Located only a two-hour drive southeast of Sofia, Plovdiv is recorded as one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. A key trading route to the Middle East throughout history, its ancient remains dot the center, demonstrating the deep heritage of competing civilizations.
Discovered in 1981, the remains of an ancient synagogue were found in the center of the city. Researchers made the unquestionable link to the existence of the synagogue after discovering floor mosaics depicting a menorah. In part, due to major secularisation of the Jewish population during Communist times, and a large proportion of the Jewish population making aliyah to Israel, today’s Ottoman-styled Zion Synagogue caters to a small practising population of a few hundred people.
Plovdiv will be putting its cultural offerings on full display as it has been named 2019 European Capital of Culture.
More generally, Bulgaria shares strong diplomatic and political ties with the Jewish state of Israel. The unconventional fostering of this partnership, since the horrors of the Holocaust, was bolstered by the mutual sending of national fire brigades to put out wildfires that occurred in both countries.