This morning, I woke up late and had to rush to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to join up with the tour group I was going to be traveling to the Rila Monastery with. This was my first time joining a tour group. I had originally wanted to go on my own and spend a night at the monastery (how cool is it that you can sleep there??) But as I went about fine tuning my itinerary, it turned out I was not going to have enough time for this. Getting to the monastery on a day trip seemed like a complicated nightmare. So tour group seemed to be the best option. I was kind of hesitant since the introvert that controls me thought it would be hell on earth. But it turned out that the only downfall was for the other people who had to deal with me being late to meet them, causing us to leave a few minutes late.
The tour included Rila Monastery, Boyana Church and an optional stop for lunch.
I left my hotel in a rush and ARGH I got lost. How am I lost? HOW AM I LOST? The other day when I was here, I had done a trial run to make sure I knew how to get to the cathedral from my hotel. But I didn’t finish the trial run. I got sidetracked by a DUNKIN DONUTS and jumped off the tram too soon. God damn me and my need for iced coffee.
So now I am so lost. Lost lost lost lost lost. LOST.
My tour group leaves at 9:00. I get to the cathedral at exactly 9:00. I run around it like a maniac looking for a bus. There is one bus. I ask the driver if this is my tour bus. Here is when Bulgaria having the nicest people on the planet actually backfires. No, this is not my bus. She asks me to show her the confirmation paper in my hand. I do. She reads it, then goes and asks someone else about it, have they heard of this company/have they seen the bus/maybe I could call the number on the confirmation…
The entire time this is taking place, I am FREAKING out. I have to go. It is now 9:05 I need to find my bus GIVE ME BACK MY CONFIRMATION PLEASE.
I do another run around the cathedral. Now I am positive that they left without me. I try to not cry and instead start to walk back to where I think my hotel is. While still in the parking lot, I spot it. A VAN. A VAN WITH A MAN STANDING OUTSIDE, WATCHING ME. OH MY GOD ARE YOU MY TOUR GROUP?
Yes, yes it is. I believe the tour guide had been watching me run around like a maniac this entire time.
The company name was V Travel. I recommend them. The driver was awesome and patient and despite my fears of joining a group, it was actually quite pleasant.
The tour company website is here (I paid for my trip, they did not sponsor me, nor do they have any idea I am writing this)
I slept the entire way to the monastery. When we arrived, we were greeted with this beautiful entrance. I love the mountains in the background.
The Rila Monastery was founded by St. Ivan of Rila, who was a hermit. I was pretty excited to see how a hermit lived. On days when I am not wanderlusting, my day dreams revolve around me becoming a hermit.
This place is absolutely beautiful. I can never get enough of greenery up against a perfect sky.
Taken from the parking lot. I want to build a tent and sleep here forever.
And the oh so colorful:
The first one I saw, fell in love with me and followed me around. He broke my heart.
Then came the second dog. Oh no. Please no. Do not make me cry. See this dog here?
Identical twins! I kept running after Rila-Gertie yelling “Gertie” This really got me nowhere at all, except maybe on the list of “Crazy American tourist anecdotes” the bus drivers in ear shot of me share with their families over the dinner table at night.
After leaving the Monastery, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant where I got to actually talk to the rest of the tour group. As always, people seem really surprised that I am a solo female traveler. I don’t really get it. I mean, you got here so why can’t I? Companions aren’t required to board a plane, train or bus.
Here is the backdrop to the restaurant. If there is ever blue sky behind green, I will take a picture.
After lunch, we had our final stop at the Boyana church. This church is actually older than the country I live in. It’s crazy when you think about that.
Being that the frescoes inside are very fragile, there are strict limitations on entering. No pictures are allowed, and visitors are limited to 15 minutes at a time.
If you choose to enter, and you hear a voice speaking words you can’t really make out, assume that this voice is saying “Mind your head” and avoid smashing your head into the stone entrance like I did. That really hurt.
Here are some pictures of the grounds:
And finally, how could I ever possibly mention Gertie without showing you the two greatest Halloween costumers she has ever worn??? I apologize for the quality but they were taken way back when my sister had a cell phone that was shittier than the one I have now.
Awwwww. She is quite beautiful, isn’t she?