One Sunday, I tagged along with a couple of friends who said they were going to visit some monastery a little outside the city. Little did I know were going to the Rila Monastery which the most well known and oldest Eastern orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. Apparently it is one of the most important cutural and historical tourist attractions in Southern Europe! Who knew I was going to such a famous place!
The monastery is situated in the southwestern part of the Rila mountains and the drive took us almost 2 and a half hours by car. There are also shuttles available that take you from Sofia to the Monastery and back for less than 50 EUR.
The drive was really beautiful, we drove past open fields and we could see patches of sunflowers and corn being cultivated in various areas. Once we hit the mountains, the pressure dropped slightly which resulted in my ears getting blocked, like when I'm on a flight.
The Monastery is found in the middle of the mountains which adds to the tranquility of the place. There is so much greenery and silence that you can literally feel how peaceful the place is. We went into the monastery which seemed to resemble a courtyard with the residential building as the boundaries and the main church taking up an impressive piece of space. The main church has beautiful architecture and paintings on the walls and the domes. The inside is even more impressive with a huge gold chandelier and intriguing wood work. The alter is easily the most captivating being made entirely in gold with very intricate work on it. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the church but I managed to discreetly sneak in a few snaps.
The courtyard is paved with stone and has really tall pine trees around. There are also these little taps which give out fresh cold water straight from the mountains. Its a very refreshing drink. Visitors aren't allowed into the residential areas, but the four storey structures were very simple and quaint. There were also a few souvenir shops inside the monastery selling various trinkets from key chains, paintings, bracelets and a bunch of other things! We skipped visiting the museum and proceeded to go get some food.
The outside side of the monastery is pretty with a lot of nature and a stream running there. There are a few places to eat and a store that is known for its home made honey. i settles for these plain doughnuts that were drizzled in chocolate, blackberry, strawberry and caramel sauce! Sugar over dose! We walked to this kind of platform that gave you a beautiful view of the mountains. there was also an old woman selling hand made woollen socks which were the softest material I have ever felt!
Post lunch, i got a little bored with waiting for the rest of my companions to finish, so another friend who ate doughnuts with me went exploring a little. we walked down towards the stream and wet out legs in the cool mountain water, then we proceeded further down to a more deserted path. Turns put we had gotten further into the mountains and we were walking in a denser path along the stream. we crossed a small bridge and kept walking along the trail. pretty soon there was just trees and greenery and birds chirping! we had completely lost sight of the main village. it felt absolutely amazing to be trekking around! Unfortunately the trail ended at someones house which was situated towards the base of the mountain, near the stream.
I pretty much slept thru the drive back home cause I was pretty exhausted but i was really glad to have been able to visit such an eminent heritage of Bulgaria .