Rila Monastery – Must-See. As the world becomes smaller, and all apparent information seems to be accessible in a nano-second over the World Wide Web, it becomes more difficult to become wowed when traveling. I recently had a great surprise when visiting Rila Monastery. I knew when perusing Lonely Planet, that Rila Monastery was a must-see. But I avoided looking at pictures on Google Images.
While only a couple of hours from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, Rila is not overly convenient via public transportation. I considered a daily tour but did not want to be restricted by time. I searched for rental cars and was happy to see options for under $25. And then I found a nearby hotel for under $30, less than 100 meters from the monastery, which is nestled in a valley, being hugged by verdant mountains.
I left Sofia late morning and arrived approximately two hours later, navigating through light traffic in Sofia, zooming through empty highways, navigating through small villages, and finally finishing in a small valley, peering at the outside walls of the monastery.
I parked in the back of the Hotel Tsarev Vrah, and lugged my luggage up four flights of stairs to reception. After handing over my passport and 45 Lev, I was led to my room. It was quite a simple room. A singular window that glimpsed the monastery’s wall. A bed and armoire. The toilet seat kissed the sink and a singular showerhead sprayed into the bathroom. A monk would feel comfortable in this clean, neat room.
I threw my bags down and headed to the monastery. Prior to entering the UNESCO World Heritage site, I paused at an outdoor café. Under the strong sun, I dined on a bean soup and a fresh shopska salad with a cold coke.
I took the last final steps in the early afternoon and entered the several-storied, walled monastery. Wow. I surveyed the beauty in front of me. Rila Monastery was surrounded by a four-story, walled structure; with arches, striped in red and black.
A stone bell tower barely cleared the height of Rila Monastery. Rila was resplendent in magnificence frescos on its exterior walls. The monastery was divided into three parts. The first third,was comprised of black and white arches, then the next section was candy-striped, and then finally banana yellow domes topped this historic structure. Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by St. John of Rila. St. John was an ascetic and his dwelling and home eventually became Rila Monastery. The interior of the monastery is filled with more incredible frescos coupled with chandeliers, candles and soaring domes. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed.
In the early afternoon, buses off-loaded groups of tourists who milled around for an hour joined by some locals who entered to light a candle and say a prayer. By evening, I was literally the only person in the complex besides the monks and the staff.
I sat in peace. Breathing in the beauty of Rila Monastery. Satisfied that all I surveyed, was mine alone.
Rila Monastery – Must-See
If interested in exploring Bulgaria, check in with my friend at the Bohemian Blog. I traveled with him and had a great experience!