© 2012 Elys. All rights reserved. Rila Monastery

Day 442: Rilski Manastir

Plovdiv – Sofia – Rila, Bulgaria

Supposedly there’s a monastery (a UNESCO heritage site) up in a mountain called Rila in south of Bulgaria. And supposedly it’s a pain in the arse to get to. But I was determined to make it there.

Upon reading up tons of sites and forums online, I found out that I need to get to Sofia’s west bus station to catch the only direct bus there at an odd hour of 10:20 in the morning. This meant that I had to catch a 6 o’clock bus from Plovdiv to Sofia (2 hours) just to be on the safe side since I still had to make it from the main bus station to the west station.

Jonathan from the hostel tagged along my trip. The two of us departed the hostel at the crack of dawn. Got to Sofia bright and early. We arrived at what we thought was the west station with plenty of time left so we took it easy and had coffee and whatnot. Twenty minutes prior to 10:20am, we went out to wait for the bus, only to find out that we weren’t at the right station. After a bit of a panic moment, we managed to hail a cab and got in the west station just in time for the departure.

The bus ride took us higher up deep into the mountain, passing through small Bulgarian villages. It was quite a contrast from the capital city Sofia. We pulled up in front of the monastery. It stood majestically with its really unique architectural design. I couldn’t stop taking pictures while in there.

I had read that it’s also possible to stay the night inside the monastery. Jonathan and I decided to do that. After all, we went through so much hassle just to get to Rila.

Outside the monastery are some trails within the mountain forest. We followed one that’s seemingly abandoned. It led to a stream then to a small church cemetery. The nature was incredibly pretty. With autumn kicking in, the leaves had started to change colour. If I had had more time, I would have loved to do a few day trek to the peak of the mountain. But alas, I was on a tight schedule, like always. I’d be heading to Macedonia on the next day.

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