Plovdiv - I say the name and it feels like melting chocolate in my mouth. Plovdiv - I look out of the window, wondering where to start this thirty-year love story. Plovdiv - I close my eyes and my mind rushes with memories from a time when I was skipping school to enjoy the last sunshine of summer, loosing myself into the streets of the ancient city. Plovdiv - now I'm here again.
Yes, Plovdiv is my favorite city. I've walked the streets of Paris, thinking of how much she reminds me of Plovdiv. I can talk, write and brag about Plovdiv until you find me annoying. I know this, but you must accept my unconditional love for the city.
With this article, I invite you to one of Plovdiv's less-known areas. This neighborhood (simply called Uptown) is one of my favorite places to walk in Plovdiv. The only thing I need to enter into another time dimension is just to turn onto any little street I see. Then the silence, the emptiness, the aromas, and the crumbling buildings send me back in time.
I sense this neighborhood moves to its own rhythm, separated from the rest of the world. The buzz of the city comes from somewhere far away and the crowds strolling Plovdiv are even farther away in the main shopping district and popular touristic attractions. This part of town is for me and nobody else.
I slowly tread the streets of the tiny neighborhood, taking my time and wandering without direction or aim. As I walk, "locals" stare at me with interest. I'm "a foreigner" here. I feel the probing glances of the old women, peering from the terraces. I feel them on my back, all the way until I turn the corner of an old house. Sometimes I think these folks have a secret communication system, which warns them "Attention, attention, an outsider is entering the neighborhood." Many go check out who it is and whether they look dangerous.
Just around the corner, I'm overrun by a group of children. They cavort vigorously without a worry that something will happen to them. This place is very safe - no traffic or outsiders. I hop out of their way. Each child holds in hand a slice of bread spread with lutenica (tomato paste), and the red bread looks downright threatening to my clothes. I envy the children a bit, for their careless freedom and quite appetizing bread slices. I sigh and continue on.
My next encounter is a group of old ladies chatting. Their voices are warm and strong. I hear part of the conversation: "The grandchildren are all well and coming for the weekend." The contentment in the woman's voice makes me smile. In fact, I smile whenever I'm walking here, not only because there's the impending danger of a sliced bread collision, but because the air, warmth and situation make me happy.
A great thing about walking here is that I discover something new each time. Sometimes I find a new staircase, hidden alley, adobe house, tranquil garden, or cute cat. The other day, I found an apparently forgotten, unused and overgrown trail leading straight up the hill to Alyosha. I called this path "The Cactus Plantation." Well, the fact this path is overgrown with cacti - green, fleshy and covered with red flowers - helped me a lot in choosing the name. The trail beginning is well camouflaged between two old houses. The only indications of something potentially interesting are the few steps leading nowhere.
The best thing about walking here is that if you go up or down any stairs, there's a solid chance of discovering a path or something even more interesting. I always do.
Laska Nenova is passionate about her city, travels, sports and life. Find out more about her training and consulting services at her site http://about.me/Laska.