Sunday, February 7, 2010

Back to Rila

On our way to Sandanski this weekend, we decided to take a little side trip to Rila Monastery, the most visited site in Bulgaria. We first went there on our orientation trip a year and a half ago. Founded by the hermit Ivan Rilski in 927, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage sight that sits amidst the Rila mountains. Earlier this year, I was able to peer at Rila from the ridge far above, during a hike on Maliovitsa (in the background). Ever since then, I've been wanting to see it coated in snow. The weather kindly obliged, and the only question was weather we'd be able to make it up the rock-strewn access road. Luckily it was on the south side of the mountain, and early morning sun was already melting the snow.

Rila is known for being a sanctuary to Bulgarian heritage during the long Ottoman occupation. Its library houses 16,000 volumes, many of which are hand-written originals. The impressive frescoes were painted in the 1840s and remain remarkably bright today. (Thanks to Thomas Cook for this information.)

Bulgaria's stray dogs have even made it to Rila, where they beg for alms from visitors.

Though it is often overrun with tourists, Rila is still a working monastery.

You can see the monk from the previous picture on the middle level here, perhaps walking toward his room. These halls are off limits to tourists.

The impressive fresco lining the main monastery.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me learn while I look. I enjoyed the monk, the frozen tongue, the fresco, the friendly couple - all of it. JM