In early June I arrived to the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Plovdiv is one of the oldest and most continuously populated cities in Europe. It was conquered by Philip II of Macedon in 342 BC, giving the city the name Philoppopolis. Visiting the city and seeing the people and architecture around me thrust into my imagination ancient imperial machines, tribal wars, the pysche of Orthodox Christianity, Turkish occupation, and the austere soullessness of communism.
After I got settled in my room, I went outside to get something to eat. I had not eaten in several hours. I had been warned that nothing would be open except convenience stores selling alcohol, soda, chips and candy. This turned out to be the case. Along my walk from the apartment building I examined life late at night in the first Eastern European country I’d been to. I definitely felt a small degree of culture shock. The people I saw around me were, frankly, uglier than in the West. The typical man is more muscular, and there are many young men who walk around with their arms extended to the side to exaggerate their strength. A teenage couple approached me, asking me something. When it became clear that I did not speak a word of Bulgarian, they walked away. I found nothing of substance to eat and went back to my room and watched House of Cards (perhaps more on that later).
The following photos are from one of the first evenings I was there.
Let us begin with some random cubist art on the side of a building:
The ancient theater is often used for events, and looks out at the city, neighboring towns, and the mountains beyond.
Someone I was with who had been abroad for a few years looked at the ugly Soviet-era buildings and remarked that as unattractive as they looked, they represented home.