Day Trip to Plovdiv – European Capital of Culture 2019
[Plovdiv, Bulgaria, May 12, 2019]
In 1985, the Greek minister of culture Melina Mercouri came up with the idea of designating an annual capital of culture to bring Europeans closer together and to highlight the richness and diversity of European cultures. Athens, Greece, served as the inaugural European Capital of Culture that year. More than 40 cities have held the designation since. Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, earned the designation for 2019 together with Matera, Italy. It’s the first Bulgarian city to be a European capital of culture.
European capitals of culture organize a series of events during the year, and preparing to hold the title can generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits. Plovdiv has definitely experienced this. In 2014, soon after its designation for the 2019 title, Plovdiv set out to revitalize the neglected area Kapana (“The Trap”) near the city center into a thriving creative arts district. The district is now full of art galleries and cafes, which spill out into the street.
My friend Maria lives in Plovdiv now and has been posting amazing pics from there on her Instagram. I met her through my friend Slaveya, who introduced us when Maria moved to LA in 2013. Ironically, the three of us have never been in the same city at the same time, so when Maria suggested that Slavy and I come down to Plovdiv for the day, we jumped at the chance! Slavy was kind enough to drive, and we spent the 90-minute trip down to Plovdiv while her kids kept themselves busy somehow in the back seat.
Maria lives walking distance to the city center and Kapana, so naturally we headed that way. On the way to Kapana, we passed by amazing graffiti art on the back of the Plovdiv Drama Theater building. I had seen works by Bozko and Nassimo on my Sofia Graffiti Tour last year but I didn’t know they made it all the way down to Plovdiv! It was great to stumble upon more of their masterpieces.
Plovdiv’s pedestrian promenade was lively and busy.
We also passed the Dzhumaya mosque, which is right next to an ancient stadium leftover from Roman times.
When we finally got to Kapana, we had a hard time deciding which cafe to pick. We accidentally ended up at Maria’s favorite, Monkey House.
For food, we had traditional Turkish flatbreads (called gozleme) stuffed with chicken and onions.
Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to spend in Plovdiv, which went by way too fast. As we walked back to the car, we passed the Plovdiv city hall, another gorgeous building on the promenade. There was a whole orchestra playing classical music – you can see the video on my Instagram highlights!
Lastly, we took some photos at this sign featuring the motto for the Plovdiv 2019 brand campaign. How appropriate for the coming together of three friends who’ve known each other for decades!