How to have the best ‘Rila’ experience

Howtohavethebestrilaexperience

I’ve been to the Rila monastery twice now. The first time I was amazed by the monastery, the church and the clocktower which are all amazing. But for me, when it comes to these places, I get supercurious about the things behind doors and ‘forbidden’ signs.

”How to buy the ticket that will get you in to the clock tower, the museum, the icon gallery, the guest rooms, the costume collection, the jewelry collection, the blanket/carpet collection and the old monastery kitchen.” Sounds good, right?

So, we went for the second time. After some walking around we saw a sign ‘icon gallery’. It wasn’t that impressive, but there was a lady who told us that we could buy all-in tickets at the museum. While having doubts about these tickets we went to the museum, and after a little Bulgarian chat we decided to buy the tickets for 18 leva p.p.

We went into the museum, which was really nice. It’s not so big, because it’s in a part of the monastery, but they had a beautiful collection with some Bulgarian and English information. After seeing the museum we went outside and somehow figured out that we could climb the clocktower with our tickets! Nice! We went inside and walked several stairs, crossing different floors with some paintings and old ‘hole’ toilets in the walls. From the highest floor you have a nice window view over the monastery from different corners.

When we were back down there was a woman who told us to come with her. We didn’t really know why but followed. She took us to the second floor of the monastery, which I thought was pretty exciting, and unlocked a door. That was the first of 4 or 5 guest rooms in traditional Bulgarian style from several areas in Bulgaria. Seats, carpet, paintings, ovens, a kitchen, closets and much more. Really beautiful.

After showing us these rooms she took us to the third floor (yay!) where she showed us a beautiful Bulgarian costume collection, also from different areas. Since my friend and I really like this and told her about it she started to sing a song for us. So sweet! There was also a jewelry collection and a room filled with carpets and blankets. Amazing.

After that she took us back downstairs and to another corner of the monastery. She told us we could take a look there as well and said goodbye. We were surprised once again, didn’t expect her to leave us. We thanked her and took a look in the old monastery kitchen with a gigantic pizza oven.

After seeing all this we decided to take a break and so we bought ourselves some delicious Mekitsi outside the monastery at the window shop in the building next to it. Mekitsi are typical Bulgarian fried pieces of dough. Jummy!

I had no idea about all these rooms and collections and I’m so glad the woman told us about the ticket! I feel like they’ve got great things, they just don’t know how to sell them.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures from the first and second floor, the rooms and the collections, which was understandable but a bit disappointing. The employees also didn’t speak English, which made it somewhat unclear sometimes. But if you want to see more than the church and the monastery view I can totally recommend this!

Want to know how to get there? Or looking for some more information about the monastery itself? Read more

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Amphi theater | античен театър

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The amphi theater was build in the second century a.C. It has place for 7000 people and it’s amazing. Interesting fact: In the fifth century it got destroyed during an attack led by Attila the Hun. After that the theater was forgotten and abandoned and got covered with earth. It got rediscovered around 1970, when part of the theater was revealed after an earth quack. It got rebuild and reconstructed and is now open in the summer for concerts and performances. You can also visit and take a look around.

The view is amazing. When you sit down on one of the marble stone seats you can enjoy a performance with the best background ever. It’s really amazing.

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Want to go to a performance there? There are performances in the sumer and you can buy tickets in the city center, on the square with the fountain, close to McDonalds. There’s a Costa Coffee there, and across there’s a little white cottage with posters on the walls. They sell tickets for different performances, also the ones in amphi theater. It’s a little bit old style ticket selling and I don’t think they speak English, so here’s the Bulgarian phrase to buy tickets:

Mozhe li dve (2) bileti za … molja? Can I have 2 tickets for … please?

There’s an international folklore festival every summer with performances in the amphi theater. It’s the best and you can go for free! Probably around the end of July / beginning of August.

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Address: ulitsa Hemus | улица Хемус
Coordinates: 42.147490, 24.751233

How to get there?
Somewhere in the middle of the shopping street you find the mosque (pink), part of the ancient stadium and a little park(green). Walk between the mosque and the park and take the street to the right of the church, going uphill. You will see a big yellow building, which is the academy of music and dance. Keep this building on your right. After the building there’s a little staircase, go there, and you will see a big gate and a terrace. Go to the gate and amaze yourself. The entrance for sightseeing is on the left.

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Bachkovo monastery | Бачковски манастир

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When we drove to the Bachkovo monastery, we saw the signs on our way there. The last one led us to the parking lot. After we parked the car we followed the street which went up hill to the monastery. Along the street were many souvenir shops and food stands. They sell pottery, candy, herbs, bracelets and more. I bought myself some herbs once. You will pass a gate and a little fountain and before you know it you will stand in front of the monastery, with on your right some beautiful trees.

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Next to the entrance is also a small fountain. The beautiful gate will lead you to the courtyard, with in the middle an orthodox church, a big tree with a gutter around it, a patch of grass with a fountain on it, chickens and a rooster walking around and the beautiful 3 stories of monk cells (and probably others things, this makes me curious!) surrounding this all.

Also good to know, on the left side of the monastery, opposite the entrance of the church, there’s a door. You should definitely check if it’s open, because there’s another little courtyard behind it with another little church. You can’t enter the church, but the view from outside is amazing already. When you’re not sure about whether it’s okay to go there, ask someone ‘Mozhe li da pogledam kakwo e tam?’ May I see what’s there?

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I really like this monastery. It’s a cozy one and it really feels like you’re back in time (when there aren’t groups of tourists..). I’ve been here 3 times and it has been wonderful every time.

Adress: Plovdiv and the Valley of the Kings | Пловдив и Долината на тракийските царе
Coordinates: 41.943642, 24.855324

How to get there?
When you drive on the 86 between Asenovgrad and Chepelare you will find Bachkovo monastery on the east side of the road. It lies beneath the town of Bachkovo. From Asenovgrad it’s about 10 km, from Chepelare about 43 km. You will see the signs when you get closer, including the one leading to the parking lot next to the road. It’s next to a river, where there’s a walking bridge.

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Hostel Old Plovdiv

1359625375677408 This is a beautiful and cozy hostel in the center of the Old Town of Plovdiv. You’re surrounded by an ethnographic museum, the amfi theater, the top of the hill with an amazing view (watch a sunset there!), part of the ancient stadium, church of the holy mother of god, restaurants, shops with handmade products, the dzhumaya mosque and many more. Wander around in the old streets and take time to look around.

The hostel has several rooms, for 2,3 or 4 people. It’s also possible to have a single room, or to ask kindly for a room for 5. Each room has something special, unique bedframes and antique accessories. There’s even a room with an amazing painting on the wall. None of them have a bathroom, you can find those next to the hallway with the reception.

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In the morning there’s a good breakfast, which you can eat outside in the garden. There’s also a ‘livingroom’ with a big baroque-ish couch and chairs. There’s a computer aswell.
The staff is great, they speak English and know a lot about the old town and Plovdiv. The staff I met was also great to hang out with in the garden! There’s always someone at the reception.

Adress: ulitsa ‘Chetvarti yanuari’ 3, 4000 Plovdiv | улица ‘Четвърти януари’ з
Coordinates: 42.149872, 24.752254

How to get there?
Walking from the shoppingstreet
Somewhere in the middle of the shopping street you find the mosque (pink), part of the ancient stadium and a little park(green).
Walk between de mosque and the park all the way up. Keep the church on your right. When you arrive on a little square go left. You will find the hostel at the left side.

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The busses stop at boulevard Tsar Boris III Obedinitel right after the tunnel. When you get out walk the stairs (red), with the tunnel on your right. Take the second street right, then a left and a right and you will find the hostel at the right side.

From the train/bus station (they’re pretty much next to each other) you can take bus 7, 20, 26 or shuttlebus2. You can buy bustickets in the bus. When with a car or taxi you can either stop at boulevard Tsar Boris III Obedinitel and walk the red route or follow the green line. Taxi’s will bring you halfway up there. There a possibility to park your car when you get on the ‘blue’ street, right before the church.

 

Rila monastery | Рилски манастир

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I love monasteries. They make me curious. To enter you have to pass a gate and the walls don’t tell you what to expect. I’ve seen pictures of Rila, but it’s so big and beautiful! An orthodox church in the middle, with a clocktower next to it, surrounded by more than 300 cells for monks divided over 3 floors. There are many amazing story telling paintings, there’s a little drinking fountain, a tiny post office, a library and a museum. When you go in the church you’ll find yourself in this mysterious, historic, dark surrounding lit by candles.

68884033The largest active religious center in Bulgaria, that’s Rila monastery. It was founded in the 10th century, by Ivan Rilski’s followers after he passed away. He became a saint of the Bulgarian orthodox church and his grave became a pilgrimage for thousands of people. A fire destroyed the monastery in 1833, after which it was rebuild from 1834 until 1862.
The monastery got included to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1982 and is one of the biggest and most visited monasteries in the Balkan.

Rila_Monastery_20110712-110For those who love the peace and quiet that comes with religious places, think about when you will visit. You’re not the only one, and especially in the summer it can be more crowded.

Adress: 2643 Kyustendil
Coordinates: 42.132959, 23.339686

During my second visit I found out there’s a lot more to see! You can climb the clock tower, see some amazing collections (costumes, jewelry) and visit the museum. Click here to read more about how to buy this all-in ticket!

How to get there?
1425461472162422When you drive on the highway E79/1 between Dupnica and Blagoevgrad, take exit 107 to Kocherinovo and Rila. When you get on the 107 drive another 30,6 km. The monastery is much further than the town Rila, don’t get confused about this!

On your way to this monastery you’ll pass
Retromuseum Billy, with a messy but impressive collection antique. From cars to ceramics, sewing machines and horse saddles, they have it all!

Tsarevets | Царевец

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Tsarevets. There’s a lot of history in this monument. A beautiful entrance, on a bridge which will lead you through a gate to what once was a community. The Byzantines build here between the 5th and the 7th century, after which it was rebuild by the Slavs, the Bulgars and the Byzantines again. The Turkish empire destroyed a lot after it’s invasion in 1393. In communist times Bulgaria has left a stamp on it aswell, trying to restore parts.

On top of the hill you will find the restored church. On the outside it fits in with the rest but inside it has been painted in what I would describe as ‘Lord of the Rings’ inspired. It’s beautiful, but when you don’t expect it it can be, well, strange. When you walk to the back of the church there’s an elevator. For 2 leva it will take you to the tower from where you have a great city view.

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In the back you can climb the restored Baldwin tower, where Baldwin I of Flanders – the perfidious Crusader who led the sack of Christian Byzantium in 1204 – got imprisoned and executed after his defeat by the Bulgarians a year later. There are great views from the top.

There’s more to find, like the remains of one of the churches, part of the big wall around Tsarevets and the foundations of the Royal Palace from where 22 kings ruled Bulgaria.

Adress: Tsar Asen Square, 5000 Veliko Tarnovo
Coordinates: 43.082316, 25.648665

How to get there?
howtogettotsarevetsTake the E85 to Veliko Tarnovo. North of the city (in this picture on the right) go to Street Tsar Ivan-Asen II | ул. Цар Иван-Асен II-ри. Follow this road until you passed the bridge in front of the fortress. You will be able to park your car on the left side right after you crossed the bridge. When you go right you will drive all the way to the entrance.

Retromuseum ‘Billy’ | Вехтошарница ‘Шедьовъръ’

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This is what we saw out of our carwindows when we drove to Rila Monastery. We weren’t sure what it was, but it for sure made us curious. We decided to stop there on our way back, and I’m so glad we did!

We looked a little bit around, and thanks to the dog on the property a guy, Ivan, came to us. He told me that it’s a museum and got a piece paper with English information on it. There was a little statue with a glass bowl and some money in it. We could look around and decide for ourselves if and how much we wanted to pay.

Well, they’ve got sooo much! From many beautiful cars to old televisions, radios and turntables, motors, bikes, Singer sewingmachines, ceramics, horse saddles, irons, costumes and blankets.

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He told me he worked here as an employee, his boss, Valentin, has been collecting all this stuff for the next generations Bulgarians. We ended up in his ‘office’, filled with more collected little antique stuff. There I saw a big poster with Bulgarian costumes. I asked Valentin where it came from. He ended up getting parts of costumes out of a drawer behind him. They tried to tell me about a problem with flies which I didn’t understand at first. After some creative Bulgarian talk I understood them. ‘Ah, you mean those flies who have costumes for breakfast?’. Yes, they had moths in the costumes. And they had more. Ivan took us back to the first hall where he showed us a dresser full of beautiful costumes and boxes filled with blankets, aprons and socks. The moths had found them too.. The idea of saving all of this for next generations is beautiful, I’m just not so sure if some things will make it the way they are restored.

Adress: 107 126, 2640 Kocherinovo142546147216242
Coordinates: 42.092479, 23.070299

How to get there?
When you drive on the highway E79/1 between Dupnica and Blagoevgrad, take exit 107 to Kocherinov
o. When you’re about to leave Kocherinovo it’s on the left side.

– They don’t speak English.
+ They’re very polite and want so show you everything!