|Tomas and I take a taxi from the Bulgarian border to the small town, Svilengrad. Our kind cabby helps us purchase two train tickets to Plovdiv. We sit for three hours on beat-up wooden benches in the shade of the sizzling sun just outside the station. If the awaiting train looks anything like the other trains occupying three out of the four tracks, our journey is sure to be rocky, hot, stinky and SLOW! However, we are pleasantly surprised when a sparkling, shiney new bullet pulls up at 3 pm on the dot. Right on time! Thank the Lord that EU money is being put to good work in Bulgaria.
Plovdiv fascinates us for several reasons: 1. Plovdiv is the third largest city in Bulgaria, Sophia being the first. 2. We don't know anyone who has ever been to Bulgaria and 3. We don't know anything about Bulgaria (or Bulgarians for that matter) other than the fact that it's slated to join the EU sometime in 2007 which in-and-of-itself is questionable.
Upon arrival in Plovdiv, the uneven streets in swirling cobblestone meet our feet while interesting architecture intrigues our eyes. A hike up to a large Russian army monument provides a 360 view of the city. The "old town" is quite charming while the ugly relics of communist block style buildings line the city's perimeter. However, it's the city's "main drag" that truly captures our attention. For two afternoons and evenings, we park ourselves at a beer garden along a brand new promanade. The promanade is glittered with higher end clothing, shoe stores, restaurants, cafes, and bars. It seems to be the place to see-and-be-seen in Plovdiv. Tomas and I are there simply for the former. And "see" we do. We both agree that when we think of Bulgarians, images of oversized men pop into our heads...the type of men who participate in strong-man competitions, pulling 5 ton semis with their necks. However, what we find is something quite the opposite: svelt young men and women strutting the "latest" fashions. We proceed to make like E-Hollywood fashion talking heads because the spectical of "latest" fashion is just that good. Are you ready for this, folks?? The 80's are full-on back in Plovdiv and we have pictures to prove it! Ripped washed out jeans, fishnet stockings, miami vice hot pink and light grey suits (no joke), madonna jewlery, dyed red, black and blonde manes as well as crimped hair. Yes, you read that last bit properly, CRIMPED HAIR! Like, it's all totally rad, dude.
Hours of free entertainment, just what two weary travellers were in need of...
Ciao for now,