilization more advanced than initially thought.

on the following day, we headed to the black sea and spent a few days in the seaside resorts of nesebar and varna.


Entry filed under: Blogroll, travel, vacation. Tags: , , , , , .

Inside Bulgaria: From Roma to Rila Inside Bulgaria: Into the Black Sea

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