J and I don’t like to be like most people, so in the run-up to our wedding we had TWO pre-honey moons! They were nothing lavish, just two very inexpensive weekend getaways prompted by cheap flights we found through Skyscanner. One of them was to Plovdiv, Bulgaria – Europe’s oldest inhabited city. However, to be honest, we only really did about 4 hours of any real sightseeing. That is because we were so exhausted from regular life, that for 2 of the 3 days in Plovdiv we slept in, woke up to have a walk, dinner, and drinks somewhere, and then retreated back to our cosy Air BnB flat.
We felt a little guilty, so on the third and final day we managed to walk around all the major tourist attractions to redeem ourselves. But really – jam-packed itineraries and early wake ups can be so overrated (especially when you’re three weeks away from getting married)!
Here are a few highlights of our lazy trip:
The surprised passport control agent: When I presented myself for passport control upon arriving at the Plovdiv airport, the woman seemed genuinely surprised to see a foreigner (with a US passport). She clarified several times whether I’m just passing through to Sofia, or if I’m actually staying in Plovdiv. I guess Plovdiv is still a bit off the beaten tourist path!
Bathroom and shower in one: Our Airbnb flat featured a very unique bathroom/shower combo. The showerhead was quite literally right ABOVE the toilet, and not separated into its own little nook in any way. When you let the water flow the entire bathroom gets soaked, including the toilet. Remembering to remove the toilet paper in advance is recommended. If you can get used to mopping up after your showers and moving the toilet paper back and forth (or designing some waterproof storage), this is a pretty clever multi-use space idea for the future of modern urban living!
The inexpensive and delicious food: Our flat windows overlooked a VERY cozy and delicious restaurant called Pavaj. This restaurant was, in fact, THE highlight of our trip. We ate there at least 3 times, and I even braved up and tried horse sausage. Although it was chilly out (October) they had outside seating equipped with heat lamps and blankets, which was absolutely perfect.
We also checked out a couple of other dinner spots in our time in Plovdiv (including Hemingway), and they did not disappoint. The prices, especially when compared to typical London restaurants, were almost astonishing to us (in a good way), and contributed to considerable overeating.
The existence of Central Perk: Yes. Plovdiv has its own Central Perk! It looks exactly like the Central Perk on the show Friends. Obviously we sat down and had a coffee. Their wifi password was ‘smellycat’.
The presence of hygge: Of course Bulgaria is far culturally and geographically from Denmark, but I couldn’t help feeling glimpses of ‘coziness’ all around. I think this was mainly due to the presence of many small little restaurants in the centre with outside seating, blankets, and heat lamps. Glancing in you could see happy people sitting around, relaxing, sipping on wine. The atmosphere, despite cold and dark evenings, was cozy, warm and very friendly.
The smoky piano bar: We had so much fun singing along at the Quattro Piano Bar until very early morning hours! The place was packed and we were lucky to get in without reservations (one of us had a chair and the other had to stand; but we like each other, so we swapped every once in a while). Most songs were in English, which made it fun for us, but every few minutes we got to watch a full room of lively Bulgarians singing their own country’s songs. The smoking ban didn’t seem to apply in this establishment, though, so after a few hours everyone filled the basement room with cigarette smoke and it started bothering us, so we unfortunately had to leave a bit prematurely.
Spending £10 on a 10 minute video: I think our guilt from not being good sightseers caused us to be overly zealous with some of the tourist activities in the last four hours of our last day. We decided to see a screening of a film about Plovdiv. We waited 30 minutes for the next screening, and paid something like £10 each. We ended up being the entire audience and the video lasted all of 10 minutes, which felt silly. It was an overview of the Roman stadium that exists under Plovdiv that has been excavated and restored. It’s actually a pretty informative and well-done tourist film. But a bit short and expensive?
Overall, Plovdiv was a very friendly place with lots of opportunities for historic walks and great eating! Not sure we will return, but certainly glad we spent a weekend checking it out.