Home to our Soviet Europe office, Bulgaria is a country we know and love. Having traveled extensively around the country, we feel it is extremely underrated in terms of the huge amount of history, Communist-era relics and incredible food that is on offer in Bulgaria. In this blog, we’re going to look into 5 of the most epic attractions in one of our favorite cities, Plovdiv!
Located just over an hour’s drive from the capital of Sofia, Plovdiv is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe and one of the oldest cities on earth! With a hearty mix of Roman, Medieval and Communist sights, it is well worth the trip out of Sofia.
5. Asan’s Mountaintop Fortress
This incredible fortification is perched on a mountaintop surrounded by lush pine trees. Originally built by the Thracians, this strategic point was occupied by the Romans and fought over in violent battles during the Third Crusade.
The fortress you see today mostly does back to 1200s when Bulgarian tsar Ivan Asen II renovated and boosted the defenses to protect against Latin raids
The best preserved and most notable feature of Asen’s Fortress is the Church of the Holy Mother of God from the 12th-13th century.
4. The Plovdiv Aviation Museum
Conveniently located on the road to Asan’s fortress, the Plovdiv aircraft museum features many Cold War artifacts and rare aircraft. The museum has an indoor and outdoor exposition. Amongst its most prized displays is a hydroplane called Arado – 196 А-3 “Shark” – this was a seaplane designed by the Nazis and is the only one left in the world!
The museum also celebrates Communist Bulgaria’s achievements in the space race. Featured is the original spacecraft and space suit of the 1st Bulgarian astronaut Georgi Ivanov (a member of the international team of the spaceship called Soyuz 33, sent in orbit on 10 April 1979).
In the exposition dedicated to Space are presented the Bulgarian developments of space equipment and space foods. The visitors can see how the dishes Monastery Beans, Cucumber Soup and Milk with Granola look in space.
The museum also has a wide range of guns, bombs, projectiles, and rockets available to see as well as the chance to climb inside the cockpit of a Soviet Mig 15!
3. The Hillock of Fraternity
This 1970s brutalist monument symbolizes a Thracian hillock and is dedicated to a range of historical events in Bulgaria: the Liberation of the country from Ottoman oppression, the Unification of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian partisan movement and “the victory of socialism” in 1944. The bones of partisans from the Plovdiv region were placed inside the memorial complex when it was completed.
Although there were plans to connect the monument to the Soviet army memorial dominating the hills above Plovdiv, this never happened and unfortunately the monument today lies abandoned but is worth seeing as a remnant of the country’s Communist past.
2. The Roman Theatre of Plovdiv
Few people realize that the city of Plovdiv boasts one of the most intact and awe-inspiring relics of the Roman Empire on Earth. The Roman Theatre located downtown is enough to rival sights in Rome.
Still in use today, it can host between 5,000 – 7,000 spectators and is one of the world’s best-preserved ancient theatres. Constructed in the 1st century AD, the theatre was mostly used to host epic gladiatorial fights with wild animals. In the 5th century AD, the theatre was damaged during a bloodthirsty attack upon the city by Attila the Hun.
1. Alyosha monument
Although its history dates back thousands of years, naturally, YPT’s favorite attraction in the city dates back to the days of Communist Bulgaria! Dominating the skyline of the city of Plovdiv is the machine-gun-clutching Red Army soldier, Alyosha. An affectionate form of the name Aleksey, Alyosha was based on Alyosha Skurlatov, a soldier of the 3rd Ukrainian Front who served as the model for the monument. Standing at 17 meters (56 feet), this 1950s-era reinforced concrete and granite work of art is dedicated to the Soviets killed during the campaign to retake Bulgaria from fascist forces.
Local authorities in the city have fought to destroy the statue twice, in 1989 and 1996. These attempts led to a campaign dedicated to preserving the monument and it now has a 24-hour security guard to stop its destruction.