Пловдив (Plovdiv). This name probably derives from the Thracian name
Pulpudeva, which again is the Thracian translation of the old Macedonian name Philippopolis.
Before that, the place was known as Eumolpia. And that's not it: Slavic tribes transformed the old
name Pulpudeva into Pyldin. However, the Ottomans preferred the Macedonien name and
renamed it Philibe. The Romans wanted to have a word as well and called the place Trimontium -
which means "three mountains". The recent name first came up in 1878 after the Russian victory over the Ottomans - they
finally invented the name Plovdiv.
The town straddles the river Maritsa in the middle of the Upper Thracian Plain.
Which is around 125 km south-east of the capital Sofia. Right in the middle of town, six characteristic syenite hills (syenite is slightly similar
to granite) dominate the townscape. The Upper Thracian Plain is a very large valley between the Valley of Roses and the
Stara Planina mountain range in the north and the Rodopi range in the south.
Population: about 350,000. Therefore, Plovdiv is Bulgaria's second largest city, but Sofia, the capital,
is several times bigger.
Plovdiv is quite easy to orientate, which is thanks to the river
Марица (Maritza) in the north and
several тепета (tepeta, hills) in the centre of town.
The whole city is packed with historic buildings or
at least their remainings. The main train station is in the south-west of town. From there, it's only
a few hundred metres direction north-east to
пл. Централен (pl. Tsentralen, Central square).
When walking from there along vibrant
ул. Княз Александър
(ul. Knjas Alexandar (Prince Alexander st) to the north, you will get straight to the
river Maritza. To be exactly, to a small bridge, where several booths line up. Actually there's not much to see on the other, northern
side of the river. Most ancient ruins concentrate north-east of the modern city centre. Two of the six hills arise amid the old town -
one is called Hill of the Liberators, the other one Hill of Youth.
The centre itself is relatively new, but it managed to keep a certain charme.
First tribes settled in the area of present-day Plovdiv along time ago. The oldest excavations date back as far as 8000 years
ago. Around the 5th century BC, a first Thracian settlement called Eumolpia was founded.
But already during the 4th century BC, Philipp II, not less than the father of the famous Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia,
destroyed Eumolpia just to found a new town, practically called Phillippopolis. This time, the town lasted
a little bit longer, until the year 46 AD, when it was conquered by the Roman Empire. The town was renamed
Trimontium and declared capital of Thracia. Trimontium flourished and had everything
a typical Roman city was supposed to have: a stadium, monumental buildings, fortification systems and so on. However,
together with the decline of the Roman Empire, Trimontium was about to face hard times. First, Slavic tribes overrun the town.
Later on Proto-Bulgarians. Then the Ottomans. At least four times, cruisaders looted the town. It was not before the 13th century,
that the town, now called Philibe, gained importance again as a major trading point.
Philibe flourished again during the national revival from 1840 to 1870. Virtually all merchants travelling between the Orient and Occident,
between North and South, between India and Europe etc made a stopover in Philibe and let the town experience a new heyday.
The Bulgarian middle classes were growing stronger and tried to express themselves using a certain architectonical style.
After the liberation from the Ottoman occupation by the Russians in 1878, the town was renamed a last time - 'Plovdiv', as it was
called now, became the capital of East Rumelia. However, East Rumelia was not an independent state
but just a semi-autonomous province inside the Ottoman empire. After the unification with the principality of Bulgaria in 1885,
the capital was shifted to →Sofia. Which was bad luck for Plovdiv - eversince, it plays
second fiddle in Bulgaria. In 1892, a first trade fair was held in Plovdiv. Which was a wise decision. The trade
fair was a great success, and so Plovdiv became Bulgaria's main trade fair place.
Plovdiv has large industrial complexes, but the town doesn't forget about the importance of tourism -
every year, hundred thousands of visitors find their way to Plovdiv.
Plovdiv is also an important railway junction. Direct trains to the capital →Sofia
are frequent and need two hours only. To →Burgas at the Black Sea Coast it's
more than 4 hours. Trains running between →Belgrade and
→Istanbul stop here as well. Additionally, local trains run to
→Karlovo in the Valley of Roses, north of Plovdiv.
Buses from Plovdiv serve every major town in Bulgaria. They are often more convenient and faster than trains,
which can be said about buses to international destinations as well. The bus terminal
is just a few metres east of the main train station.