Our guide book claims that most of the major sights in Plovdiv can be seen in a single day and we certainly tried our best prove it right. Setting out in warm, almost hot, sunshine we set out on a walking tour of the old town. This is characterised by high heel breaking cobbles, narrow streets and many houses converted to museums. The city itself has its roots back as early as 5000BC with the first settlement being founded by the Thracians. From there it had a turbulent history with the Romans arriving in 46AD and establishing streets, amphitheatres and aqueducts some of which survive to this day. Both the Goths and the Huns plundered the city in the third and fifth century. Subsequently it was made an outpost of the First Bulgarian empire but was latter conquered by the Ottomans in 1365 and it thrived during the Turkish rule. Finally, it became part of the Second Bulgarian empire just too late to awarded the status of capital.

Our first cultural stop was the church of Sveta Bogoroditsa, a recent addition to the city in 1844 and possibly the fashions for church's at the time were a little more upbeat as it sported a pink and blue tower. Inside it was all business with lots of icons on display. The guide book promised some depictions of Turkish soldiers harassing Bulgarian peasants but while we found plenty of violence on the walls I'm not sure we uncovered this exact gem. From the church we walked up the hill and down an alley past the Academy of music, dance and arts to a well restored Roman amphitheatre seating 6000 people. The location is high up on a hill overlooking the city and the bowl has been carved into a natural depression in the rock formation. While it has required some work it is still used today and remarkably was only discovered in 1972 after a freak landslide.

Back tracking  to the colourful church we stumbled  up the cobbles street to find the first of many old houses which have been converted to be galleries and museums, the Zlatu Boyadjiev house. This chap was an artist and has left behind his house as a gallery of his paintings often depicting Bulgarian peasantry. As impressive as the paintings was the house itself. Strictly symmetrical it had a room at each corner of the building with a central area in the middle with a grand sweeping staircase at one end. By the end of walking round we had assigned each room as we would use the house but there was little indication how the original owner utilised the space. Continuing on we walked down to some uninspiring Roman ruins, little more than rubble off the main road now, and back up to the Sveta Nedelya church. It was built in 1578 and renovated in 1830 and clearly it was due its next installment of work. The inside was a forest of scaffolding poles reaching up to the ceiling lending the walk around an air of danger not normally associated with churches. Back out into the sunshine we walked up past another fine couple of houses and a guided tour which looked like it was wilting in the heat and onto the ruins of Eumolpias, part of the original Thracian settlement. Being high up this site was easy to defend and the fortifications had been added to over the years but all that remained now were piles of rubble and children running amok. However, the views across the city were fantastic and stopped awhile to admire them.

After a sufficient baking in the sun we back tracked a little to Atanas Krastev's house. This local painter left behind a good collection of pictures displayed in a small house with fine views from the top floor. Old Plovdiv is seen as something as culture central In Bulgaria and one famous local artist was asked why this was, the reply suffers a little in translations but I think the point is made 'This city has 8000 years of history and that beats me in the ankle.' From here we stopped in town, at our familiar 'be happy' restaurant for lunch before heading up the hill on the opposite side of town. This was a steep walk up forested tracks  and at the top there is a huge monument of a Soviet soldier gazing protectively over the city. Having seen the city from two hills we decided to decline the opportunity to trawl up the hill of youth just in case that's what we ended up leaving behind. Instead we noticed a cinema marked on the map and were rather taken with the idea of a film. Being on the way back to the center of town it seemed ideal but when we arrived it had obviously gone out of business years ago. At the tourist information we were directed to the Mall on the edge of town for the main cinema, right past the hill we had just climbed. Undeterred we set off walking. Surprisingly for a city with 350,000 inhabitants it was only just under two miles to the mall which was on the very edge of town. However, this is only achieved by efficient use of space by which I mean everyone lives in tower blocks at least 7 floors high.

After a quick bite to eat and a dash we settled in to watch 'The hunger games', luckily in English with Bulgarian subtitles. Afterwards we felt like we still had a couple of miles left in our legs and set about walking home. Our resolve was tested by the light drizzle and obvious recent downpour but we stayed the course and got to our hotel tired and ready for bed.