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The snow that I’d unintentionally but happily avoided up until now found me. Keep in mind it’s late Feb when this is being authored. By the time you read this it will be warm in Plovdiv and I’ll probably be somewhere even warmer.

But today, which was 10 weeks ago, I’m getting buried.

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A dusting

05.09.18

As you can see in the second photo, we started to get a dusting of snow here in Plovdiv. This might be the first accumulation I’ve seen anywhere that we’ve stayed on this trip.

Around Plovdiv

05.04.18

Assorted shots. Aside from all the cats in my neighborhood, just about every building has elaborate trellising for growing grapes. Nearly every driveway is covered, every back yard… often there will be a garage with a patio on top and a trellis over that. I took this picture because most of them don’t have growth yet (its Feb), but for some reason this house alone has a bunch of grapes.

Around Plovdiv

05.02.18

You’ll notice in the first picture that there’s insulation being installed on the exterior of the building, up on the thirs floor balcony. That’s a common upgrade that I’ve been seeing throughout this trip. They put up the insulation, then apply plaster over it with a layer of mesh in between to give the plaster something to grip. You’ll often notice buildings like these with uneven depth to the exterior walls; the wall steps out a couple of inches where one unit ends and back in where the next one begins. That’s because one of the residents has installed insulation and the other has not.

The other photos are just random shots around the neighborhood.

Accommodations

04.27.18

Our living/bed rooms and our two back yards here in Plovdiv

Wine and wine related stuff

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The short of it: Like Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Plovdiv shows excellent potential for warmer months, preferably filled with leisurely sips of quality local wines and rich regional meals taken on outdoor patios with bargain pricing at every level.

Pros: Low cost of living, possibly a town on the make as outside attention increases due to appointment as 2019’s European Capital of Culture among other factors, local wines are delicious, public smoking is segmented away from others, high availability of goods (EU member), drab building design is being modernized and refreshed at a steady rate.

Cons: While friendly, locals are insular and socialization may occur largely along family lines, towering residential monoliths built during the communist era assert an oppressive effect on the landscape that could be mitigated almost entirely with a fresh coat of paint, have not found quality medical care with English speaking staff locally (though Sofia is ~2 hours by train or bus).

Distortions: Renting via Airbnb saved us from having to arrange for utilities and complete other potentially bureaucracy heavy tasks. I stayed in Plovdiv for 6 weeks starting in late January of 2018 and my visit was during a particularly mild but gray winter, The Girlfriend departed after about 2 weeks and the costs at the end are an extrapolation of our ~2 weeks of combined spending.

Overall: Plovdiv is Bulargia’s second city and though I feel like I’m leaving this town largely unexplored, I saw enough to develop an attachment. We’re well out of the center here and I might have enjoyed something more central even more, but our neighborhood kept our needs met. My feeling is that this town comes alive in the Summer months, as there’s a noticeable uptick in moods and socialization on any sunny and even vaguely warm day. The city is covered in benches and in good weather they all seem to get covered in people. The locals pride themselves as easy going people(a local joke hinges on Spanish siesta culture seeming too demanding to a Bulgarian) of wine and leisure amid a highly hybridized culture with influences reaching even further back than the local preserved Roman aqueducts and threading through the years of Soviet rule.

Food and entertainment: Shamefully underexplored. We dropped in to Cat And Mouse Craft Beer Bar a couple of times and it did not disappoint. They serve domestic and import craft in a cosy two room storefront with additional outdoor seating in front. It’s located in a quasi-bohemian area of The Old Town named Kapana (‘Trap’) for it’s akimbo streets that defy orderly navigation. On the way we stopped for soup at the tiny cafeteria style Soup Pause. The food was delicious and only ran us US$5.57 for two bowls of soup and two plates of rice and vegetables. We also had a nice meal at Hemingway Restaurant. The local food represents a mix of Balkan, Turkish and Greek dishes. It’s meat heavy and leans toward the savory. And¬†there is, of course, wine. I mostly tried the local dry reds; Mavrud, Carbernet Suavignon and Merlot. I’m told they do a good Malbec, but I haven’t crossed paths with it.

Our place: I’m in love with our rental. So much so that she and I considered getting a place together, but ultimately she decided she’s not into open relationships. Seriously, the square footage and layout were pretty ideal. I’d prefer it weren’t on the ground floor and there were the seemingly ubiquitous issues with sewer gas and humidity/mildew, but we found ways to deal with each (at least temporarily). The location is not exciting but it’s exceedingly practical and it’s a 10 minute (and US$0.64) bus ride to The Old Town.

Infrastructure: I noticed a water outage once, but it only lasted for an hour or two. Internet cruised nicely with 30Mbps up and 21 down. Sidewalks are severely uneven in the neighborhood, though the streets are hand swept regularly.

Numbers: The Girlfriend flew back to The States after about 2 weeks in Plovdiv and I stayed on for about 6. Our numbers are an extrapolation of our ~2 weeks of shared costs used to estimate a month’s worth. All in that comes out to US$1,271.97, including US$443.43 in rent. This approach warps things somewhat; we show ~US$85 for tours and US$213 for meals out, which are definitely outsized projections. While I’m often surprised at how high our total was when we left the grocery store, everything else in Plovdiv felt like an extraordinary value.

Speaking of value, the raw values are right there in the ‘Numbers’ link, so play with them however you like to better reflect your hypothetical circumstances.