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You’ll have gathered by now that I’m fascinated by architectural details. Our modern buildings – so many of them concrete and steel – do not generally feature the kind of decoration possible on a much smaller scale. That’s not to say that contemporary structures aren’t frequently stunning, combining form and function to spectacular effect. Think the Sydney Opera House, the Louvre extension, the Shard…the list is long and the debate endless, and in my experience greatly enhanced by a glass or two of vino.

But I digress. I want to share more of downtown Plovdiv’s many charming windows. How fortunate that we visited during winter, when the numerous large trees that provide welcome summer shade had tossed away their leaves, allowing one to see most of the windows clearly.

They’ve really captured my imagination. Who was looking out? And when? Who was looking in? And why? Bulgaria’s history is tumultuous. Like that of all the Balkans, peaceful periods, often accompanied by relative prosperity, were frequently fractured by uprisings, war, occupying forces. Dissent, distress and despair were looked upon by these windows, but they also provided a view of happier times, of freedom from fear, of rejoicing and dancing in the streets. Those looking out surely waved to those looking in, and when occasionally I caught the eye of someone at their window, we both waved, and we both smiled. Maybe they wondered about me.

Who were the craftsmen who created these details? Such skilled artisans must have been in demand. Were they resident in the area, or did they travel from workplace to workplace? Were they given free rein to embellish the structure as they wished, or did the homeowner have specific requirements? Was the work a source of pride and satisfaction to the craftsman, or was it regarded as merely a means to provide an income?

Enough of pondering. Many of these buildings are destined for demolition, that different kind of destruction inevitable in areas subject to renewal. Bulgaria’s moving ahead, but is somebody looking back and documenting these little gems?

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