2 days in Plovdiv. Can I be more than a tourist?
March 26, 2010 7:37 AM   Subscribe

2 days in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. But I don't want to be a tourist.

I'm off on my next adventure, this time to Plovdiv, Bulgaria. You guys have been great in the past with suggesting productive, educational things to do (whether by answering my questions, or me just stalking others' posts). I don't like doing the tourist thing, and so on past trips I've been able to volunteer in orphanages, do non-violence training, feed the homeless, build houses, etc...

I want to do something equally awesome in Plovdiv. I don't speak Bulgarian (learning a few phrases though) or Russian, which is a problem, I know. English, French, and Turkish are all I speak.

I'll be arriving by bus from İstanbul next Saturday morning at dawn, and leaving Sunday night. I completely understand that in such a short time, I can't really contribute much. Long-term, Bulgarian speaking volunteers can do much, much more. What I'm looking for is an opportunity that will open my eyes, educate me, challenge me, and maybe give me something to talk about with the folks back home. If I'm able to actually do anything useful, even better. Money isn't really an issue, so if your suggestion is to donate money to a specific local charity, I'm all for it. I just want to DO something as well. And I haven't arranged for a place to stay Saturday night yet, either.

Any ideas? This is for next (Easter) weekend, so I know it's short notice. благодаря ви!!
posted by hasna to Travel & Transportation around Plovdiv, Bulgaria (3 answers total)
Foreigner living currently in Sofia (2 hours from Plovdiv) here, so I won't be able to tell you more than what you already know.

I know you'll find this strange, but having living in Bulgaria for the past year I understood that smiling, being nice and just trying to do small things is already something as a start. English will be understood by anyone less than 30 yo.

I can give you a suggestion for your next journey, though: Karin Dom Foundation, in Varna. (www.karindom.org)

PM me if you want further details. :)

Good luck,
and довиждане.
posted by LittlePrince at 8:02 AM on March 26, 2010

From my friend who lives in Sofia:

Plovdiv is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria. There is so much to see in the old quarter that your jaw will drop, and you are also going at the most perfect time of year weather-wise. Since you seem to have a social conscience, though, and it Easter, I'll suggest this: visit both the old churches AND the mosque. Especially outside the mosque, give money to the poor. The Turkish Muslim minority in Bulgaria (liberals, all of them, no radical Islamists) get a very hard time these days for no reason at all except fascist party inspired hatred based on the Ottoman rule that ended more than a century ago. Bulgarians have something of an identity problem and there is political baloney going on that has nothing to do with the actual minorities here, Roma or Turkish.
And try the Armenian restaurant ;)
Don't bother with the antique stores as they are a complete rip.
Expect Plovdiv to be jammed with tourists, though most will be Bulgarian. Easter weekend is traditionally the start of the 'season' and it will be..seriously busy. To make matters worse, the Bulgarian government very recently declared Good Friday a national holiday as well, so the tourist hordes may be on the frightening side. I hope to gawsh you have your hotel booked!
My (Bulgarian) husband and I were in Plovdiv last Easter. On the Sunday, we naturally went searching for a nice lamb dinner and I recall the Armenian restaurant is closed on Sundays anyway. The Bulgarian family restaurants has also barricaded their doors because the owners had so many of their own relatives in town, and we got stuck in a pizza place where the head waitress was wearing a bunny costume. Ask your hotel where you might get a booking for a traditional lamb feast-- don't leave it to chance. We wish we had known this.
posted by dorgla at 3:35 PM on March 26, 2010

With only two days and a lot of people traveling and on vacation, it will be hard, if not impossible, to be more than a tourist. That being said, you can still enjoy yourself. I live about a 3 hours' bus ride away from Plovdiv and it is one of my favorite Bulgarian cities.

I asked some friends who live in Plovdiv. They weren't sure of any organizations that you could volunteer with in that short amount of time and didn't seem optimistic on that front. This is what they came up with:

If she is coming, the only thing we can think of is to have her find her way to Chetvertic Bazaar (just north of the city center). There are always lots of poor people trying to sell things on the corners outside the entrance (near the unification square). They don’t generally have much to sell, but buy out a couple of them! It will make their day, maybe even their week!. What you do with the nuts, knit wear, or what ever after you buy it, I don’t know. She will probably want to do this on Saturday, not Easter Sunday. We are not sure what will be happening there on Sunday.

I wish I could be more positive, but that is the situation as we see it. Plovdiv is a beautiful place. If you are going to be here less than 48 hours on a holiday weekend, just be a tourist, and enjoy it.

As for places to stay, I would recommend either the Plovdiv Guesthouse or the Hikers Hostel. Both are located in Plovdiv's beautiful Old Town and aren't terribly expensive. Or, if you're into it, there are a number of CourchSurfers in Plovdiv. They could help you navigate the city and the language.

I would suggest you roam around Old Town, dip into the old churches, check out the Roman Amphitheatre, and stroll along the main walking boulevard. Also, try a duner. I actually prefer Bulgarian duners to the Turkish ones I've had in Istanbul.

Have a good time! My e-mail is in my profile if you have any more questions.
posted by Dalton at 5:51 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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