Sign saying Kapana in Cyrillic letters
Bulgaria,  Monday walks,  Photographing Public Art,  Street art,  Travel galleries

Gallery: a walk in colourful Kapana

Plovdiv’s Kapana district is an object lesson in how to transform run-down into lively, neglected into loved.

In this part of the city , a maze of small streets follows much the same pattern as the Ottoman souk which once stood here, although the mainly wooden buildings of that era are long since gone. The very name, Kapana, recalls that maze, as it means ‘Trap’; once among these streets it was hard to find your way out!

When the Communist Party came to power in 1944 many of the nicest houses were in this area; so they seized them for senior party officials to live in. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and restoration of democracy the houses were to be handed back to the original owners; but not all could be traced. Furthermore, many didn’t want to return, either because they didn’t fully trust that the Communists had truly been overthrown or because they had meanwhile established comfortable new lives elsewhere. So Kapana became a sort of ghost town and the houses stood empty and began to crumble and decay.

Capital of Culture 2019

Plovdiv’s Capital of Culture sign on the main street

But when Plovdiv was awarded the Capital of Culture for 2019, the city authorities realised that they had to clean up Kapana. Houses were restored; craftspeople encouraged to move into the empty shops and revive the old trades (leather work, metalwork etc) or introduce new ones; and a street art competition was organised to replace random graffiti tags with real art, with wonderful results!

I loved the buzz of this area. It has rather the feel of some of London’s trendier East End districts (Hoxton, Shoreditch); but on a lower key, more accessible scale. So come with me on a stroll through Kapana for the week’s Photographing Public Art challenge. And this could also be a pleasant but very belated Monday Walk with Jo.

Click on any image to open a slideshow

I visited Plovdiv in 2019


  • Marsha

    Sarah, you always present us with an interesting piece of history as well as lovely pictures. I’d love to visit there. I can understand why the original owners might not want to move back. They had moved on and they wanted to leave bad memories behind, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing. This looks like a fascinating place. 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for taking the time to drop in while in your travels! I loved Plovdiv in general and this part in particular. There was a festival on the day we visited which added to the vibrancy 🙂

  • maristravels

    Belated or not Sarah, this is a great post. I love all the images and the idea of a town slowly recovering and, in fact, becoming Capital of Culture! Hope the title helped them.

  • restlessjo

    Such a vibrant, colourful post, Sarah! All that I know about Bulgaria revolved around the Golden Sands beach resort. I never went there but it was always on the horizon as a cheap option which could give me a peek at a different culture. Many thanks to you for sharing. The country obviously has so much more to offer. One of our favourite restaurants here is actually run by a Bulgarian family and they are the hardest working people and very determined to suceed.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Jo 😀 I’ve never been tempted by Golden Sands (we’re not really beach holiday people) and had never thought to go to Bulgaria until a Virtual Tourist member hosted our annual Euromeet there (actually the last one we’ve been able to have 😢) I visited Sofia with a small group of friends and then went on to the main meet in Plovdiv. Both cites were really great, albeit different, and I’d love to go back some time with my husband!

  • Manja Maksimovič

    Brilliant photos and setting and idea. I have never heard of Kapana before (or been told what it meant), and you often do this: show me things that nobody else is showing. Thank you for that. The photo of the girl shows again how good you are with people. And I love the colours and shapes and compositions of all of them.

Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! And please include your name in case WP marks you 'anonymous' - thank you