Undiscovered Plovdiv: Bulgaria's Most Enjoyable City

05/30/2016 06:31 pm ET Updated May 31, 2017

Plovdiv is to Bulgaria what Krakow is to Poland: It's the historic capital and the most enjoyable city (even though the capital city -- Sofia or Warsaw -- is much bigger and more consequential). Plovdiv has ankle-breaker cobbles, a fun little foodie/hipster zone, and a great paseo vibe on its long pedestrian boulevard. Like cities are doing across Europe, it has artfully incorporated its archaeological sites into its modern, people-friendly layout. The layers are fun to ponder: Under the happy 2016 ambience is a stern Communist shell; an Ottoman-era mosque; and finally a racecourse where, 2,000 years ago, chariots careened around this corner. Whenever I'm here, I find myself wondering why most Americans don't give Bulgaria a second thought. Sure, it's got the alphabet and the religion and the Slavic blood of "Mother Russia." But the dreams and the aspirations are facing West -- a reason to encourage us to travel East.