Sofia, Rila, and Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria Travel Blog

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Rila
Bulgaria: Wow! If you ever find yourself in the southern part of Eastern Europe, spending a few days or weeks in Bulgaria would certainly not be a waste of time. Beautiful scenery, interesting buildings, friendly people, delicious food, and cheap prices; what's not to love?

My first full day in Sofia wasn't actually spent in Sofia. Early in the morning I caught a bus two hours southward to the Rila Monastery, perched high in the mountains.
Rila Monastery
Bulgaria is on the tail end of fall right now so there were still a couple of patches of trees with leaves and the drive in was quite beautiful. The monastery itself was very nice. The walled compound had rooms built along the insides of the walls, facing outwards into a quaint courtyard. Situated here was a delightful church, domed and commanding with frescoes adorning the insides and outside. The inside was just as dark and gloomy as most of the other churches in this area of the world, but still fairly impressive. I also spent half an hour hiking along the trails that crisscrossed up the mountain behind the monastery, reveling in the forest and happy to be back in a land of color after five weeks of desert.

The next morning I did a quick tour of Sofia and took in the magnificent Alexander Norsky cathedral, a massive, multi-domed structure that you can see in most pictures of Sofia.
Rila Monastery
After that I caught a three hour bus to Veliko Tarnovo, about halfway between Sofia and the Romanian border.

I had planned on spending one night in VT before moving on to Romania, but the town was really great and the hostel (Hostel Mostal) I stayed in was simply wonderful so I decided to spend another night. Veliko Tarnovo is situated on a ridge with a river flowing almost completely around it. The tail end of this ridge holds an ancient fortress that has a rebuilt church situated at the top. The view of it and the countryside around is very pleasant, even though the skies were gray and the wind was biting. I checked out the fortress my first afternoon and spent the rest of the daylight hours meandering around the cobble stone streets and admiring all of the centuries old wooden houses and buildings.

I met a few other people at the hostel that night and we had a fun night out on the town.
Veliko Tarnovo
The next day me and another American I met at the hostel decided on a hike to one of the neighboring monasteries. We thought that it'd be a fairly easy affair as the monastery was only six kms along the road. We didn't take the road, though, and spent nearly two hours clambering up and down three giant hills. It was a nice hike, though, and a good way to get out and see the countryside from high up. The monastery wasn't that interesting compared to the one in Rila, though. We walked another two km or so back down to the road where we flagged down a passing taxi and made our way back into town.

I'm now in Brasov, Romania after a full day of train travel. More to come from Transylvania, assuming I avoid the vampires....
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Rila
Rila
Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery
Rila Monastery
Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo
Sofia
Sofia
Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo
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