Bulgaria – Rila, Bansko, Melnik, Plovdiv, Nesebar & Varna

Bulgaria was the last country of our European adventure and luckily, we had reserved a rental car way in advance of the peak tourism season. Our car was waiting for us as soon as we landed, and all the paperwork was on hand so a quick signature and we were off. After grabbing a local SIM, we drove to our first destination, the UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery. Even though we arrived in the late afternoon, we were able to catch a monk who allowed us to reserve a room for the night at the simple monastery accommodations. This meant we had this amazing monastery complex to ourselves long after the last tourists had departed for the day. From Rila, we drove to the alpine village of Bankso for a brief wander before moving onward to Melnik (Rozhen Monastery, Melnik Sandstone Pyramids, and the Kordopulov House museum) for an overnight stay. The next day was a long day with a hike through the Trigrad Gorge to the Devil’s Throat Cave, a windy drive through mountain roads to reach “the Wonderful Bridges”/Chudnite Mostove, a visit to Bachkovo Monastery, Asen’s Fortress and then onward to Plovdiv where we spent two nights. Plovdiv’s old town is a beautiful collection of historical houses bound by cobblestoned streets along with some Roman ruins nearby. An annual folklore festival coincided with our visit so we had a lovely time in pretty Plovdiv! The Black Sea was up next with a brief stop enroute to visit the Roman Forum of Stara Zagora and its Regional History Museum. Our first Black Sea town was Sozopol, followed by Burgas and Nesebar. Nesebar is deservedly popular with tourists…it is a stunning ancient city on the Black Sea coast and a delight to explore on foot. Too bad we only had one night here! From Nesebar, we drove up to Bulgaria’s only desert, Pobiti Kamani, where we checked out the Stone Forest. This natural phenomenon of massive stone pillars in the desert was worth the detour, and we then backtracked to the seaside resort town of Varna for the night. We got our seafood fix here at a local restaurant and not only was our meal incredibly tasty, it was very affordable too.  We are halfway through our time in Bulgaria and it is flying by. More of Bulgaria still to come!

The entrance to Rila Monastery Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria Ceiling murals at Rila Monastery Painted frescoes on the church wall at Rila Monastery Residential section of Rila Monastery. We were lucky enough to get a room for an overnight stay here! Friendly cat; Rila Monastery Evening view of the main church (Nativity of the Virgin Mother); Rila Monastery It was wonderful staying overnight at Rila Monastery because all the tourists were gone and we only had to share the place with the monks The monument of St. Paisiy Hilendarski; Bansko Poster of locals spinning wool; Bansko Bulgarian valevitsa, a traditional washing machine; Bansko Valevitsata Tavern; Bansko Bulgarian valevitsa; Bansko External frescoes on the church at Rozhen Monastery Melnik Sandstone Pyramids Hoodoos at the foothills of the Pirin Mountain Range; Melnik Sandstone Pyramids The Melnik Sandstone Pyramids are a short walk from the Rozhen Monastery A car on top of a massive wine barrel - excellent advertising for a restaurant in Karlanovo Dolls for sale; Melnik Stone alleyway leading to the Kordopulov House in Melnik, the smallest town in Bulgaria Bulgaria's largest Revival-era building, the Kordopulov House is a whitewashed, wooden mansion in Melnik Interior of the Kordopulov House, a traditional Bulgarian home in Melnik The Kordopulov House was built in 1754 specifically for wine production. This is the underground cellar with 600 feet of labyrinth passageways Becky sits in front of a massive wine barrel; Kordopulov House Narrow street in Bulgaria's smallest town; Melnik Skyline of Melnik Melnik is known as the town of Bulgarian wine makers and wine tastings are on offer everywhere Robby with his chicken & pork casserole dish, creamy meatball soup and garlic bread; Melnik One Bulgarian lev coin depicting St Ivan of Rila, the first Bulgarian hermit Washed out road leading to Trigrad Gorge Narrow road cutting through the Trigrad Gorge, a canyon of vertical marble in the Rhodope Mountains Becky in the tunnel to Devil's Throat Cave; Trigrad Gorge Carving inside the Devil's Throat Cave; Trigrad Gorge Trigrad River just before it plunges into the Devil's Throat Cave; Trigrad Gorge Devil's Throat Cave from above; Trigrad Gorge Trigrad River skirting the gorge Natural arch at Chudnite Mostove (The Wonderful Bridges); Rhodope Mountains The Erkyupriya River flowing under the large bridge at "The Wonderful Bridges"; Chudnite Mostove Statue of a man playing bagpipes and a woman serving food in a clay pot The Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary; Bachkovo Monastery Saint George slaying the dragon; Bachkovo Monastery The "Panorama Mural" providing a bird's eye view of Bachkovo Monastery Icon of Jesus; Bachkovo Monastery Frescoes inside a church; Bachkovo Monastery Fresco painted on the interior of a dome; Bachkovo Monastery Detail of a colorful fresco at Bachkovo Monastery Asen's Fortress Hisar Kapia is a medieval gate in Plovdiv's old town Cobblestone streets in the old town; Plovdiv Einstein wall mural; Plovdiv A typical example of a traditional house in Plovdiv's old town People watching sunset from Nebet Tepe Hill; Plovdiv Fantastic free breakfast from Hostel Old Plovdiv The Kuyumdzhioglu House Front façade to the Regional Ethnographic Museum in Plovdiv Cowbells on display at the Ethnographic Museum; Plovdiv Pendant detail; Plovdiv Ethnographic Museum Bulgarian folk aprons on display at the Ethnographic Museum; Plovdiv Interior view of a room at the Ethnographic Museum; Plovdiv Revival house in Old Plovdiv Ancient Stadium of Philipopolis (built in the beginning of the 2nd Century AD for 30,000 spectators to watch gladiator fights); Plovdiv The well preserved Roman theater of Philippopolis; Plovdiv Interior view of the House Museum of Klianti; Plovdiv The lovingly restored House Museum of Klianti in the old town of Plovdiv Bell Tower of St Konstantin and St Elena Church in the Old Town of Plovdiv Hindliyan House; Plovdiv Foyer area of the Stepan Hindliyan House; Plovdiv Hindliyan House dining room; Plovdiv The Bulgarian Lion street art in an underground pass in Plovdiv Mural painted on the side of a building in Plovdiv Street art in the Kapana district of Plovdiv Lots of bars and restaurants in Kapana, the trendy district of Plovdiv Wall mural in Kapana; Plovdiv Cobblestone streets of old town; Plovdiv Beautiful, historic, traditional house in the old town of Plovdiv A rack of ribs for dinner at Rahat Tepe, a beer garden in Plovdiv Cat on a wall; Plovdiv The Balabanov House; Plovdiv Grilled meats on display at the Plovdiv folklore festival; Lauta Park Bulgarian women wearing folk costumes Two girls dressed in their traditional best pose for a photo A gun dealer shows a young boy how to hold a rifle at the folklore festival in Plovdiv Children getting ready to perform at the Plovdiv annual folklore festival Bulgarians in traditional costumes performing a folk dance Children performing at the folk festival Bulgarian folk dancers Singers and musicians at the folklore festival; Plovdiv Bulgarian men performing a folk dance A Bulgarian man flirts outrageously with the female folk dancers Mobile beer bar; Plovdiv Folklore Festival Georgiadi House; Plovdiv Main street of Augusta Traiana at the ancient Roman Forum of Stara Zagora Dionysus's Procession mosaic, a unique 4th Century AD floor mosaic discovered in Ancient Rome's Augusta Traiana; Stara Zagora Unique Thracian face mask on display at the Regional History Museum of Stara Zagora Flower seller; Stara Zagora The 50 meter high concrete memorial complex of the "Stara Zagora Defenders of 1877" Beach umbrellas and lounge chairs on a beach in Sozopol Ginny bar in Sozopol Sozopol central beach Restaurants hug the coastline on the Black Sea; Sozopol Traditional house; Sozopol Traditional wooden houses in Sozopol Saint George slaying a dragon; Sozopol Umbrellas hanging overhead in Burgas Pantheon of the Fallen Antifascists; Burgas Sunset over Nessebar old town Church of Saint John the Baptist; Nesebar The Church of Hagia Sophia; Nesebar Ceramic bowls for sale; Nessebar Free wine tasting shop in Nesebar Church of Saint Paraskevi; Nesebar Traditional painted cart in Nesebar Colorful roses; Nesebar A traditional cart repurposed as a planter; Nesebar "You need a beer" store; Nesebar Traditional wooden houses of Nessebar, an ancient city on the Black Sea Old fishing boat at Restaurant Sevina; Nessebar Half timbered house in Nesebar Flowers adorn a Black Sea restaurant in Nesebar Walking the maze-like cobbled streets of Nesebar is a delight A quiet alleyway in the seaside resort town of Nesebar Cobblestone streets, half timbered houses and churches - a typical sight in Nessebar! Church of Christ Pantocrator; Nesebar Ancient frescoes discovered in the old town section of Nesebar Pobitite Kamani Rock Formations (also known as "The Stone Desert") Stone circle and stone pillars at the only desert in Bulgaria - Pobiti Kamani Frescoes on the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral in Varna Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral in Varna Varna Opera Theater Ancient Roman thermal baths; Varna Varna pedestrian street Statue of a fisherman holding a goldfish; Varna Becky about to dig into homemade tarama caviar (fish roe, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic); Fish House Robby with a mixed seafood platter; Fish House video lightboxby VisualLightBox.com v6.1

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