The city of Plovdiv (340 638 inhabitants, 160 m above sea level.) is situated in the western part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Lowland, along the two banks of Maritsa, the largest river, springing out in Bulgaria, and scattered upon six unique syenite hills (called "tepeta"- hillrocks). The town is located 150 km south-east of Sofia, 270 km west of Bourgas, 140 km north-west of Svilengrad, 58 km south of Karlovo, 19 km north-west of Assenovgrad, 102 km north of Smolyan, 37 km east of the town of Pazardzhik, 90 km south-west of Stara Zagora, 75 km north-west of Haskovo. It ranks as the second Bulgarian city in population, size and significance, after the capital Sofia. The city is an important cultural, historic and tourist centre. It is a regional administrative centre, as well.
Presently Plovdiv is a very beautiful city, coming from the past and striving forward to its future. The hills of Plovdiv are noticeable from quite a distance. This is an area of a vast flat plain and all of a sudden hills pop up! Besides the three hills already mentioned (Dzhambaz Tepe, Taxim Tepe and Nebet Tepe), around which the ancient town has been founded and which host the most interesting and precious remains of our past, stone breasts are rising Sahat Tepe, also known as the Danov's Hill (within the centre of the town, with the clock tower dating back to 16th century), Bunardzhika Tepe (west of the city centre, with the stature of a Russian soldier), and Dzhendem Tepe (The hill of Youht, further to the west). The six hills, as well as the old town of Plovdiv bring specific colour and atmosphere to the town and shape up its unique view and nature.
Maritsa River, splitting the city into two uneven parts connected by six bridges, occupies its relevant place and has its significance for the city of Plovdiv. On the area of the smaller, northern part of the city, along the riverbank, the so-called Fair City is located (37, Tsar Boris III Blvd, tel.: 032 553120). The first Bulgarian exhibition was organised back in 1892, which later on turned into International Plovdiv Fair. Currently the fair is conducted twice annually - in the beginning of May the fair is dedicated to consumer goods and commodities, while the fair organised in September focuses on industrial goods. Plovdiv is famous as being a centre of rich agricultural area and its numerous marketplaces are exuberant with great variety of cheap fruit and vegetables.
The city plays the role of a big cultural centre. In addition to the regular opera, theatre, Muppet-show and other performances, Plovdiv hosts traditional festivals, art exhibitions, biennials, some of them internationally recognised: June - International Chamber Music Festival, end of May, beginning of June - Opera days at the Amphitheatre, end of June - Verdi Opera days at the Amphitheatre, beginning of August - International Folklore Festival, September - International Muppet-Show Festival, September - "The old town of Plovdiv" National Autumn Art Exhibition. Plovdiv is also a university centre with one university and a couple of higher educational establishments.
The powerful shapes of the Rhodopes rise 10-12 км south of Plovdiv. Its vicinity and accessibility turn the mountain into a favourite site for recreation and tourism for all the citizens of Plovdiv. The existence of two resorts (Students and Byala Cherkva (White Church)), numerous chalets (Zdravets, Ruen, Chernatitsa, Rhodopski Partizani and more distant ones) as well as hundreds of kilometres of roads into the Chernatitsa sub-part of the Western Rhodopes, the dozens of kilometres of marked alleys and tracks, catering facilities and other tourist infrastructure, promote the frequent visits to the wonderful mountain sights.
Public buses start from the Rhodopes Bus Station to the villages in the foot of the mountain (Kuklen, Hrabrino, Galabovo, and some others) which serve as starting points for various hiking tours or trips by car (see the Rhodopes related section).
Being a crosspoint of major roads from Western and Central Europe to the Middle East, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean region and from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, Plovdiv has ancient millennial history. The most ancient inhabitants of these areas date back to the New Stone, Stone-copper and Bronze Ages. Later, during the 1st millennium BC, nearby the three eastern hills (Dzhambaz Tepe, Taxim Tepe and Nebet Tepe) which were practically a natural defence fortress, the Thracians founded the ancient settlement of Еumolpias. In 342 BC the town was conquered by Philip II, the Macedonian, renamed Philipopole and turned into a fortress. Later on (3rd - 1st century BC, the town already being known as Poulpoudeva, was subject to on-going invasions of the Celts. Since 1th century it was under Roman rule and was quickly grew into a key economic, cultural and political centre of Thracia Province. The town rapidly developed and occupied the entire area around the Three-hills, as a result of which the Romans named the town Тrimontsium.
After the year 395, when the Roman Empire had fallen apart, the town remained in its eastern part - Byzantine. During the next two centuries the town was many times ruined and set on fire by the Huns and the Gothic tribes. The Emperor Justinian (527-565) turned it into a strategic fortress along the northern Byzantine border. At the end of 6th century the Slavs populated the area and named the town Puldin (originating from the ancient name of Poulpoudeva).
In 815 Khan Krum included the town within the borderlines of Bulgaria. From this moment on until it fell under Turkish rule, Plovdiv (already named so) was subject to numerous takeovers, frequently being under the rules of either the Bulgarians or the Byzantines. In 1364 the Ottomans conquered the town and called it Phillibe. Being left far in the back area of the Ottoman Empire, the town lost its strategic location and gradually declined. It was only during the Revival Period that Plovdiv regained its glorious name of a large economic and cultural centre. A new class of craftsmen and merchants was established, having a newly formed national spirit and material wellbeing. A large number of residential housings and public facilities preserved as cultural monuments, date back to that Revival Period.
Prominent Revival enlighteners, cultural and political figures - Naiden Gerov (a writer, enlightener and Consul of Russia in Plovdiv), the icon-painters Zakhari Zograf, Dimitur Zograf, Stanislav Dospevski, the wood-carver Ivan Pashkula and many others worked in the town at that time. The residence and the inn of the Turpevi Brothers gave shelter to our national Apostle Levski several times, and in 1870 a local revolutionary committee was founded.
The troops of General Gurko liberated the town on January 17, 1878.
At that time this was the biggest Bulgarian town. After the Berlin Congress (1878) Plovdiv was proclaimed capital of Eastern Roumelia. It promoted an intensively diversified public and cultural life. Ivan Vazov, Konstantin Velichkov, Zakhari Stoyanov and some other reputable Bulgarians lived and worked in the town for some time. A great number of refugees came to the town from the areas of White Sea Thrace, Aegian, Pirin and Vardar Macedonia. The town hosted the proclamation of the Reunification of the Kingdom of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia on September 6, 1885 - an extraordinary in its significance revolutionary act, proving the strong and irreconcilable Bulgarian spirit in pursue of its national ideal. It is by no chance that this date - September the 6th - is currently an official holiday of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Plovdiv is the second significant transport centre in the country after our capital city Sofia. Two types of transport - bus and railway - connect this city to the rest of the country. There is also an existing air transport infrastructure, but currently there are no flights to and from Plovdiv. Motorway connects the city with Sofia, while major motorways connect it with Pazardzhik, Assenovgrad, Stara Zagora, Bourgas, Haskovo, Kurdzhali, Karlovo, Smolyan. The city has 3 major bus stations: Bus Station Sever (North) (2, Dimitur Stambolov Str., close to Philipovo railway station, tel.: 032 553011, 553705, servicing the lines to the north of the city in the direction of Rousse, Pleven, Troyan, Koprivshtitsa, etc.). Bus Station Yug (South) (47, Hristo Botev Blvd., close to the east of the central railway station, tel.: 032 626937, 226937, servicing the lines and routes to the southern part of the country - Blagoevgrad, Batak, Peshtera, Sliven, Svilengrad, Pazardzhik, etc.). The Express Transport Private Association is next to this Bus station (45, Hristo Botev Blvd., tel.: 032 265787, specialised in express bus transport services between the cities of Plovdiv and Sofia, having only a few bus stops in the capital, the last bus stop being at the railway station). There are some other private companies, servicing the routes to Hissar and Karlovo. Rhodopes Bus Station, (Macedonia Str., across the central railway station - a tunnel connects the two stations, tel.: 032 779267, 777607) services the region of the Rhodope Mountains, namely: Assenovgrad, Bachkovo Monastery, Smolyan, Chepelare, Pamporovo, Devin, Kurdzhali, Haskovo, etc. Close to Trimontsium Hotel, in the foyer of the Plovdiv Philharmony (1, Central Sq, tel.: 032 224271) one can buy tickets from the City Transportation Company for bus transport to Greece.