Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Rila Monastery, BG - Рилски манастир -

The Rila Monastery, BG 

The Church Within the Monastery 
We were lucky with the weather; it was windy but no rain. To get to the Rila Monastery we had to drive towards Sofia and the easiest way was the Highway. There is no need for a Vignette for Motorcycles in Bulgaria, so we had a good ride and made good miles today. All went well; even the ring road around Sofia was OK, much, much better than Bucharest and our GPS, soon after the Ring Road, directed us off into more rural areas.
We met wonderful roads, twisted and a bit up and down hilly territory until…..we came to the worst construction site you could ever imagine. What are those people thinking? How can anyone work like this? For about 3 or 4 miles the road was torn up. There was mud all over the roads about a foot deep. Cut up sections with sharp edges, filled with sand. In some spots we had to ride over the sidewalk but had to ‘jump’ the curb at a wrong, shallow angle, which you normally avoid like the plague. We had no choice once committed to this road. We started riding into the construction site and there was no place to stop, no place to turn around. We were committed to continue or crash. And crashing was just not an option, we were in nowhere land, the ‘workers’ were not around, the area was abandoned. Mud spattered on us, the tires slipped a few times, the rear trying to break out. It was with the greatest concentration, with eyes peeled straight ahead, with me saying "Keep on looking up, go straight, breath evenly, keep on going, steady," to myself. It was horrendous! I could hear Carol on the intercom hyperventilating. All I could do was tell her what I kept telling myself, steady, slow but steady. Keep the bike straight, look straight ahead. Hang on! I could hear her saying: “I don’t want to do this anymore", but once committed, there is just no way out. It was absolutely terrible. I have been in tight spots but this spot was the worst. We expended a lot of energy getting through this section. I am not sure if my past experience helped, it might have, but it sure was a doozy. We made it through; albeit our adrenaline was still pumping after we got out of this hell-hole section. Phew! I would not want many of those spots ever again.  We could not believe the sloppy way this construction was laid out, or the lack of warning signs, or how people could work under these conditions, even on foot. With a heavy bike it was a suicide mission. We ran into it by accident, and it left a mark on me. Never again if I can help it!

The Monastery Is Within This Forested Area
As fast as the construction started, it suddenly ended and from then on it was an OK ride but I felt drained and still on edge until we found our hotel. 

The hotel was a bit difficult to find since even our GPS had no clue as to where it was on the long road leading to the Monastery. I asked a honey vendor and he pointed in the direction we were traveling so we kept on going but buildings were only sporadically seen along the route. Close to the actual Monastery, we finally found our spot for the night. It was a more-or-less 'normal' house behind a high wall with a restaurant sign that turned out to be the spot we were looking for.
Old Cobblestone Streets, Narrow Gates To Go Through 

We were in the middle of a forest. This is the only road leading in and out; hardly any traffic. It felt like the end of the world. Lucky for us the Hotel Pchelina had a Restaurant; there was nothing around to get any food. We ate and drank well, actually. The specialty was ‘rainbow trout’ and it was excellent. Never had better.

The bikes were safely parked on the cobblestones within the walls, the food was good, we were safe and sound and I had the good feeling we had survived day unscathed, but the construction experience overshadowed all. I still cannot understand how easily we got trapped into this huge mess of a road.
Larger Than I Thought It Would Be, Happy Colors 

We slept well and the next morning we took the self-guided tour of the actual Rila Monastery. This Monastery is at, or near, the end of the road and deep inside the mountains. It is a wild looking neighborhood; forlorn looking, surrounded by fog and mountains and a perfect spot if you are a hermit.

Exactly how this Monastery got started, Ivan of Rila, the hermit, lived here and became a Saint.

A Bit Of History 
Gilded Inside Of the Church 
Elaborate Frescoes Inside and Outside the Church

The Monastery, the way it is now, was rebuilt after a fire in 1840 or so, but was rebuilt beautifully. The Moorish looking façade only helps the general appeal. Naturally, the Church itself is full of icons, full of gilded items, full of Christian Orthodox regalia but I was impressed by the look of the Rila Monastery. We took some pictures where we were allowed to do so and I was glad we took this long (dangerous) ride just to see ‘another’ church or monastery. This is a UNESCO spot and it well deserves its’ nomination as the most visited Monastery of Bulgaria. It simply is a classic, well-hidden, gem. We were not swamped by tourists, which helped too. The Rila Monastery has my yes vote for a visit.

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