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Bulgaria Is the Answer for a Unique Destination

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Nearby Boyana is the National History Museum. Highlights here include Thracian gold objects, Roman statuary and, outside, several Russian MIG fighter planes.

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Ninety-three miles southeast of Sofia lies Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city and home to some 350,000 residents. One of Europe's oldest urban centers, dating back as far as eight millennia, Plovdiv's most prominent draws are its extraordinary Roman artifacts.

Built upon seven hills, Plovdiv's must-sees include the Roman-era Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis, which once seated 6,000. Today, with a smaller capacity, it still hosts operas and concerts.

The Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis is in the heart of what is now the city's prime mall area. Though much is still covered, visitors are free to stroll down steps to get a glimpse of a place where, long ago, activities most likely did not include shopping.

Most recently found is the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis. Here, two layers of amazingly well-preserved Roman mosaics cover approximately 2,000 square feet of the site. You will be dazzled by depictions of flora and fauna, Christian iconography, intricate geometric patterns and the basilica's signature peacock. The basilica has been included by UNESCO on its list of significant and cultural sites.

There is much more to enjoy in Plovdiv than just ancient treasures. The extensive Kampana district that begins near the Roman Stadium, for example, features bustling shopping, dining and nightlife options.

Climbing uphill at the edge of Kampana brings you to the site of a handful of extraordinary homes, many built by wealthy merchants that date to the 19th century. Several have been lovingly preserved and restored.

One of the most notable is Hindliyan House, built between 1835 and 1840. Home of a prosperous Armenian merchant, it features multiple murals showing European cities he visited, a marble-floored hammam and distinctive pale blue outer walls.

 

Equally appealing is Balabanov House, a 19th century dwelling that was restored in the 1970s. On view are rooms with superbly carved ceilings that are filled with antiques.

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WHEN YOU GO

The Hyatt Regency is an ideal base for exploring Sofia, and its rates are much less than in other European cities: www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/bulgaria/hyatt-regency-sofia

Raketa Bar in Sofia is a boisterous place full of locals celebrating fine grills, beer and salads in a setting festooned with post-Soviet memorabilia and kitsch: www.raketarakiabar.bg.

Restaurant Vodenitzata in Dragalevtsi is an outdoor mountainside spot a half-hour's ride from Sofia. Your concierge can book necessary transportation to this raucous, exciting dining and social experience: www.vodenitzata.com.

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Robert Selwitz is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

 

 

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