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Maria and Gerry’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 25 Jun 2006

Location: Bulgaria

MapIt was a two hour drive to the city of Plovdiv known as Trimonte in Roman times.We had a pitstop at the Trimonte Princess Hotel owned by the same crowd as our Sofia Hotel.Our Greek tour guide called a pitstop "a potty, stop" I think you can work that one out.
At the end of the pedestrian mall were the remains of a Roman theatre partly hidden under the road.From there we walked up the hill into the old city to see some really incredable architecture both Bulgarian and Turkish and an amalgam of the two,mosques,synagogues,churches and merchant houses.
One building had started life as a church then got converted to mosque with addition of minaret then became a church again and the minaret disappeared.There are still Turks living in Bulgaria who never went home when the country finally got its independence.In one narrow street the eaves of houses overlapped.At the very top of the hill were the remains of various fortifications and a marvellous view over the newer city.After lunch we drove to Veliko Turnova by way of the Valley of Roses as Bulgaria is Europes biggest producer of rose oil.The petals are picked very early in the morning while the dew is still on them.Now we crossed a chain of mountains ,twisting roads through a forested landscape.The pass is at 1300 meters and we stopped there for cofee which was a waste of time as it was instant but we got some very good souvenirs.By the way in Plovdiv we came upon a series of second hand bookstalls and got a book on Plovdiv in English.There were a couple of monuments at the pass commemorating ancient battles between the Russians and the Bulgarians and Turks against the rest of free Europe.It is hard to imagine the number of armies who have trekked across the Balkans in the last 2000 years.Mountain passes were zealously guarded..
We noticed in the former communist countries the number of delerict factories now no longer able to compete with the west.
Also delerict farm buildings with old clapped out tractors and other farm equipment.In the cities we see faceless high rise blocks of apartment all identical no matter which country,freezing in the witer and boiling in the summer.On the outskirts of cities foreign companies are putting up new factories taking advantage of the low pay rates and the high skill levels.We noted firms such as Komatsu,Caterpillar.Liebher,Daiwa and others.Our hotel in Veliko Turnova has a panoramic lift overlooking the medieval fortress of Szarewetz.There was to be a light show but it came on late and we had gone to bed.We did browse the hotel giftshop and got some usefull stuff.The dining room had a spectacular view over the fortress.