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Plovdiv

 
    Plovdiv (376 280 inhabitants, 160 m above the sea level), is situated in the western part of the Upper Thracian valley, 130 km east of Sofia. It ranks as the second Bulgarian city in population and size after the capital. Plovdiv is one of the oldest centres in Europe. It has kept the traces of many ancient cultures. Thracians, Macedonians, Romans, Slavs, Byzantines and Bulgarians demonstrated their skills and craftsmanship on the hills, where Plovdiv is situated today. Public and private buildings with impressive dimensions have been preserved here - the marble stadium, the open-air theatre and other monuments. Its unique location on these ancient crossroads has stimulated strong cultural and political influences from East and West civilizations, and yet maintained its unique cultural identity.
     Being older than most of the oldest towns like Rome, Athens, Carthage or Constantinople, and almost contemporary of Troy, Plovdiv is a town built upon layers of towns and a culture developed upon layers of cultures. Trimontium, Julia, Ulpia, Flavia, Poulpoudeva, Philipopolis - these are different variants of one and the same name - Plovdiv.  Friends and enemies came and went. Some of them contributed to the prosperity of the town, others ruined ruthlessly the created. Some came, others went, years passed but the town has always been alive with the people who have created a lot and who will create more in the future.
     Today, Plovdiv is the major administrative centre in the region, a picturesque town, with many parks and gardens, museums and archaeological monuments. Its old part, called the Old Town, with houses from the National Revival period (18th-19th century), is an imposing open-air museum situated on the three hills of the ancient Trimontium. One of the most remarkable sights of the town, the Ancient Theatre (a well-preserved Roman theatre), is located there and is still used for open-air performances. The city of Plovdiv combines an interesting past with a lively present and is the home of various arts festivals and trade fairs every year. The first international trade fair was held here in 1892; nowadays there are two fairs annually, which form the biggest event on the Balkans.
 
     History

     The most ancient inhabitants of these areas date back to the New Stone, Stone-Copper and Bronze Ages. During the 1st millennium BC, Thracians founded the ancient settlement of Eumolpius. In 342 BC, when the town was conquered by Philip II, the Macedonian, it was renamed Philippopolis and turned into a fortress. With its fall under Roman rule, it became a key economic, cultural and political centre of Thracia province. Romans named the town Trimontsium. During the next two centuries it was many times ruined and set on fire by the huns and the gothic tribes. At the end of 6th century Slavs populated the area and named the town Paldin. In 815 Khan Krum included it within the boundaries of Bulgaria. In 1364 the Ottoman Empire conquered the town and called it Phillibe. Being left in the innermost area of the Ottoman Empire, it had lost its strategic location and gradually declined. It was only during the Renaissance Period that Plovdiv regained its glorious name of a large economic and cultural centre. 
 
     Present State

     The seven hills, as well as the old town of Plovdiv bring specific colour and atmosphere to the town and shape up its unique view and nature. The stately shape of Sahat hillock with the clock tower dating back to 16th century, Bunardjika with the Russian soldier statue and the Djendem hillock are noticeable. Maritsa River divides the town into two uneven parts, connected by six bridges. On the area of the northern part the Fair Facilities are located. Currently the International Plovdiv Fair is conducted twice annually – in the beginning of May the Fair is dedicated to consumer goods and commodities, while the Fair organized in September focuses in industrial goods. 
 
     Festivals:

·         June - International Chamber Music Festival 
·         May-June - Opera days in the Amphitheatre
·         August - International Folklore Festival
·         September - International Puppet-Show Festival
·         September - National Autumn Art Exhibition "The Old Town of Plovdiv"

 


     Landmarks

     The first ranking landmark is the Architectural complex the old town of Plovdiv. Almost all of the most interesting history-related sights are within the old-town area: cult, residential and public housing, archaeological monuments and museums, narrow cobble-paved streets. Djumaya Mosque, Holy Mother of God Church, Church St. Constantine and Helena, Church St. Marina.
     The Ancient Theatre is situated close to the Southern entrance of the fortress. The marble amphitheatre, built up by Emperor Marcus Aurelius during the II century, is the best preserved amphitheatre in our lands. It reproduces the layout of the stadium in Delphi, Greece, and the marble seats accommodated 30 000 spectators of games and gladiator fights. It is frequently hosting various performances.

     Archaeological Complex Nebet Hill remains within the Northern part of the three hill area. Philipopolis fortress walls can be seen within the central part of the Ancient town. Hissar Kapia – the eastern gate of the fortress, had been constructed more than 2000 years ago.


 


     The House and cellar of Hadji Dragan from Kalofer, the House of Argir Kuyumdzhioglu (presently hosts the Ethnographic Museum); the House of Georgi Mavridi, where the French poet Lamartine lived in 1833; the House of Dimitar Georgiadi, now turned into a Museum of the Bulgarian Renaissance; the House of Dr. St. Chomakov, now hosting the Art Gallery; the House of Nikola Nedkovich, currently serving as Museum of the Urban Revival Style; The Balabanovs House; the Archaeological Museum, accommodating the most valuable - Panagyurishte Golden Treasure; the History Museum with modern history exhibition; the Museum of Natural History are just some of the attractions, which Plovdiv is famous for.

     Theatres: Dramatic Theatre, Opera House, Puppet-show theatre, Plovdiv Philharmonics. 
     Foreign Countries Consular Sections: General Consulate of the Russian Federation, Greek General Consulate, Consular Section of the Republic of Turkey.
 
     Transport

     Two types of transport – road and railway, connect this city with the rest of the country. Highway connects the city with Sofia, while major road infrastructures connect it with the surrounding towns. There are railway lines from Plovdiv to Sofia, Bourgas, Svilengrad, Karlovo, Panagyurishte, Peshtera, Hissar and Asenovgrad. 
 
     Surroundings

     The shapes of the gorgeous Rhodope Mountain rise 10-12 km south of Plovdiv. Its vicinity and accessibility turn the mountain into a favorite site for recreation and tourism. The existence of the two summer camps (Students and Byala Cherkva), the availability of a multitude of huts and inns, hundreds of kilometers of crossing roads and marked paths, snack bars and other tourist infrastructure, facilitate the frequent visits to the wonderful mountain sights. Public buses start from Rhodopes Bus Station to the villages in the foot of the mountain – Kuklen, Hrabrovo, Galabovo, which serve as starting point for different hiking routes.