Backpacking Bulgaria: Plovdiv and the Rhodope Mountain Range

On Monday morning, we made our way back to Plovdiv, eager to explore this ancient city. 😀

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Plovdiv: Old Town

The old town of Plovdiv surpassed all my expectations, with beautifully restored Renaissance architecture and comforting modern conveniences. 😀21754635696_94471c7bb2_c

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dsc_8590_21159805483_oThe Old Town gossip tower. 😛dsc_8596_21159805523_oPlovdiv is famous for being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in world, at over 6,000 years old.21156192093_b6b83bc198_z
21156192143_42db604960_zThe Roman Stadium of Philippopolis dates back to the 2nd century AD, during the reign Emperor Hadrian.

dsc_8564_21592956488_oThis is a replica of the original stadium, which at one point seated over 30,000 rowdy spectators.dsc_8568_21592971888_oDuring the Roman Empire, the space may have been used for glorious gladiator battles or triumphant sporting matches; however, presently the excavated portion is being used for classical music performances. 🙂

dsc_8572_21592971968_oThe Roman amphitheater of Plovdiv is equally historic and also similarly used for live orchestra concerts.
dsc_8624_21780870875_oIn regards to tourism, the city of Plovdiv is broken into two main sections: The Old Town and The Trap.dsc_8573_21592972048_oWhile The Old Town showcases Plovdiv’s historical architecture and Roman ruins, The Trap area speaks to a younger generation. Winding streets filled with trendy shops and hip cafes are a trap, since you normally can’t leave without spending a little bit of money. 😉dsc_8664_21780871325_o

Plovdiv: The Trap 

dsc_8576_21592972138_oHigh-end boutiques and funky street art make this town totally fresh and youthful.
dsc_8585_21159805303_odsc_8579_21592972208_odsc_8583_21592972248_oThe Bulgarian version of Mount Rushmore. Hah.
dsc_8553_21592956378_odsc_8552_21592956348_oLunch at an artsy cafe.dsc_8513_21816155872_oPork in mushroom sauce, chicken with white cheese, and homemade banana cake.21156192213_22a374a53f_z
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21156192293_c8d273425b_zAs a side note, Bulgarian customer service is quite bizarre, since items are brought out as they are made, and most items are made-to-order. The first dish was brought out after 40 minutes, and we waited another 45 minutes for the second dish.

Luckily, this laid-back town has put us in no rush to get anywhere, anytime soon. 🙂

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Plovdiv is also currently undergoing a makeover, since it was chosen as the 2019 Cultural Capital of Europe. 😀
dsc_8710_21754766296_oIn general, Bulgaria has recently become more tourist friendly with their new organization, the 365 association, which offers free city tours in Plovdiv, Sofia and Varna.
http://www.365association.org/index-en.php

We decided to check out the free Plovdiv walking tour, in hopes of learning historical facts and getting a lay of the land. 🙂

Free Walking Tour 

Our guide was an adorable college student who seemed nervous, but did a phenomenal job filling our brains with historical facts.21186474984_f92836f8c4_zAt one point, the guide pointed out that his parents were walking by, and then became super embarrassed as they lingered for a bit, holding hands and staring at their son, obviously beaming with pride. So cute! 😀 21621420778_6dacde5e8e_zI also met a friendly dog on the tour, who quickly bonded with me, and followed me around for the rest of the night. 😀dsc_8567_21592956588_oAt our halfway point, we visited Thracian ruins atop one of Plovdiv’s seven hills, Nebet Tepe.
dsc_8618_21159805623_oBonding time. 🙂dsc_8606_21159805583_oAfter 2.5 hours of walking, we capped off the tour at the breathtaking Church of the Holy Mother of God.

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dsc_8633_21780871045_oThe whole gang, along with my new furry friend. 🙂24158275544_595d359658_zAfter the tour, we decided to hang out with a few travelers in the hostel common area. 🙂dsc_8639_21780871135_o
dsc_8642_21780871205_oWine and German chocolate shared with our new backpacking friends. The perfect end to our night. 🙂21186474704_2ae7aa6184_zOverall, Bulgaria seemed to satisfy all the needs that Turkey could not. We feasted on copious amounts of pork and other eclectic cuisine, drank unlimited coffee and cheap liquor, all the while, enjoying the relaxed mountain lifestyle. It was the perfect, affordable escape from Istanbul. Just what we needed. 😀

Dollar beers and a delectable salmon dinner.21186474844_731d11b952_zdsc_8714_21754766356_o
dsc_8715_21158222324_oSassy Bulgarian fashion you couldn’t get away with in Istanbul. 😉dsc_8706_21754766176_oAntique shops galore!dsc_8681_21790343681_oInternational cuisine at Terzo Mondo.dsc_8697_21790343831_oPasta and fresh carrot juice. 🙂dsc_8698_21754765976_oThe owner had been inspired from his world travels throughout Africa and Central America. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, while admiring tribal masks and jamming out to Buena Vista Social Club. 🙂
dsc_8692_21790343771_oAnother fun fact: Bulgaria may be a member of the European Union, but they use their own currency, the Bulgarian Lev.
dsc_8699_21754766036_oOddly enough, one of my favorite stops in Plovdiv turned out to be a solo market trip I took, slightly off the beaten path. Perusing the local market in Bulgaria gave me a better sense of their local community, as well as, their regional produce. 🙂dsc_8670_21790343401_o
dsc_8677_21790343531_oWhite beans, purple beets, red peppers and golden butternut squash. Such vibrant colors! 😀21186474914_e6198648c3_zAlthough the markets here may appear different from those I found in central Mexico, they still offer the same warm and welcoming hospitality. 😀24159527393_6148c7bb79_zThis welcoming vibe was felt throughout the town, but most notably at our incredible hostel. 😀
Hostel Old Plovdiv went above and beyond by providing free WiFi, complimentary breakfast, super clean bathrooms and even arranged excursions for us during our stay. We slept in a gorgeous 19th century bedroom and lived like queens. All for an affordable 12 euro per night. 😀
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http://hosteloldplovdiv.com/

Unlimited coffee. 🙂dsc_8716_21158222394_oTasty and eye-appealing brekkie. 😛dsc_8718_21158222564_o
dsc_8719_21158222474_oAfter two days of sightseeing in town, we talked with the hostel reception who recommended a popular day tour to The Wonderful Bridges and Devil’s Throat Cave, top natural attractions in Bulgaria. 😀

The 11-hour tour was 30 euros each, and took us on a journey through the Western Rhodope Mountain Range.
25232275495_90a1155788We even invited this cool Canadian backpacker with us, who was the perfect travel companion. 🙂24159527413_8a508ca7cf

The Rhodope Mountain Range

As a fun fact, one-third of Bulgaria is forested, which made for an incredibly scenic road trip, surrounded by nothing but lush greenery and stunning valley views. 😀24760587046_d2c804f9bc_cOur driver didn’t speak any English, but was very polite to stop as much as we wanted for photo opportunities and bathroom breaks. 🙂24760587026_fbf9d311e8_cFall is in the air. 🙂dsc_8736_21592927390_oRoadside floral honey and handicrafts.
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dsc_8807_21754858166_oHansel and Gretel’s cabin.dsc_8747_22212906846_oBrown bears are native to Bulgaria, but all we spotted was this wood carving in a nearby cave. 🙂dsc_8928_21593043110_oAt least I know, if I did spot a brown bear, I’d have the most epic escape ever! 😀dsc_8933_21781091125_oOn our way to The Wonderful Bridges, we passed Asen’s fortress, a medieval fortress dating back to the 11th century.
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The Wonderful Bridges 

Finally we made it to Wonderful Bridges, a natural stone formation located in the Karst Valley, 4,700 feet above sea level.

dsc_8752_21592927470_odsc_8763_21592927530_oThe Wonderful Bridges had once been a cave, but due to rushing river waters and a possible earthquake, it had deteriorated into three jaw-dropping arches. The largest arch being 150 feet tall and 130 feet wide.12028771_10104656585068077_7863581286752388529_o_21790242471_oMother nature is quite the sculptor. 😀dsc_8780_21592927780_odsc_8764_21592927650_oNarrow inlets lined the Wonderful Bridges, as well as, an actual bridge leading across a rushing stream.dsc_8785_21594092909_o
dsc_8786_21594092969_oFor lunch, we stopped in the ski resort town of Pamporovo at an authentic Bulgarian chalet called The White House restaurant.dsc_8809_21754858246_odsc_8810_21754858356_oWarming up by the fire on this damp fall day. 🙂dsc_8813_21754858406_oTending the flames. 😀dsc_8815_21159981103_oThe menu was in both Bulgarian and English, but the translations made me laugh.

Huge meatballs, fillet spindle, or a plait of chicken? 😛dsc_8820_21159981163_oMeatballs, gravy and mashed potatoes. Still drooling over this meal! Only $5 too. 🙂
dsc_8823_21159981303_oFrom there, we headed to Devil’s Throat Cave, whilst stopping multiple times on the way to capture the stunning countryside, quaint villages, and the striking Trigrad gorge.dsc_8827_21159981403_oTrigrad Gorge.dsc_8893_21593042820_o

Devil’s Throat Cave

21593043030_57199edf50_z
dsc_8837_21159981473_o According to Greek mythology, this cave was the location where Orpheus tried to rescue his beloved Euridice from the underworld.dsc_8855_21754906676_oThis eerie cave is has maintained its mystery, in that nothing carried in by the river ever surfaces from it on the other side. :/dsc_8847_21754906656_oAfter a brief visit in this spooky space, we began trekking the over 300 steps out the top. 😀dsc_8869_21754906786_o
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dsc_8873_21754906856_odsc_8877_21754906896_oAs our last taste of the wilderness, we wandered around the moss-covered cave wall and nearby craft shop. dsc_8879_21593038060_o
dsc_8884_21593038350_odsc_8897_21593042960_o
dsc_8894_21593042900_oFun fact: the Bulgarian alphabet use Cyrillic characters. Fortunately these tourist sites provide helpful translations. 🙂
dsc_8885_21593038450_oAfter a long day of hiking in the fresh air,  we were absolutely exhausted and made our last drive through the Rhodope mountains, back to Plovdiv.dsc_8938_21781091155_oFrom Plovdiv, we moved onto Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, and the last leg of this beautiful backpacking venture. Stay tuned! 😀

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2 thoughts on “Backpacking Bulgaria: Plovdiv and the Rhodope Mountain Range

  1. Wow! Megan,
    Bulgaria really is awesome! I so enjoy your blog, and look for it every week. It was great to experience two this week!! We think of you often, miss you and keep you in our prayers daily! Safe and fantastic travels!!!
    Love Ya, Kim your long lost neighbor☺️

    Like

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