Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Bulgaria and Romania has to say about Plovdiv’s revival buildings and the Ethnological Museum:
Pupulden, or (Philippopolis as the Byzantines called it), was controlled by Constantinople, Bulgars and even Latin Crusaders over the following centuries. After various skirmishes, the Ottomans conquered it in 1365, renaming the city Filibe.
The city thrived and its merchants grew wealthy. Some of Bulgaria’s finest and most lavish townhouses were built during the Bulgarian National Revival period. In the late 1850s, literary reformer Hristo Danov taught in the city and would later found the city’s first publishing house.
While most of Bulgaria was freed following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, the ensuing Congress of Berlin left Plovdiv and the south in Turkish hands. Only in 1885 did Plovdiv join the Bulgarian state. Industrial expansion came rapidly in the following century, with tobacco factories and fruit farms booming during WWII. More than 1,500 of the city’s Jewish citizens were rescued from wartime deportation.
Plovdiv’s appeal derives from its old town, largely restored to its mid-19th-century appearance and packed with house-museums and galleries. Unlike old towns in many other cities, Plovdiv’s still has eminent artists living and working within its tranquil confines.
Plovdiv’s old town boasts some of the finest and best-restored 19th-century mansions in Bulgaria. These baroque-style houses were originally constructed during the National Revival period, a post-Ottoman era where Bulgarian art, literature and architecture flourished. They are instantly recognized by their overhanging upper storeys, jutting eaves and bright exterior paintwork.
Inside they have finely carved woodwork including gloriously intricate ceiling carvings) as well as painted wall decorations and ornamental niches. Many of these lovely buildings have been restored as house-museums with original 19th-century furniture and artwork, often with displays about local culture and history; they are well worth peeping inside to get a flavour of the era.?? Still others have been renovated as restaurants and hotels, allowing you to bed down in grand Revival style.
Regional History Museum
Plovdiv’s Historical Museum concentrates on the 1876 April Uprising and the massacre of Bulgarians at Batak, which directly led to the Russian declaration of war on Turkey the following year. Built in 1848 by Dimitâr Georgiadi, the museum is also called the Georgiadi Kâshta.
This butterscotch-coloured 1863 mansion has a leafy courtyard and a marble fountain. Its interior design showcases the European classical and baroque styles favoured by its former owner, a moneyed merchant from Karlovo.
Even if you don’t have time to step inside, it would be criminal to leave Plovdiv’s old town without glancing into the courtyard of this stunning National Revival–era building. Well-manicured flower gardens surround a navy-blue mansion, ornamented with golden filigree and topped with a distinctive peaked roof.
There is more to admire inside, especially the upper floor’s sunshine-yellow walls and carved wooden ceiling, hovering above displays of regional costumes. The ground-floor displays of agrarian instruments are a shade less interesting.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We ventured back into the Old Town, this time to focus on the beautiful Revival-Era buildings and the treasures within. Our first stop was the Georgiadi House, which is home to Plovdiv’s Regional History Museum. The building itself is magnificent, and the museum focuses on the April 1876 uprising against the 500-year-long Turkish Ottoman rule of the Bulgars.
One of the rooms contained artifacts from the different ethnic and religious groups that lived in amongst the Bulgars and the Turks, apparently in relative harmony. It’s amazing how much time it takes to go through these interesting museums, time we could have spent seeing some of the many art galleries in town, but we were interested in focusing on the history of the region.
As we were walking along Levrenov Street, just up from the History Museum, I stopped to admire a large copper dome over the door to another Revival house. I caught the attention of a man standing just inside the grounds and he explained that he had a distillery display inside, if we were interested. I’m so glad we followed him inside because he was keen to explain his wine and liqueur-making operation and to give us some samples of his products.
We spent the better part of an hour chatting with him, and I ended up picking out two bottles of his anise- flavoured liqueurs to take back to Sofia with us. (In fact, I’m just about to pour a couple of little shots for Anil and I to enjoy tonight, our last evening in Romania, while I’m working on this journal entry).
We made our way back to the traditional Bulgarian restaurant where we’d had lunch on our first day in Plovdiv. This time we ordered a similar platter but without the pork, I guess it was really just a large serving of a terrific variety of grilled vegetables. We sat for a long time watching the feral cats begging for morels from the diners at the other tables. We’d fed all the meat to cats the first visit time we’d eaten there because it was so very dry. The cats didn’t bother us this time, they must be able to smell that we weren’t eating meat this time.
We roamed around some of the streets we hadn’t explored on previous days and then we made our way back to the restaurant where we’d first met the English expatriates. We found the three of them and joined them for a dark beer and a great deal of interesting talk about why they’d chosen to live in Bulgaria and what life was like away from England.
It was a very interesting evening and we promised to come again. As it turned out, Anne was leaving the next day to attend to business back home so it meant we wouldn’t be seeing her again. We thanked her for taking the time to speak to us that day on the street; meeting others while travelling has always been a highlight of our travels.
The following day, we returned again, worn out from more explorations and this time we decided that we’d have dinner at the restaurant instead of just drinks. When we arrived, Hazel and John were seated with another couple and we hesitated thinking we might be intruding. It turns out that Mark and his Bulgarian wife Atanaska had learned about us and were keen to meet ‘the Canadians’.
We had a great evening, drank Bulgarian wine and ate lots of Bulgarian food. At one point, Mark gave me a swig of some local fire-water called rakia and that may have been my undoing. The next morning I woke up with a blinding migraine and that was the end of my fun times in Plovdiv.
The most disappointing part of having a wasted day, was that we had planned to meet our new friends for a goodbye visit that evening. I wasn’t well enough to go, but Anil needed to have dinner so he went on alone. It helped that the restaurant was so close and he didn’t have to worry about getting lost without me. He had a nice time and was able to bring back something for me to eat later that evening.
When he arrived back, he told me that our friends had planned a little surprise for us. They had each put together a few small presents and looked forward to giving them to us both. I felt so bad, especially knowing that it was probably some preservative in the food that had triggered my migraine. It’s a risk I take when we travel and have food I’ve never eaten before.