Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back to Bulgaria with some Amsterdam

After a long day of driving we made it to Plovdiv. We had booked an Airbnb place with a Bulgarian guy - took us a minute to find his apartment in a sea of lookalike buildings, but he was nice (despite his place smelling like weed) and we had two little twin beds to rest on.

The next morning we set out to explore. Found a random restaurant that was open on the earlier side, so we grabbed lunch. Of course, shopska.

Our waitress was very nice and gave us a small digestif after the meal, but when we explained that we don't drink alcohol, she just said there's not very much in it and we'd be fine if we drank it. Ha!

Now to explore Plovdiv. We had a bit of time before a walking tour to hang out. It's a beautiful city with remains from many civilizations who've occupied the land. First settled by the Thracian, with inhabitants since the 6th century BC. One of the oldest cities in Europe. No one really thinks about history and civilization unfolding in Bulgaria, but wow!

We ducked into the St Constantine and Helena church, originally built in 324. It's since been updated.

The meeting place for our walking tour. Easter Egg central. Free walking tours are my favorite thing to get acclimated to a new city. You learn some stuff and figure out where you want to spend more time.

Lots of arts in Plovdiv. It's going to be a Euro Cultural Capital city soon, so they're gearing up.

This is Miljo the crazy - the town idiot or such who was a bit endearing and always had a smile. They made a statue of him.

One thing that's noticeable around the city is the many layers that have been built on top from all the groups who've lived here. They're even today encountering more layers of buildings as they dig. You can see several layers here, from the small rocks on the bottom to the larger ones on top, then more stones, then the modern layer. 

We stopped by the Ethnographic Museum on our tour, but sadly it was closed that day for a special event for it's 100th anniversary. I really wanted to see it, so I made us go by again the next day before leaving town.

Plovdiv is also known as the city of seven hills or something.  Great viewpoint from up here.

The Roman theater is really well preserved, built in the first century. Still in use today. Apparently Attila the Hun damaged it at some point. It was only discovered in the 1970s. That's crazy to me!

Cold and windy - time for hot chocolate.

We went to climb the hill with the Alyosha Monument on top - a Russian soldier commemorating the Russians and their occupation during WWII.

Maybe there used to be a snack bar here?

On the walk home we stopped at the singing gardens. Kinda fun.

Final morning in Plovdiv before heading back to Sofia.

We stepped into Dzhumaya Mosque. 

Then quickly through the Ethnographic Museum. It's a beautiful old house, built by a wealthy merchant, and gives you a good overview of Bulgarian culture.

Back to the car. Bye, Plovdiv! I'd recommend a few days here if you come to Bulgaria. Sofia is nice, but I think Plovdiv is excellent.

We drove the long way back through the Central Balkan National Park to see what we could see.

Hi again, Sofia.

For our final meal of the trip, we walked over to Hadjidraganov's Houses, with a traditional setting and food. Very touristy and a little hokey, but good food and fun atmosphere.

Even had a band serenade us on the way out.

Last views of the city! The Radisson is nice and easy for picking up a rental car or getting you an airport taxi at 4am. 

We flew Bulgarian Air to Amsterdam. Whoa, tiny seats. And the guys in front of us had no regard for leaning their seats back as far as they could - I could've picked out hairs from the top of their head. Very uncomfortable.

But then we had a few hours to explore Amsterdam! Eight hour layover and quick trains to the city, you gotta do it. And I'd never been there before.

How much food could we eat in a few hours? A few servings of waffles and frites, at least. 

No time to go into museums, and there are many I'd like to see here, so I'll have to go back. Good thing there's a nonstop flight from SLC. 

Found the Foodhallen with lots of options. 


Give me all the curry ketchup. 

I wanted everything in this store. 


Adios, Europe. See ya next time. I've got some more Balkans to do!

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