Business Traveller - - UPFRONT -

TO THE ENGLISH-SPEAK­ING ear, Plovdiv doesn’t sound like the most elegant of destinations. Don’t judge a place by its name, though. Next year, Bulgaria’s sec­ond city be­comes one of the two Euro­pean Cap­i­tals of Cul­ture. And rightly so, since here, es­pe­cially in the old town, you’ll find a glo­ri­ous mix of churches, mosques, Ro­man ru­ins (in­clud­ing a lovely am­phithe­atre) and beau­ti­fully re­stored 19th-cen­tury man­sions.

Bul­gar­i­ans of­ten re­fer to Plovdiv as “The City of the Seven Hills”, which is a bit of a mis­nomer since one of the hills – Markovo Tepe – no longer ex­ists, its syen­ite rock plun­dered to pave the city’s streets. At one time peo­ple used to joke that Markovo Tepe was so called be­cause its syen­ite had been flogged to the Ger­mans for the price of one Deutschmark per paving stone.

Plovdiv wasn’t al­ways to­ponymi­cally chal­lenged. For most of its his­tory it was known in the West as Philip­popo­lis, af­ter Philip

II of Mace­don, which trips far more grace­fully off the tongue.

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