|Plovdiv is built on/around 3 hills...one we climbed to see the ruins and the view of the city(see photos). We found accomodations at the Tourist House in the old town, an old Bulgarian home built for originally for the governor of the area on foundation(still some visible) of a Thracian Temple. All wood interior, high wood ceilings, circular double staircase up 3 floors, chandeliers(sp?),huge tall windows, giant rooms,creeky floors, great feel...run by a bike club(which pays a lease to the govt.) - mountain bikes stored in the main entry room! We toured the old city, Ethnographic Museum in an old house built in 1847, and several other old houses all from same period (about 1850) all well preserved and being turned into museums too. Saw some old Roman stuff - amphitheatre(still used) 2nd cent.AD found only 30 yrs ago after a freak landslide, stadium(just dozen rows of the N. section) - now surrounded by tourist shops, banks, cafes, artists stalls, etc.
The Bulgarian countryside is a mixed bag...rolling, hardwood forested hills interplanted with pine groves(some of which were being clearcut). Dense underbrush and small streams flow in valleys where forgotten orchards, cottonwoodd, and river bottom plots(1-2 acres) are wood fenced in disrepair but tilled and green, green, greeen everywhere. I was sad to see things let go so much until Mari said "Isn't it nice to see somewhere where the earth is allowed to rest!"
The bus travelled thru these hilly regions no more than 25 mph on rough curving roads, thru small villages of brick & stucco with red tile roofs - not tidy like Greek/Turk villages - run down, roofs sagging. Often we see older men sitting in groups drinking coffee & smoking(EVERYONE SMOKES here!). Being spring we see tons of lilacs blooming, plus all the other spring flowere we're used to in MT. It looks like we will be travelling the reverse scenario of last fall seeing spring over and over as we head N. - really a treat for me, love it!!!!!!!
Later we entered a wide open agricultural valley, fields being plowed/planted or many times left fallow...grazing goats,sheep,cows...no fences(just like Turkey)! Instead we see herders,men mostly, who are squatting nearby, smoking apparently watching and moving the critters place to place,or keeping them out of cultivated crops. Saw vineyards,fields of raspberry bushes,greenhouses of tomatoes, plastic hoop tunnels of ????????? Much of the country stresses(obsesses?) the animosity towards Turks and the oppression they suffered & imposition of Islamic beliefs(they are now 70% Orthodox Catholic)
We met an Aussie fellow and his family, he'd been in Bulgaria over a year, contract is up in Nov...he does assaying(sp?) work for a Canadian outfit, Dundee Minerals, which is attempting/will open a gold & silver mine in the S. just over the border(20 km) from
Turkey. Says eventually should produce 1 million ounces +...can't understand why the locals who earn 200 leva/mo.($130-40 US) don't want to have it open providing 300 + jobs!
Actually, given the depressed state of the economy(altho here it seems to be booming, lots of young people with new clothes, fashionable, pointy Russian shoes, etc.) I don't know what causes people to be upset by environmental concerns...young people are supposedly leaving in droves, nothing seems to be happening except new roads being built and lots of realestate offices promoting land on the Black Sea Coast! What's new?
Food in Bulgaria is quite cheap, especially "on the street" stuff and BEER, which very good! We find numerous places serving great pizzas, pastas, salads, but these are in touristy areas...off the beaten path are the pita and rolled bread -shwarma/falafel type -
filled with tomato,cucs,chicken/lamb/pork,lettuce,sauce very cheap, $1< US. Had veal cutlet and cabbage/carrot salad which fellow said was typical meal - very good! Most of the country looks to be meat and potatoes type food with white goat cheese/fetta almost universally served on salads.