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March 17th

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Bulgarian Adventure Day 6 – Road Trip

Today we drove to the center of Bulgaria to see a monastery and an ancient castle. On our way out of Sofia, Martin pointed out a large poster at a public bus stop, which was an ad recruiting foster families. The child in the poster is an older child, which reinforces what we were told about the belief that foster care in Bulgaria is intended to give older children the chance to experience family life.  

castale view

 Our first stop was the town of Veliko Tornovo, which is Bulgaria’s former capital. This very old town nestled in the hills reminds us of Sausalito, California, for those of you who have been there! 

View of city & castle

It is situated on a river, known as Yantra, nestled in the mountains where a beautiful castle was built in the second millennium B.C.  We saw the Patriarchal Tower, which housed the King and the members of his kingdom. One of the fascinating sights there is the Balduin Tower where prisoners were kept. The famous legend associated with this tower is that one of the Bulgarian czars captured a Byzantian king who was to be beheaded. He chose instead to take his fate into his own hands and jumped from the tower to his death. It is important to note that Bulgaria, a small country, defeated the Byzantine army and captured their Emperor.

The next stop was the small village of Arbanasi, directly across from the castle. It is an architectural reservation and has some incredible historic homes which are still in use. We had a light lunch and took time to reflect on the great views.  

We then went on to the local monastery known as Preobrajensky. It was built in 1360 and although a small place, the attached church is undergoing some major renovations.

church restoration in progress

The two restoration specialists who are working on the renovations full time report that thus far it has taken six years, and will probably take several more. Renovations are necessary both inside the church and out.

the chair of priests

The paintings and murals inside the church are impressive and will be magnificent once they are returned to their glorious wonder.

painting undergoing restoration

another restoration project

People come from all over to place candles for themselves and loved ones, and also place money beside the small paintings of Mary and Jesus to help fund the restoration. Per Martin, monks still reside in the monastary and they still use horse-drawn carriages, and bells to notify residents that it’s dinnertime.

Upon leaving the monastery, we drove the small road back into Sofia. We passed through and over the Balkan Mountains and saw the impressive mountains that make Bulgaria a haven for skiers. We saw valleys and valleys of sunflowers and it was beautiful.

sunflowers in the valley

At one stop we saw an old Bulgarian couple “turning hay” and using a donkey-drawn carriage to carry the hay. It was certainly a vision of what we have heard about the traditional Bulgarian culture. It was a beautiful sight! We then wound our way back to Sofia after a long, long, but most satisfying day!

donkey pulling a carriage

Bulgarian couple turning hay

More later,

Konnie and Sonya

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