Great news, we have another local spilling the beans about their home town and country! This week, Maria joins us from 203 Travel Challenges to talk through what she likes about Plovdiv in Bulgaria and why you should visit. Maria, take it away…
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you come from?
My name is Maria Angelova, I’m a travel writer and an amateur photographer. I was born in Plovdiv and I used to live there until I started university. While I was in high school, I enrolled in a course for local guides and that new, deeper understanding of Plovdiv’s history made me love it even more.
2. What do you love most about your hometown?
Although Plovdiv is the second biggest city in Bulgaria, it is much more relaxed in comparison to the capital, Sofia. A 15-minute wait at the traffic lights is called a ‘traffic jam’ here, while in Sofia, you can spend an hour and a half without advancing more than a foot. People take it easy here, enjoy long strolls, and indulge in people-watching over a cup of coffee.
3. Is there anything that frustrates or annoys you when tourists visit Plovdiv?
Often people rush from attraction to attraction trying to tick off everything from their to-do list without really delving into the history and the locals’ life. But that’s an international issue, I guess.
4. In your opinion, which places should be at the top of any visitor’s wishlist in Plovdiv?
The first place is for the Old Town – climb the steep cobblestone streets up to the top to enjoy a gorgeous view over the Maritsa River at sunset. The centuries-old houses you will see on the way are painted in bright colors and are open for visitors as museums, hostels or art galleries. Then, the art district Kapana that has been recently renovated in a Cinderella-like story from a dilapidated area with crumbling buildings into the only dedicated cultural district in Bulgaria. One of my favorite attractions is the Children’s Railway – although it was built for children, parents – and adults as a whole – are allowed on board. The train crosses bridges, rides in the canopy and arrives near the top of one of the hills with a fantastic panorama to enjoy.
5. What foods must visitors eat when in Bulgaria?
Tarator is a must – a cold summer soup made of yogurt, cucumbers, walnuts and dill. Then, lyutenitsa, the all-time favorite tomato spread of Bulgarians, which many of them still produce at home. And of course banitsa, the baked pastry filled with cheese and eggs. Don’t leave the country without trying the unique local Bulgarian wines. Many of the wineries are open for visitors and can arrange a wine-tasting for you.
6. What’s your favourite Bulgarian word? Why? What does it mean?
When I mentioned the relaxed lifestyle of the inhabitants of Plovdiv, it’s worth to know that they even have a word for this state of mind: ‘aylyak’. To practice aylyak means to be relaxed and to enjoy life to the fullest.
7. What advice would you give to somebody moving to Plovdiv?
To be really patient with the local administration. And then, when their patience is over, to start yelling, which usually helps solve the problem.
8. If you could describe your hometown in just one sentence, what would you say?
Sleepy life among the colorful houses of the Old Town.
9. If tourists were to know one thing about the Bulgarian culture, what should that be?
The Rose Festival! Every year, from the end of May till the end of June, the Rose Valley, less than two hours driving from Plovdiv, blooms and smells sweet. Thousands of people from all over the world come to join the festivities, to watch the parades or to wake up early to join the rose-picking process. The high-quality rose oil produced from the Bulgarian rose Rosa Damascena is used in some of the most exquisite French perfumes.
10. Do you have any interesting traditions that you’d like to share with others?
Plovdiv has been chosen to be the European Capital of Culture in 2019 together with the Italian rock-hewn town of Matera. This means that the cultural program of the city will be dense with festivals, concerts, art events and what-not during the whole of 2019. It’s not something you should miss!
Thanks Maria – we’ve loved getting to know you and Plovdiv better!
If you want to hear more from Maria, make sure you check out her travel blog, 203 Travel Challenges…
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