Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Rila Monastery (UPDATED with video)

Rila Monastery is just about the biggest tourist attraction for Bulgaria.  From Bansko, one could trek over to Rila.  For us mortals, we had to bus around the mountains through Blagoevgrad (we could hardly get our mouths around that name).

Everyone on the internet raves about staying overnight in the monastery, which I found dubious, probably because both being a cynic and an atheist.  Since we wanted to use the opportunity to do some hiking in the surrounding national park, we planned to stay for two nights.  That should entitle me more for my disdain, ha!

It turned out my suspicions were easily vindicated.

1.  To book a room, we had to fill out an application to the abbot attesting to purpose of  our stay to be pilgrimage.  I signed my name with some hesitation, but the monk didn't care.  He was only interested in collecting the fee.  This is the very first time we had taken and paid for a room sight unseen.  Our room, rather, cell, was primitive, but clean enough, except, it REEKED of cigarette smoke.  John was dispatched to complain to the monk.  I was a little amazed when he came back with the key to a different cell, whew, we didn't have to inhale stale smoke for the night.  Our relief turned out to be premature: the water heater didn't work.  Now that John was experienced at dealing monks, he got us yet another room.  I later realized that a number of the rooms are occupied by monastery workers, who have the rooms that are in better working order.  Considering the monastery charges 50% more than most of the other rooms we had in Bulgaria, the monastery rooms were rather uncaredfor and unloved, though the outside looks rather resplendent and impressive, maybe even gaudy.

2.  After we finally settled into our third room, I was able to take in the goings-on.  Being in the middle of the afternoon, the courtyard was teeming with tour groups, not pilgrims, more like gawking villagers at a circus, none of the solemnity of a monastery.   No wonder people feel the need to overnight at the monastery to experience the peace of the place.  That was about all it was, peace, not atmosphere, at least by my books, the hard customer I am. Nine monks are just not enough to emit enough atmosphere for such a large place.

3. I had spent much time studying the bus schedule for the monastery, notoriously difficult to reach on a day trip.   After two days, it finally dawned on me: the buses are designed for commuting monastery workers, not visitors, since most visitors arrive in cars or tour buses. As the monastery has only nine monks, the place is run like a factory, dormitories for resident workers and buses for commuting workers.

Would I have been be happier if Rila billed itself as a museum with working monks?

The hike to Dry Lake in the Rila National Park on the second day was much easier to enjoy.

Main Gate.
Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

Domes.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Tourists + Mountain Setting.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Our room - top floor, far back.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Cells around the courtyard.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Monastery just after sunrise.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Animals on the road to Kirilova Polyana (Kirilova Meadow).
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

On the Green Trail to Suhoto Ezero  (Dry Lake).
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Dry Lake was not so dry.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

John named this wild hyacinth "Nature's Perfection".
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastery is an orange speck in the valley.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

We don't usually like caves but had to climb through this hole near St Ivan's Cave. Legend has it that you are "free from sin" if you make it through.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

Monastery late afternoon.
Rila Monastary, Bulgaria

And some video.






2 comments:

Kathy said...

Two nights? I was very glad to move on after one! My bed springs were so feeble I would have done better to put the mattress on the floor... I did think it was worth being there after the (other) groups had gone.

Super pics, as usual.

Sun-Ling said...

@Kahty, I do have to confess that the room we ended up in was a quad, two beds each in two separate rooms, and a cloak/luggage room the same size as the bathroom. The bed frames looked fairly new, mattresses thick and firm. Also, since there was not the distraction of internet, we caught some extra snooze.