We had a leisurely start to the day in Plovdiv this morning, before setting out to explore the town. Plovdiv is Bulgaria's second city and is European Capital of Culture for 2019. The city is situated on the Maritsa river and the apartment we are staying in is just to the north of the river, whereas the main town centre is on the south, so our first task was to locate a bridge.
The guidebook says that Plovdiv is built on six hills and it felt like we had to walk up several of them to get to the old town once we'd crossed the river.
It was worth it, though; the old town is home to some really unusual buildings, built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in a style known as "national revival" architecture. Bulgaria was still ruled by the Ottomans at this time, but there was a growing national consciousness and a middle class who could afford to build some impressive houses.
This bright blue one, known as the Hindliyan House, was built in 1835 by a merchant who had made his money trading in India.
Lots of the houses were really colourful, with beautiful decorations on the front.
Some of them are now museums, but many others are still lived in by people today.
As we were walking around, I was a bit confused that several buildings seemed to be displaying what, on first glance, looked like an Argentinian flag. It turns out this is actually the flag of Plovdiv
As we got towards the centre of the old town, we caught sight of one of Plovdiv's main churches, the church of St Constantine and Elena, with its pretty bell tower.
Around the corner from here was the Hisar Kapia, a medieval gate into the old town, built in the 11th century.
From here we followed a cobbled street uphill. It was so narrow that the houses almost touched in the middle.
This took us to a place called Nebet Tepe, which is one of the hills where ancient Plovdiv was founded. We could see out across the modern part of town where we are staying...
...but the views out towards the old town and the mountains beyond were more scenic
We could just make out the minaret of one of Plovdiv's Ottoman mosques.
Plovdiv isn't just famous for it's more modern architecture; there are also Roman remains here.
The city is home to one of the world's best preserved Roman theatres and that's where we were heading next.
It cost 5 lev (£2.33) each to buy a ticket to enter the theatre, which seemed like good value. When we walked through the entrance, this was the view that greeted us.
The theatre is enormous and can apparently seat over 5,000 people.
It was built in the 1st century AD and lay buried for hundreds of years before finally being rediscovered following a landslide in the 1970s.
Today it is used for concerts and plays, so there was a bit of sound and lighting equipment lying around.
Tim climbed all the way down to the bottom but I stayed at the top, enjoying the views It really was an incredible location and definitely worth seeing.
After the theatre, we made our way back down through the old town, towards the more modern city centre.
On the way we passed the Church of the Assumption, which in the mid-nineteenth century was at the centre of the struggle for an independent Bulgarian Orthodox church, when the bishop of Plovdiv began to hold church services in Bulgarian.
The inscription on the tower reads "In memory of the liberators" in gratitude to the Russian soldiers who liberated Plovdiv from the Ottomans in 1878.
Following the treaty of San Stefano later in 1878, Plovdiv became the capital of a newly independent Bulgaria. But the treaty didn't last long and after the Congress of Berlin, the region of Eastern Rumelia was separated from the rest of Bulgaria. Plovdiv became the capital of Eastern Rumelia instead until the region was reunified with Bulgaria in 1885. By that time, however, Sofia was firmly established as the Bulgarian capital and Plovdiv has been the second city ever since.
Once we were down in the town centre, we found the mosque which we had seen while up on the hill.
This is the Dzhumaya Mosque, which was built in the 14th century and is believed to be one of the oldest European mosques.
It's located just in front of the remains of Plovdiv's Roman stadium, built in the second century AD.
It was free to climb down into the stadium and have a look around
From here we walked along Plovdiv's main shopping street.
Even though this was the more modern part of town, there were still some really pretty buildings, decorated in pastel colours.
We found a nice restaurant to get some food; pizza for me and chicken with broccoli(!) for Tim. We finished up with tiramisu for me and cheesecake for Tim. Again it was really cheap - less than £20.
After lunch we had another stroll around.
We found the Roman Odeon, where it looked like renovation and excavation work was still ongoing.
We also walked to Plovdiv's main park, the park of Tsar Simeon.
Hopefully this is the closest we'll get to a bear during our trip
The park is home to something called "The Lake of the Singing Fountains". It looked like a swimming pool with fountains in it But apparently there is a light display with classical music at weekends.
By this stage we were pretty hot, so we decided to start making our way back through the town towards our apartment to cool off and blog.
Plovdiv is a really beautiful city and we've had a lovely day here