The distance from Plovdiv to Edirne is 197 km. For European travelers from the 17th century, this meant a long and tiring journey. But there was another possibility - a trip along the Maritsa River. It was a quick and enjoyable journey, revealing fabulous views.
Maritsa was different in the past. It is not accidental that in ancient times Lucian called it the biggest river, for Herodotus it was “the sacred Hebros”, Strabo explained that the river navigable to about Belovo. It seems that it was so because on an antique coin of Plovdiv one can see a ship with six rows of oars. The descent down the river and the effort of the rowers ensured a good speed. For the journey back they used horses who drew the vessels with ropes against the current.
It is known that from the 1600s Maritsa gradually became the main highway of Thrace. Almost everything was transported by water - the unsurpassed by quality rice from Plovdiv and Pazardzhik, wonderful wheat, butter and cheese, beans for the sultan stables, the iron produced in Samokov and Sofia region (about 24 000 tons of metal were transported on the river). In addition to this, at the harbor in Enos, where ships from England, France, and other countries were waiting, there were ships that traveled with skins, balls of cotton and tobacco, charcoal, wool, cocoons and other goods. More than 200,000 tons of cargo were carried in Maritsa at almost no cost. Its freezing was considered a real catastrophe.
The voyage was made with rafts of planks covered with resin. They were narrow and long in order to pass under the bridges. A three-man crew ruled the 20-25 m long craft. There were often also passengers.
There was also a port in Plovdiv. It was close to today’s Artileriiska and Hyshovska Streets. The well-known inns and pubs were nearby, and there were tons of cargo in the warehouses off the coast. It is also said that there was a scaffolding (ie port) on today's bridge on Ruski Blvd.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the steamer company decided to re-regulate Maritsa and launch ships to Plovdiv, but with the advent of the railways, traveling with ships started to decline.
The cutting of the forests and dikes for irrigation of the rice fields slowly began to drain the river and in the early twentieth century, even the rafts disappeared. The cheapest way through Thrace was left in history.
Source: Pod tepeto