LIFE MEMORIES FROM PLOVDIV

Ancient Roman Theater, Photo Credit: Custom Trip Team

Hey Guys!

You might be wondering why we are starting out so casually, right? Well, you are officially reading our first article from the newest category of Custom Trip called CUSTOMTRIP365! You can find out more about our newest initiative by clicking here

Today, we will dive into “Life Memories from Plovdiv” given by a local citizen and present them to you exactly as the story was given to us. We will try to supplement the text with as many photographs as possible. Please, remember that finding  photos from the past is not easy, but our research team do the best they can!

…and here we go…

Life Memories from Plovdiv 

A story written by the Custom Trip team 

(it is our strict policy to keep our story tellers personal information completely confidential)

DISCLAIMER: THIS STORY IS BASED ON THE MEMORIES OF A CITIZEN OF PLOVDIV. THE FACTS, DATES AND PLACES ARE NOT HISTORICALLY VERIFIED. NEITHER CUSTOM TRIP NOR THE STORY TELLER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY INFORMATION GIVEN BY MISTAKE, BAD MEMORY OR BEING A RUMOR. THE CONCLUSIONS AND OPINIONS OF THE STORY TELLER ARE PERSONAL AND NOT AFFILIATED WITH OR AGAINST ANY POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION. ALL COPY RIGHTS RESERVED.

The story begins during the first half of the XX century …

“I have lived in Plovdiv since 1939. We first lived on Str Ladzhene nearby the George Sava Rakovski Street. My father had sold his two houses in the town of Asenovgrad (where I was born) before we moved to Plovdiv. His intentions were to move the family to Plovdiv and to purchase a house, but it was 1939 and World War II started. Overnight the whole country experienced a massive inflation and the money my father had from the sale of our two homes were worth nothing, so we ended up renting a small place. My father worked in a local grocery store at first or the so called “Bakalnitsa” on Str Mara Gidik (it was a tiny street crossing the same street where the church St.Nedelya (St.Sunday) is located close to the rome (gypsy) neighborhood. After few years we moved to Str Chirpan #19 (now part of Blvd 6th September). The street was covered with cobbled stones and had many smaller streets crossing it, but they were all dirt roads. It was called the “Hadzhi Asen Mahala (neighborhood)” where us kids played many games unknown to today’s children! That particular neighborhood, looking on the map today, is on the east side of Nebet Tepe

View of Nebet Hill, Photo Credit: Custom Trip Team
View of Nebet Hill, Photo Credit: Custom Trip Team

(one of Plovdiv’ seven hills). There used to be a square –Zhiten Pazar (market) — but now it’s a city park. The neighborhood was primarily populated by Armenians. Nearby was also my grade school “Lyuben Karavelov” where I studied for 4 years. During the bomb attacks of World War II over Plovdiv all students had to hide in the bunker, which was located in the school yard. I clearly remember two of the bombing attacks! During the first one we all hid in the bunker at school, but during the second one we hid in a tunnel — a hidden place — at the base of the east side of Nebet Hill. Today, that tunnel is a coffee shop (“At Michael’s”). On that same street where we lived were also other shops: two grocery stores, a milk shop (mlekarnitsa), two bread stores (bakeries), a vegetable store (zelentchukov magazin). The neighbors were very good people! Today, there are living buildings (blokove).

We loved going on Nebet Hill, which is part of the three-hills-combo: Nebet Hill, Taxim Hill and Dzhambaz Hill. We loved to visit the Old Town! The Old Town of Plovdiv used to be the original Plovdiv. It was known as the “Town of the three hills” during the Renaissance years, and as many of you know Plovdiv has been continuously inhabited for over 8,000 years! Unfortunately, Dzhambaz Hill today does not exist any longer and is covered with dirt from careless folks. The rocks and dirt taken from Dzhamaz hill have been stolen for construction projects and now there are only two hills underneath the Old Town of Plovdiv.

Plovdiv had seven hills — the hills  made Plovdiv popular — but today there are only five left. Why? Well, Dzhambaz Hill is the one and Markovo Hill (Markovo Tepe) nearby the Bunardzhik Hill has been demolished as well. Today Markovo Hill has been replaced by a modern shopping mall named after the hill.  I don’t know of another city who has so disrespectfully destroyed its natural and cultural heritage as Plovdiv, losing its two out of the seven hills!

Another thing that I remember from my Life Memories from Plovdiv is the Tsar Simeon Garden [located downtown]. The park used to be twice bigger but after September 9th, 1944 and the beginning of the communist years, 1/3 of the park was destroyed and the so called “red square” appeared. Today, that “red square” is represented by the central post office located right next to the Tsar Simeon Garden with the famous clock — a popular place for people to meet and get together.

There were very beautiful buildings, before the main post office building was built, owned by the Plovdiv aristocrasy and one of the buildings served as a medical center. One of the popular home owners was called Kudoglu and he had made generous donations to the city of Plovdiv. The mentioned medical center was part of it. It was that same medical center where us, students, were taken for medical exams during the first months following September 9th, 1944. Most of the medical exams were done via a x-ray exam mainly because during the war most of us kids developed tuberculosis from limited food supplies. After the war ended and during school recess the teacher were giving us a glass of milk and a bite of butter because tuberculosis was too common among young children. I think, but I am not 100% sure, that the butter was imported from Germany.

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The main street of Plovdiv was the same as it is today — beautiful and with buildings showing various types of architectural style. The main street used to have sidewalks and many trees. Then, they took the trees off saying they needed to expand it. It didn’t used to be marble, but simple pavement. There were four cinema theaters on the main street: Capital, Ekselasior, Pikadili and Balkan. The Balkan cinema

Balkan Cinema
Balkan Cinema
Photo credit to Wikicommons

was owned by a small in size man who moved around town predominantly by horse carriage. At that time there were no cars or buses and we used to either walk or call a horse carriage.

There was a nice restaurant on the top of Sahat Hill

Photo credit to Wikipedia
Sahat Hill

and other nice buildings. The singing association of Plovdiv used to practice in one of those buildings. After September 9th, 1944, unfortunately, those buildings were demolished too.

There were also two popular restaurants on the Bunardzhik hill: a small and a big one. The smaller one is still functioning and it is located at the bottom of the hill — “Malak Bunardzhik”. They also built two monuments on top of the Bunardzhik hill: Alyosha (a russian soldier) and a monument of the King liberator who helped free Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. Nebet Hill used to be a garden, but today is a bunch of rocks, empty bottles and other trash. The hills have not been taken care of as well as they should have in the past two decades.

Plovdiv used to be called “The Tobacco Center of Bulgaria”.

Tobacco Factory build in 1925
Tobacco Factory build in 1925
Photo credit to Wikicommons

The city was popular with its tobacco and cigarette factories. Today some of those factories were burned down and the rest are not maintained. My parents used to work in one of those tobacco factories. I also remember that the neighborhood we call today “Marasha” used to be huge vegetable gardens that were controlled by the so called ‘bunari’ who moved around them on horses. The Marasha neighborhood was famous as the Hebrew neighborhood too.

There were also gardens and open fields to the west of the city. Today the neighborhood of Proslav is there. To the south of the city — today’s neighborhood of Kyuchuk Paris — were small houses inhabited by obviously poor people. Most of them had a Macedonian background who had moved from Greece or Turkey after World War I and the Balkan War. Most of them were working at the tobacco factories. After that it used to be an industrial zone of Plovdiv, but today those factories have also been demolished and Kyuchuk Paris is a huge neighborhood with many buildings, restaurants  and half of the city’s population lives there.

To the east, where today is the neighborhood of Trakia, there was nothing but open fields. To the north is the neighborhood of Karshiyaka — old neighborhood from the Ottoman years — where many of the Plovdiv artists come from. Today, the Karshiyaka neighborhood is connected to another industrial zone expanding between Plovdiv’s city limits and the village of Trud, and close to the big Catholic church of Plovdiv was the beer factory.

The famous jewelry street of Plovdiv is called “Otets Paisii”. It is parallel to the main street. Str Otets Paisii, the streets crossing the Main Street (Glavnata) and the neighborhood at the bottom of the Bunardzhik Hill were known as the “rich neighborhoods”. The park nearby the Greek consulate today used to be an open fruit market and the Shahbazyan square used to be a wheat (corn) market.

There wasn’t a rowing canal while I was growing up. The whole area was an empty space. I have heard rumors that King Ferdinand had wanted to built a hunting house for himself where the rowing canal is today, but the community of Plovdiv have prevented him from doing so. Of course, this could easily be just a rumor.

Plovdiv in 1940
Plovdiv in 1940, aerial view
Photo credit to Wikicommons

There used to be many public baths in the city of Plovdiv: Chefte Banya, Trakia Bath (Banya), Zdravets Bath, Tsar Simeon Bath. They were very useful because most people in Plovdiv used to live in very small houses without bathrooms.

People used to be very good while I was growing up in Plovdiv. I don’t remember having to lock the house or feeling threatened ever. People used to help each other. There were almost no burglaries, no thieves, divorces were rare and families were strong.”

We hope your heads and minds are spinning as ours were after we finished the interview, but we also hope that we have been able to give you a closer touch to the beautiful and eternal city of Plovdiv!

Keep following our new section of CUSTOMTRIP365 for more “Life Memories…”!

One thought on “LIFE MEMORIES FROM PLOVDIV”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this and appreciate the memories! I am familiar with most of the facts from that interview. Even though I am a newer generation, I have heard stories from older people. There was a popular book in the 80s , I think. It was called Plovdiv Chronicles or something like that. It was about the popular places , events, and figures in the city . I believe more than 90 percent of the information from that interview is correct. Thank you for sharing! Plovdiv has always had a special spirit !

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