City Of The Seven Hills

January 15, 2014 9:12 pm

Plovdiv, Bulgaria: a city I have had the good fortune to visit no less than seven times (at the time of writing). Having a beautiful female friend there to host me obviously helps. Plovdiv itself is Bulgaria’s second city and cultural capital, a juxtaposition of modernity with all the amenities one might expect, and simultaneously one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.

Ricoh Company Ltd.

Its history dates back some 6000 years, and since becoming a Roman city has retained many of its old Roman structures and buildings, including its famous amphitheatre. To this day many events and festivals are held there. The views of Plovdiv from here are quite spectacular, as indeed are the views from the city’s many vantage points. The city has historically developed on seven syenite hills, earning it the name ‘The City Of The Seven Hills’. Take a walk up through the Old Town and see the river from the hill with the old walls, or make your way up to the statue of the Russian soldier at Alyosha, from where the views of the city on a sunny day are amazing.

Plovdiv also boasts the largest sports complex in Eastern Europe, and the 2km Olympic rowing channel alone is visible from space. A great place to walk, enjoy a coffee and take in one of many beautiful sunsets.

The town centre is a modern pedestrian zone overflowing with shops, cafes and bars, and some of the best ice cream available anywhere. A desert restaurant called Dreams is worth the walk down the main street. In amongst the bustle, one gets a hint of Ottoman ancestry in the cobbled paths and the stunning Mosque with its opulent minaret.

Not far from Plovdiv are some spectacular places to visit, a favourite being Asenovgrad, upon whose cliffs rests the Asem Fortress dating back to the 9th century. A serene and peaceful place, it will probably be there another thousand years.  Also close by are the Roman ruins of Hissar, an entire complex of ruins and walls, reminding you of Bulgaria’s dual heritage from dynasties on either side of its borders.

shopska salad

Plovdiv’s relative position within Bulgaria means it is also possible to get to many places further afield, including the spectacular Rhodopi and Pirin Mountains; some of the country’s many mystical caves; the famous Bachkovo Monasteries; the peaks of Sopot, off which crazier people than myself paraglide; the national forest at Kalofer; one can even go horse-riding through the hills and towards a waterfall near the beautiful Sushitsa Reservoir. I have even travelled from Plovdiv to the beaches of the Black Sea, and along the stunning Kaliakra Coast. Bulgaria’s proximity to Greece also means a day trip to the port of Kavala is not out of the question either.

A big draw for yours truly is always the food, and Bulgaria has some of the tastiest anywhere. The Thracian soil is famously very fertile, and very little artifice or fertilizer is used, resulting in naturally very succulent produce. Shopska salad, one their national dishes, is heaven on a plate, and the Riviera Restaurant in the Old Town is a great place to sample it, as well as other delicious dishes.

Each visit I make here, and there will be many more, I discover something original and remarkable. Plovdiv does supreme justice to a country that really should reap huge revenues from enticing visitors to its many wonderful sights and attractions. Whether your poison is food or history, skiing or mountaineering, nature trekking or beaches, this beautiful nation of roses has something for everyone in abundance.

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