I was at a Christmas party earlier this month. It was hosted by a friend of mine who owns a dress shop in Prague. I was chatting idly with another friend, a well-traveled Czech woman who writes food stories and cookbooks, and we were looking back over the past year. “So, where have you been recently?” she asked. I told her I’d spent November traveling through Bulgaria, working on a guidebook for Lonely Planet. Then I dropped the nugget that I’d visited the city of Plovdiv, the EU’s cultural capital for 2019. “It’s pretty cool,” I said. “Have you ever been there?” Her eyes got wide and we both broke out laughing. No, it turns out she hadn’t, and the whole question suddenly sounded ridiculous. Not many people have ever heard of Plovdiv, and fewer yet have actually visited.
The marketing folks in Plovdiv clearly have a lot more spadework to do to convince people to go. But I’ll tell you right off the top, it’s an inspired choice for a cultural capital and well worth the effort of finding it on the map.