I’m not sure why, (My Bulgarian is not getting better!) but Lynn and I seem to be getting “more adventurous”. Lynn traveled to Sofia by herself, and got there even when the train she was on never left the station. (and there were no other trains). I traveled with my counterpart to Veliko Tarnovo (4 hours north) last week for a PC conference. Krum drove, and I navigated us through the mountains – it was easy. Next weekend, Lynn is doing a seminar for current PC volunteers in Kazanluk (about a two hour train ride northeast). I am going with her. And Monday (Sept. 21) we made our first “day trip” adventure outside of Plovdiv. We visited Bachkovo Monastery which is about a 40 minute bus ride into the Rodopi mountains just south of us. Most importantly, we got there and back without having any “adventures” (i.e. problems). Even better, we found a gorgeous place to visit.
We both had Monday off as part of the Bulgarian Independence day long weekend. The weather was spectacular. Clear skies, crisp air, beautiful early fall day. We had read about the monastery. It is the second largest in the country, and is located a short distance into the mountains. It was first built in 1063, but has been “rebuilt” several times due to wars and destruction. We had visited a small monastery during our pre-service training, and wanted to see this one. So… we packed up our rucksack and took off. When we got there, we had to walk through a half mile of “trinket” stands with food, toys, clothing, pottery, and honey stands before getting to the entrance. It is almost like the bible story when Christ tossed out all of the “money changers” in front of the temple. I guess some things don’t change over time.
We had brought Lynn’s camera, and were hoping to get some good pictures of the Monastery. However, they did not allow any photography anywhere inside the walls. I was a little bummed out. However, we had a great time just wandering around the grounds, talking to one of the monks, and visiting the 300 year old chapel.
We had read that there were some short trails that were “not well marked” according to our guide book starting from near the monastery. We found them outside the gate, and decided to take a walk! Four and half hours later, we got back from our “short walk”. It was unbelievably beautiful!!! The trail continued going up further into the mountains. Along the way, there were several other buildings associated with the Monastery. These included small 400 year old chapels situated on cliffs or nestled in-between 300 year old trees, and monk “hermitages”. In addition, there were other local hiking trails continuing even higher into the canyons. Everywhere there were spectacular views.
It was great to be out of the city. It was wonderful to find this treasure so close to us. We will visit it again – and probably often (unless we find other spots just as nice). Enjoy the pictures of our day.Mike