Directly from the airport, we went to the most popular world heritage site to Bulgaria.
Go directly from the airport to the World Heritage Site
Friday night 9pm flight to Istanbul. Sofia, Bulgaria after a 4 hour wait in Istanbul. The flight from Istanbul took about 1 hour and 30 minutes, so it was very quick. I arrived at Sofia Airport around 10:00 a.m. First of all, I rented a car which will be my car for this whole trip.
Even if you’ve driven a rental car abroad many times, you’ll be nervous when you first rent a car, especially when you’re driving in a new country. Especially in Eastern Europe, you don’t know the road conditions well. I was also worried about the letters on the signs, but fortunately there were English signs at the same time, so I was fine.
The Monastery of Rila – the most famous World Heritage Site in Bulgaria
Driving a little more nervously than usual, the first place we headed to was the Rila Monastery. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bulgaria.
Location. We rented a car in the northeast of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, while Rila Monastery is located 60 km south-southwest of Sofia. Because the monastery is located in a steep mountainous area, we took the highway to the west of the monastery and then went back to the east for about 10 km. The highway had some ups and downs peculiar to Europe, but it was solid. The car was not so good (Japanese car Suzuki, automatic transmission), so I couldn’t drive comfortably.
It took about 2 hours from the airport to reach the monastery. It is a very popular tourist spot, but I couldn’t find a large parking lot. When I went near the monastery for the time being, I was able to park there luckily because a parking space in front of me was open by chance. There was a person in charge of the parking fee was taken, but I think it was about 200 yen in Japanese yen. (I forgot the detailed amount.)
The monastery is one of the most famous monasteries in Bulgaria, so it was crowded with tourists, but it was not overcrowded like in Japan. The tourists came from many different backgrounds, and as far as I could hear, most of them spoke English, but I also heard Italian and French. As for Asian people, I guess they are Chinese. However, compared to Western Europe, there are not so many. I didn’t see any Japanese tourists.
History of the Monastery of Rila
The Bulgarian people first became Christians in 865 A.D. through the measures of Knyas Brois I. He is considered a saint in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He is considered to be a saint in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. I had a vague idea that Christianity in Bulgaria dates back to the Roman Empire, but I was surprised to find out that the history of Christianity in Bulgaria is surprisingly new. The monastery in Rila can be traced back to the 10th century. St. Ioan, who was born in a neighboring village, started a monastery here, and many believers and monks gathered from the neighborhood hearing the rumor, and built a cathedral and a monastery here.
Impressions of the inside, a different atmosphere from the Eastern churches I saw in Greece.
For me personally, this is the first time I have seen a Bulgarian Orthodox religious institution. I have seen many Orthodox churches in Greece, but when I compare them with the Christian institutions in Bulgaria, I have the impression that the icons in the Bulgarian churches are mainly painted ones.
Of course there are many painted icons in Greece, but I remember seeing mosaic icons more often than painted ones.
In the center of the monastery is the Church of the Birth of Our Lady, and photography is not allowed inside. It is very well maintained, especially the golden ornaments of the iconostasis in front are very beautiful. This iconostasis is typical of Eastern churches and can only be seen on weekends during mass when the priest appears.
Immediately enjoy Bulgaria’s famous teppan dish « Sachi ».
After walking around the monastery, we had lunch at one of the hotels facing the monastery, as it was just after noon. This was my debut in Bulgarian cuisine. I’ll write more about the food and wine in a separate post, but here are some pictures of what we ate.
A Bulgarian speciality called sachi. It is a teppan dish. It is very hearty and cheap. It seems to be common to share it with others. However, I thought it was a little bit too much because it was the first day just after we arrived. It tasted good though it was a big taste and it was thick.