For Fall Break, we’re taking our first Bulgarian road trip. It’s so nice to finally have a car! And we’re excited to start exploring this new country we now call Home. Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria, the country’s cultural heart, and the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

We handed off the house keys to our wonderful new neighbors, whose two little girls were happy to help watch Gussy. We also needed a babysitter for our wine, which at this stage in fermentation still needs stirring twice a day. Gus and the wine were both graciously adopted, so we loaded up with apples and donuts from Kaufland and headed out through the autumn leaves.

It’s crazy to have such a new and modern car. I still think the Pilot is a little too big, but the boys love it! It’s quiet and fast, and has so much more room inside to accommodate all of the long legs. Mike has been growing a beard, or maybe just hasn’t been shaving, and it turns out to be a pretty good tool for tickling rowdy kids.

Old Plovdiv is a well-kept, cobblestoned city with summer festivals, pedestrian streets, and an ancient Roman theater slowly being unearthed in the city center. A river runs nearby, through its seven hills and leafy streets, and the architecture mixes Old Europe village style with the romance of the Renaissance. As a tourist destination it’s easy to find signs in english, and we took a wonderful walking tour through Plovdiv’s history.

There were hikes and fountains, and lots of cats which kept the boys’ attention. It is really cute how much they love cats.

The buildings and wooden homes clustered in the Old Town were so well-painted, it almost had a Disney-like feel. Windows and walls are stenciled with ornate designs, almost Viennese, except instead of marble the gingerbread details are made from just wood and paint. .

In other places we were clearly at the crossroads of the Roman empire, with stone arches, aqueducts, and stadiums from the first century.

And then, of course, there were a few Soviet parts.

Restaurants and sidewalks were overflowing with music, crowded cafe tables, probably COVID, and buzzed with late summer energy. The boys had pizza and fries covered in meat sauce, while I discovered a Bulgarian version of caprese salad made with roasted peppers, pesto, and creamy white cheese. One night we had dinner at Osteria D’asti. I don’t know why Italian restaurants always make us happy, but they do.

Our long weekend at Shahbazian House was perfect. The boys even found a cool coin press machine to turn their Lev into souvenirs.

Plovdiv is a town for artists. It’s crazy to think how different it will be next year, when COVID is (hopefully) over and we can laze with cocktails and music in the park without worrying about masks and social distancing.

Next summer I will probably also stop worrying about the boys being taller than me, because by then I think the battle will be lost.