Krumovo Aviation Museum, Plovdiv
22.08.2014 § 2 Comments
I have been to Plovdiv many times over the years, and I’ve slowly noticed a creeping and disquieting phenomenon that many travellers may have experienced. I call it “The Old Town Gravwell” – it seems that, in an unfamiliar or semi-unfamiliar city, we tend not only to stay close to the city centre, which is usually historic and on a hill, etc. but we will perceive leaving the city centre as at least quadratic in difficulty as compared to the distance we have to travel. The farther someone proposes we go, the less likely we are to try it, especially if it involves some form of dubious local transit.
This is the main fallacy that has kept me from visiting the Krumovo aviation museum for some 20 years. And it is so, so wrong, because:
- Yes, the Aviation Museum is in a village some 7 km outside the city (gasp!).
- However, it is extremely easy to get to (15 minutes by commuter rail) and you can go and come back in a single morning.
- It houses a concise, bilingual and very interesting exhibit, especially if you are a space travel buff or a fan of military aircraft.
- It is so. Damn. Cheap. 5 leva gets you round trip train fare and an admission ticket (if you’re a student). It is only slightly more for adults with real jobs (4 Leva as opposed to 2).
For current details of the museum’s operations, go to their official website.
There is a modern, Siemens-made air-conditioned train that links Plovdiv to the nearby city of Asenovgrad. It’s essentially commuter rail, making the half-hour round-trip journey throughout the day (6:30 am until 7:30 pm hourly, except 10:30 am). It leaves from the main Plovdiv railway station. Buy a one-way ticket to Mavrudovo station inside (for 1.30 Leva), then head into the underpass. Plovdiv station’s platforms are numbered 1-6 and 11 (7-10 are through tracks), and you’re looking for platform 11. Head into the underpass and follow the tunnel all the way down, then turn right. You will emerge on an unmarked platform whose walls are covered in some pretty cool graffiti.
Hop on the train, armed with your ticket, and count three stops. On the third, disembark at what looks like the middle of nowhere and head straight through the parking lot. You’ll see a gate with the word МУЗЕЙ (“museum”) written on it. Go through and follow the path past the fighter jets and hangars, then head into the building on the left.
The museum is open from 9 am until 5 pm (summer) or 4 pm (winter), Wednesday – Sunday. Please note that there are no refreshments at the museum, so bring lots of cold water. In the summer especially, the outdoor exhibit area is bright, hot and devoid of shade.
The outdoor exhibit
Some 60 airplanes and helicopters await you, as well as anti-aircraft trucks, radars and rockets. Most aircraft were formerly in use by the Bulgarian Air Force, so Soviet-era Russian airplanes abound (including a training jet like the one in which Yuri Gagarin lost his life), but there are also Czech, Bulgarian, and French aircraft, large and small. At the discretion of the museum attendant, you may enter one or two of the airplanes, and one is about to be turned into a children’s play structure (!)
The indoor exhibit
The indoor exhibit is compact but rich. The Flight and Aviation hall is devoted to the history of Bulgarian aviation, from the very first Bulgarian to fly (on a French balloon) through the Balkan and First World Wars, the Battle for Sofia during WWII (when a vastly outnumbered and outgunned Bulgarian Air Force tried to hold back the British-American carpet-bombing of the city), to present day. The centrepiece of the hall, behind aircraft engines and cross-sectioned missiles, is Georgi Bozhinov’s prototype airplane, built in 1926.
The Space Flight area of the museum is the real highlight for me – it contains the reentry capsule of the Soyuz-33 spacecraft: the actual spacecraft that launched and safely returned the first Bulgarian cosmonaut Georgi Ivanov in 1979, complete with its full, undamaged parachute. Alongside the capsule you can see Ivanov’s training and flight suits, a cosmonaut’s emergency medkit and supply box, freeze-dried Bulgarian food and lots of other small artifacts.
The Asenovgrad – Plovdiv train stops at Mavrudovo station 6 minutes after the hour from 6:06 am until 7:06 pm (except 10:06 am). Because Mavrudovo is more of an empty field than a station, you will have to buy your return ticket to Plovdiv from the train conductor. The cost is still 1.30 Leva.