Robert visited Plovdiv in the second half of October for two weeks, aiming to immerse himself in the life of the oldest living city in Europe and to feel the atmosphere and mood of the European Capital of Culture 2019. He spent a great deal of his time in conversations and observations with the active people in the city under the hills and was very impressed by the "special way of life in Plovdiv". We publish excerpts from the text and the full version can be found in German on his personal blog: So schee scho
“With its 360,000 inhabitants, Plovdiv is the second largest city in the country and the oldest: founded by the Thracians more than 6,000 years ago (some say 8,000) on a hill in the plain between the Balkan Mountains and the Rhodopes. Here you can find one of the best preserved ancient amphitheaters in the world, a Roman stadium, an old town with magnificently furnished antique shops, Roma living in their own neighborhood, because no one else wants them or they want to stay alone there, a colorful and cheerful art district, and a very special, peaceful lifestyle called the aylyak.
Aylyak: All is well
Sunday morning. The sun is bathing the creative district of Kapana in golden autumn light. The owners of the bars are putting the chairs out. In the bars Cat and mouse and in the neighboring CU 29 with the small art gallery, coffee machines are hissing. The first customers are sitting outside on armchairs, chairs and wooden benches. The light wind is playing with the colorful flags, which, drawn like strings, tremble over the cobblestone streets. Zen moment: All is well.
I’ve read about aylyak, the special way of life in Plovdiv, in an article on the American CNN channel. The author describes it as "being calm and unfazed by all the busy everyday life". "Yes," Veselina answers my question about the essence of the aylyak. "Pretty well said." Especially in the morning in Kapana she feels that way. The 33-year-old marketing specialist works for Lost in Plovdiv, an online digital travel guide. Like almost all the young people here, she speaks fluent English. Many of them have studied or lived abroad. Now a great deal is coming back.
Plovdiv state of mind
In addition to art, music also attracts visitors in Kapana. Right at the entrance of the creative district, Asya manages to fulfill her dream: The enthusiastic swing dancer left her well paid job as a lawyer in Sofia to open the first swing bar in the city. In the stylish and modern place, decorated with lots of wood and steel, her team serves cocktails, mixed following original US recipes. Even though I never drink cocktails, it's hard not to order a third drink. Asya organizes the annual swing festival, which gathers more than 800 guests and is already part of the official program of the European Capital of Culture. Every Thursday she invites fans of the genre to a Swing Dance Night at her bar: "People are often so excited to keep dancing on the street," says the organizer.
The secret of aylyak
Of course, I ask her about the secret of aylak. The origin of the word is Turkish, where there are many meanings. "This is a state of mind characteristic of Plovdiv," responds Asya. "You reach it when you do the things you have dedicated yourself to, with peace": relax in what you do and let it flood you like a stream. She finds this state in the swing.
Relax, you are in Plovdiv. It is said that people here have their own inner peace. The perfect state of tranquility, peace, and joy of life is aylak. The name of the special sense of life in Plovdiv, which depicts a kind of zen moment concentrated on the tranquility of everyday life, comes from the Turkish aylak, which can be translated in a narrow sense as "meaningless", but as wider as "idleness". Is this recreation or idleness?”
And what is your understanding of aylyak?
All photographs are taken by Robert B Fishmann