Le Grand Trip | I’m on a midnight train to Plovdiv 🎵

Istanbul disappeared into the distance after a quite wonderful 72 hours, mostly spent on the paths more trodden.

From the Sultanahmet District — Topkapi Palace, Gulhane Park, the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and more — through the self-titled (via the medium of graffiti) “hipster” Beyoglu to the lesser known but no less appealing Balat district we took in the Galata Tower and bridge, the excellent Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, a cruise on the Bosphorous, plenty of local fish, meat, cheese and wine, and many kilometres of cobbled lanes and quirky spots. I was particularly taken with the whole thing and will be back.

Onto Plovdiv, Bulgaria — a “hidden gem” so I read — European capital of culture in 2019.

We arrived this morning at around 7am and I went straight to bed, having barely slept on the night train. Seems really loud noise isn’t conducive to sleep. I like the idea of sleepers — in principle — but (with an 11pm departure and planned 6am arrival) when you’re hauled off after 2.5 hours to go through the Turkish exit process for an hour, then visa checked to enter Bulgaria shortly afterwards (albeit from bed, which was more relaxing. Thanks Bulgarian border patrol), it’s not ideal for a good night’s sleep.

I’d never heard of Plovdiv until about two weeks ago. Now we have two days to while away amongst its “invigorating nightlife and millennia old ruins”.

We started with a brief exploration of the old town and a couple of Roman Amphitheatres (as you do) before settling in for a night of cafe culture on its stony streets. Many craft beers (max €2 a pop) and a Turkish kebab later I’ve written this likely-slightly-disjointed account.