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Dafina Boshnakova – Plovdiv the European Capital of Culture 2019

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Dafina Boshnakova – Dafi is one of the most knowledgeable freelance guides in Bulgaria that has been working for Traventuria from its beginning. She speaks fluent English with a slight British accent. She has also written some of the texts for our Rila Monastery and Plovdiv audio guides. She leads groups not only in Bulgaria but to other countries on the Balkan Peninsula. Being her colleague is always a pleasure and an advantage.
What made you such a passionate and dedicated guide?
I believe I was lucky enough to have found the right job for me. One that suits my temper, my interests and my own inquisitiveness. A job that I never grow tired of and that I have never thought to replace with another one. All the rest are simply small details.
One of our best-selling tours is the one to Plovdiv. The centre of the city has been transformed significantly in the past few years. Especially the Kapana (The Trap) neighbourhood has changed remarkably. Which recent changes in this district do you find the most amusing?
Before the transformation, Kapana to me (as well as to the locals, I believe) was an area that I would not go to unless I specifically needed to do something there. At present, it’s a place with its own spirit!
Even if one walks in accidentally, he/she will feel attracted to stay longer, to explore, to take in the ambience. I love the artsy graffiti that started to pop up everywhere around the area. The fact that the young people from Plovdiv have accepted the neighbourhood as one of their favourites speaks the best about how great Kapana is. Furthermore, many outdoor festivals take place there throughout the year. This makes the area one of the most attractive and vibrant central urban zones not just in this city but in Bulgaria altogether!
Which are the top 3 restaurants in the Kapana neighbourhood that you can recommend to individual tourists and why?
Instead of recommending a “Top 3”, I prefer to point out three different in the type of food and price range places so that our guests can choose depending on their taste and amount of free time they have.
Паваж (pronounced “pavazh” and meaning “pavement”) is a true gem. The ambience is informal and very pleasant. A foreign customer will find himself among many locals. Food is superb, a lot of typical Bulgarian ingredients are included. Menu is concise but full of great options, it’s simply impossible to make a wrong choice. Cooking techniques and presentation are top! The only disadvantage (or advantage) is the relatively small capacity of the restaurant.
Pasha is a must in case one wants to try typical Turkish food. Since Plovdiv has been a melting pot for centuries, I definitely like to let guests explore other tastes, not just Bulgarian cuisine. The restaurant itself is unassuming but the food is always fresh, with a good selection of soups, cooked dishes, pide (Turkish pizza) as well as fresh meats and kebabs which are grilled to perfection. There is just one dessert on the menu – künefe – but it’s finger-licking good!
Работилницата на веселите палачинки (Happy Pancakes Workshop) is where one should definitely pop in when there is little time or one doesn’t feel like a big lunch. The selection of toppings is surprisingly large and everything is so tasty! The quality of the ingredients used is great and a lot of the jams they have are home-made. You might end up buying one of the jams, in case you like the flavour. What I usually do is to get one savoury as well as one sweet pancake and I’m done with lunch!
Plovdiv’s main pedestrian street and the Old Town seem not to have changed much during the Bulgarian communist regime. Are there any monuments or buildings from this period of time that you like to present to the tourists?
Usually, I highlight other sights in Plovdiv, communist legacy here is not the one that makes the city unique. Nevertheless, the central post office building, as well as hotel Ramada Trimontium are interesting examples of how architecture in that period mimicked depending on the requirements of the high officials. There are also a lot of curious examples of communist sites to be seen from Nebet Tepe when we take in the panorama of the city: Alyosha soviet army memorial, the covered bridge on river Maritsa, some other large hotels like Sankt Peterburg and Grand Hotel Plovdiv. Actually, this panoramic view is marvellous because in a glimpse it reveals all the history of the city and presents its eclectic nature.
Can you tell us a little bit about the architectural Bauhaus heritage in Plovdiv?
Until World War I the dominating styles of architecture in Bulgaria are the Neo-Classical, Neo-Baroque, Neo-Renaissance, Secession, Art Deco… Because all of these look opulent and feature a lot of decoration, the inter-war Modernist or Bauhaus architecture looks plain in comparison and not so many people notice it or pay much attention to it. Nevertheless, it has many positive sides: functionality, use of modern materials, a lot of natural light allowed in the interior of the building. A large number of the rich in the 20s and 30s, including tobacco tycoons, were ordering their homes to be built exactly in Bauhaus style. The central market hall (at present Hali Shopping Centre), on the other hand, is the best example if we speak of public buildings. Some interesting suggestions about private houses, examples of Bauhaus in Plovdiv can be found in The Alternative Map Of Plovdiv: https://openarts.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Alternative_Map_Plovdiv_2013.pdf
Are there typical for the area of Plovdiv dishes that the guests of the town should definitely try?
I definitely recommend patatnik – a kind of big frittata made of potatoes and cheese. The other must are small cabbage or vine leaf rolls, known as “Stanimashki sarmichki”, from nearby Asenovgrad. When we speak of street food, it’s gözleme – Turkish savoury filo pastry which is baked on a hot plate – it comes with fillings like cheese or potato or mincemeat. Last but not least – ice-cream may not be a Bulgarian invention but since summers in Plovdiv are really hot, it should not be missed. The best local fare is at the corner of the main street right by the central park (Tsar Simeonova Gradina).
Plovdiv is the European Capital of Culture 2019 under the motto “Together”. Can you explain the meaning and history behind the motto to us?
Plovdiv has throughout its history been a melting pot and a crossroads where different cultures, communities and groups have always met. This has been the biggest challenge, as well as the best drive for the city’s development. “Together” is the secret of how this city has survived all of the trials and tribulations of its turbulent millennial history. “Together” builds up Plovdiv’s charm and charisma. As the organizers state, “Together” is more than a path to a more integrated community, it is our vision for making culture more accessible so that it can make our lives more meaningful, our city more vibrant and attractive.”
Tour operator Traventuria offers tours to Plovdiv 4 days a week. Find out more at www.sofiadaytours.com.
Enjoy a gallery of pictures from Dafi’s personal archive. 
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