Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Metal Nurse Sojourn: Part 2, Hearts and all

Alyosha Monument
You can read the first part here.

So now that the main reason for my journey has been and gone. Time to explore this beautiful country. It's still very warm, at least for my cold cold Icelandic blood. I started the next day with some light breakfast and a lot of coffee, and one plan only. To see the mahoosive statue that is overlooking Plovdiv, The Alyosha monument.  For no particular reason except it looks huge, and interesting and the walk looks like it will be worth it. The Alyosha monument is there to honour a single giant Soviet soldier who single-handedly saved Bulgaria from the Ottomanazi's. Until the day he was cursed by a Ottomanwitch that he would turn to stone on top of his minions as soon as he struck a menacing pose when looking towards Moscow for inspiration. So I just walked around,  the statue was fascinating, massive and quite stunning to look at. The park it was situated in the middle of was quite the trek and jungle to get through, with its many dead ends, overgrown paths and defunct fountains. But it also had a summer theatre in the style of the Roman Amphitheatre.
River Maritsa

In my wisdom I decided to walk from the statue to the Leisure and Culture Park, hoping obviously for plenty of culture and leisure. Found scant evidence of either, except for a graffitied monument and lots and lots of greenery. But it was a really nice day, so I just kept on walking. And walking. Then walked some more. Then I doubled back and started walking towards the river Maritsa. But not before I came across a canal, that was right next to the river. Which only measure something like 1.5km long and 0.5 km wide, and covered with presumably husbands trying to stay away from their houses, fishing. Finally did get to the river itself, which had its own charm and make my way back into Plovdiv, during this time I witnessed a working Lada. Oh, how I want one. Can't even explain why. They aren't good looking, they don't drive very well, they're uncomfortable to ride it. Takes ages to start when it gets a bit cold, which is amusing in its own right considering where they are manufactured. But they're functional, easy in terms of upkeep and takes a nuclear bomb to destroy them.
The Indestructible Lada

Across the river
 It cannot be overstated. But Plovdiv is a beautiful city. It feels open and homely. It just generally feels nice and on the whole a lovely place to live in. It feels historical. The buildings are gorgeous to look at, even the dilapidated ones... Actually, especially the dilapidated ones. The mixture of all the empires and civilisations that took hold of the city can be felt. Even if each successive ones tried to scrub the previous ones out of history. The predominant colour scheme tends to veer towards the matty, light coloured clay style. Most of the roads are cobbled. In Plovdiv, they also go for what is my favourite type of roofing with the reddish clay plated ones.

Just because, I decided to join one of those free guided tours. I'd walked mostly everywhere anyway,
Greek tragedy in Roman theatre.
but since I  couldn't understand the language or the alphabet, I thought it would be prudent to actually find out about the city from someone local. The guides name was Ilya, a budding law student. Who was also very enthusiastic about his city, and his enthusiasm was very infectious. For me it didn't really need to be. But here was a man who really loved his home city. During this time we find out that the aqueduct that the Romans built was demolished to build a church, and everything Roman was either destroyed or covered up with lots and lots of soil. And when the Ottomans came, they didn't destroy anything they just made the church into a mosque. Because it was cheaper to do that than build a bigger mosque. The city was first founded 7000 BC making it the longest-lived in settlement in Europe. In the meantime, it's been ruled by Thracians, Macedonians, the Greeks, The Romans, Bulgarians, Slavs and Ottomans. In fact, Plovdiv is a Bulgarian version of the name Philippopolis, named after Philip II of Macedon. If you go into H&M you can go into the basement where you can see the original seating of the gigantic Roman Colosseum.

Chicken Hearts done Village Style
After the tour me and two other travellers, an Israeli ex-soldier and Dutch marine biology (forever) student go to a local restaurant called Rahat Tepe, located at the foot of Nebet Tepe ruins. All I knew was that I wanted to try something Bulgarian, something local. So... I and the Dutch former Master student ordered Chicken Hearts done "Village Style" and patatnik, and Israeli former soldier ordered Chicken Livers done "Village Style" and some sort of creamy salad with one single olive on top. The Chicken Hearts looked like an extremely simple meal. Loads of chicken hearts (at least 25 of them), slow cooked with some stock and lots of onions. It was delicious. The Patatnik was an interesting potato dish, never had anything like it. Never had a light potato dish for that matter. But that is what it was. Extremely light potato dish. Sort of felt and tasted like a cross between mash, souffle and omelette. Definitely a hint of mint and what also tasted like nutmeg, all baked in a clay dish. We all returned back to the hostel full and happy. Had a couple of beers with a Swede who lives in Norway, who kept on reminding me how old I am compared to him. Two exceptionally nice beers, 2 levs each.

The next day, I packed up. Wrote a little bit more and got ready to head off to Sofia. And hope that I will be back in Plovdiv with my beloved.

Statue in the Aloyshoa Park
The Monument in Leisure and Culture Park
Graffitti, Abandoned building.
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