Plovdiv is one of the most interesting cities in Bulgaria, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. If you come to Plovdiv and have very little time (which would really be a pity…), then you should definitely include a walk around the Old Town in your program. The Old Town is a tangle of winding cobbled streets lined with strikingly colored houses, many decorated with delicate ornaments.
You have the opportunity to see some of the houses and churches in the Old Town through my first article on this topic: PLOVDIV – A WALK IN THE OLD TOWN. Now, we will visit three other houses that belong to the masterpieces of Bulgarian urban architecture.
The first stop is the Stambolyan House (Kiril Nektariev Street 15), built in the second half of the 19th century. The facade of the large, two-story, symmetrical building with blue ornaments resembles painted porcelain.
If you happened to be here a few years ago, you will be as surprised as I was. In 2001, the facade was renovated, but it was only painted white. The ornaments were not restored. Their repainting according to the original model was not completed until November 2021, so only now, it is possible to admire delicate plant motifs, silhouettes of peacocks and images of various other buildings of the Old Town in the medallions on the facade.
In the 1960s, Dimitar Kirov, one of the most important representatives of Bulgarian fine art of the 20th century, lived and worked in the house. Today, his paintings hang in galleries around the world, and a large collection of his masterpieces is also kept in this house as part of the permanent exhibition.
Nedkovich House (Tsanko Lavrenov Street 3) is not visible at first glance, it is hidden behind a stone wall. The entrance gate is unlocked with this huge key. It also has the original knocker.
Nedkovich House was built in 1863 in the spirit of European classicism. It is painted yellow and, although the facade with four columns is not in the best condition, interesting details can be found painted here too – a mirror image of this house as a historical document of its authenticity. A bear tied on a chain can still be understood, but also a lion is similarly depicted there!?
There is a small fountain in the pleasant courtyard and, at the time of my visit, some paintings were on display as proof that Plovdiv still attracts many artists and that there are galleries on almost every corner.
Nikola Nedkovich was a textile merchant; the house exhibits original furniture and other objects (even women’s petticoats and nightgowns) that document the daily life of a rich Plovdiv family in the 19th century.
Also noteworthy are the original carpets, some up to 10 meters long, which were made to order in the two main carpet schools – Chiprovtsi and Kotel.
There is a laundry with an original marble basin next to the house. Beautiful porcelain jugs and water containers seem to be waiting for someone to use them again…
There is also a special small room built into the stone wall in front of the house, the so-called klyukarnik – gossip room, from where the lady of the house could follow the happenings on the street and learn the latest gossip. Similar “balconies” can be found on other houses in the Old Town.
One of the most interesting, largest and most beautiful houses is the Hindliyan House (Artin Gidikov Street 4). The name sounds a bit exotic. Stepan Hindliyan was a rich Armenian merchant who often travelled to India for business. The Turkish authorities, therefore, began to call him Hindioglu, from which his name arose. The Hindliyan House is one of the few originally preserved symmetrical houses.
That a very rich family lived here is evidenced by the fact that the interior has a total area of up to 254 m². The opulent central salon on the first floor (known by the Turkish name hayet) is furnished with old furniture and two rooms are attached to it on each side.
Well, for me, the most beautiful parts of this house were the alafrangas. These are niches in the wall (very typical for these Plovdiv houses) that create the illusion of a window. Painted open curtains reveal mostly images of gardens or natural scenery. Hindliyan had lively trade relations not only with India but also with Italy, Russia, Sweden or Egypt. So he decided to paint the alafrangas in his house with scenes from these countries.
You will find depicted views of Lisbon, Stockholm, Venice, St. Peterburg, Constantinople or Alexandria. The artistic decoration of the exterior and interior was made by two Chirpan craftsmen Moko and Mavrudi; it took them up to six months.
Another surprise for me was the oriental-style bathroom with the marble floor and a decorative fountain in the middle of the wall. It is the only preserved bathroom with running cold and hot water in the entire Old Town. And not just the bathroom! Right next to it, there is also a room for relaxing after a bath. Simply 19th-century wellness right in the house!
The house has a very pleasant inner courtyard, it would certainly be nice to sit down and try to imagine how life used to be here. Too bad it started raining. Until the short rain stopped, I hid in the former warehouse opposite. Above its entrance, Hindliyan ordered his own house to be painted.
The family of Stepan Hindliyan left the house in 1915 after the Armenian Genocide and provided its premises for Armenian refugees. It served as a residential building until 1974, with up to 23 different Armenian families living there. Since 1974, the house has been a cultural monument.
I suppose that after a long walk through the streets of the Old Town (don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes!), one will get hungry. Whether for lunch or a romantic dinner, I would recommend the restaurant Philippopolis (= the old name of Plovdiv) with traditional Bulgarian and Mediterranean cuisine.
A pleasant garden is open in summer. All the dishes we tasted were delicious and artistically arranged.
And don’t forget to take a look inside, this house is also a museum with an old interior and a rich collection of paintings by various local artists.
More information: Restaurant Philippopolis
If you like paintings and would like to stay in the Old Town, then the Gallery 37 Hotel is the right place for you, located right at the heart of this historic architectural reserve. The interiors of the rooms are specially designed to be in harmony with the history (I was particularly drawn to the decorations on the ceilings, inspired by the carved ceilings in the old houses we visited before). In addition, the rooms and the interior of the hotel are decorated with original paintings by the most renowned Bulgarian painters.
More information: Gallery 37
A walk through the Old Town in Plovdiv always has a special charm to it. I like that this part of the city is not only a preserved museum but also that various events take place here, when the Old Town comes to life even more and is filled with both tourists and locals: the Old Town Festival, the Autumn Craft Fair, the Gourmet Festival under the Hill, etc.
During my visit in September, we were able to buy various handmade souvenirs, taste honey specialties, spreads made of hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts, typical Bulgarian salami and cheeses with truffles, local beer, wines, etc. To buy a felt doll in a costume from any region of Bulgaria or make our own, have a retro photo taken, etc.
Before visiting Plovdiv, check the offer of events on the website: Visit Plovdiv
You can find the offer for different combined tickets to several objects: HERE
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri