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An excerpt from 'Buses, trains but no planes: 23 countries and 45 places in 7 months.'

Alison Laycock

‘Meeting’ Miljo in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

As I’ve already mentioned, Plovdiv was a choice I made due to it being the 2019 European Capital of Culture just like Leeuwarden, the Netherlands being the 2018 European Capital of Culture. Those who had already been to Plovdiv spoke highly of it, so I decided to spend a couple of nights there to see another city rather than just visiting the capital.

The city has historically developed on seven syenite hills, some of which are 250 metres (820 feet) high. Because of these hills, Plovdiv is often referred to in Bulgaria as “The City of the Seven Hills”.

Free walking tour: At 6pm on my first evening, I went for a 2- and 1/2-hours free walking tour so I could learn more about the city and decide what I wanted to see more of the next day. Firstly, we walked along the main street coming up to the statue of Miljo, a guy who was around in the 80s and would cheer people up as they walked along, and he wanted to see them smile. A native from Plovdiv who now lives in the USA paid for his statue so he could be immortalised in the position he used to sit in with his hand to his ear as he was hard of hearing. What a lovely idea!

Walking further along the main street, we saw the Roman stadium remains and then through to the Kapana Art district which had been popular and then destroyed in the communist era and now has been restored into the Art, shops etc. In the years of the Ottoman Empire, it was called ‘The Trap’ because of the bazaars and how the shopkeepers wanted to trap shoppers there to spend money. Now there is a different sort of trap through the cafés etc.

Then across the way and up to Old Town, passing churches, main houses and up to the hill to catch sunset. Checking out the 7 hills that are now only 6 as one hill was destroyed to provide rubble for the roads. Down and past the St Constantine and Helena church then on to the ancient theatre, which was gorgeous, restored from when it was destroyed in the earthquake.

The Roman theatre: One of the world’s best-preserved ancient theatres. It was constructed during Roman Emperor Trajan (reigned 98-117 AD) and can host between 5000 and 7000 spectators and it is currently in use. The theatre is one of the most valuable monuments from the ancient city of Philippopolis and is a sight to see for sure.

I returned to Sofia for one night ready for the onward travel the next morning and had a last walk around Sofia city centre.

Journal prompt: Who would you wish to immortalise in a statue in your hometown?

Travel onwards: Sofia to Belgrade: bus at 9am to arrive in Belgrade at 2pm costing 45 BGN. 6 hours as Serbia is an hour behind Bulgaria.

This is an excerpt from ‘Buses, trains but no planes: 23 countries and 45 places in 7 months’, my latest travel book. Here is the link to purchase it on Amazon Kindle if you wish.

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