Sofia and Rila Monastery
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
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The Lonely Planet usually has a suggested walking tour that takes in some of the major points of interest of a city so we followed that around for a while. Some of the things we saw were the Aleksnader Nevski Church which was a huge memorial for the soldiers that died fighting for Bulgaria's freedom in 1877-1878. It was very impressive and absolutely massive. Some lovely churches were the Church of St Sofia, St Nikolai Russian Church and Sveta Nedelya Cathedral (also huge). I love the orthodox churches. There are usually no pews but just chairs around the walls. They have loads of different pictures of various saints that you can kiss and say a little prayer to. People write notes and stick them behind the pictures or leave money. The walls are usually painted and have huge carved facings that shut off the main front nave thing where the priests go and hide. Oil lamps that hang down. They're lovely.
Sofia has a really nice feel to it.
We found an inside market that sold everything from olives to hardware. So we bought some really yummy mini choclate eclairs and baklava.
We found a restaurant with loads on the menu and cheap wine. I love Bulgarian food!!
Next day. We had decided to go with a hostel day trip instead of trying to get to Rila Monastery on our own. It sounded like a bugger trying to get four different buses and then walking for ages. Expensive but at least we could spend more time wandering round the Monastery. It was a over a two hour drive so imagine how long it would have taken on the buses!!
Again, like the other monasteries we've visited so far, it's in a beautiful location in the mountains. Peaks surrounding it. The sun was shining but it must look even more lovely in winter. It's the largest monastery in Bulgaria and apparently is THE major attraction for Bulgarian pilgrims. It was originally built in 927 but was practically destroyed by fire in the 19th century then restored. There is only one original tower remaining. It has a souvenir shop at the bottom where you can buy all your religious necessities. Rosaries, crosses, pictures of saints etc. We took loads of pics and wandered round the sleeping quarters. You can't go in any of them but there are great views from the balconies and you can peer into some of the rooms. It was nice but I enjoyed the smaller monasteries im Romania far more.
Sofia is a great place and I'd love to go back. Especially for the wine and food! The people are really friendly too. Rila Monastery was good to see but it was one of those places like Prague. People rave about it so much so my expectations were quite high but after the monasteries of Bukovina, it had alot to match up to.
Bulgaria, I can't wait to go again.