We’ve been a little lax on the blogging lately – apologies. We’ve just been enjoying our surroudings – a lot.
So we did the day trip to the Rila Monastery from Sofia. It was a long day. The monastery is certainly beautiful, but we weren’t able to go and see ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak. Not at all like the sort of living museum set up of the monasteries at Meteora in Greece. So we saw the beautiful church, and one of the museums that was all in Bulgarian, and contained mostly crosses, and a few robes, a few books, a little of this and that. Not quite what we were expecting. The setting was absolutely gorgeous, though. I can see why hiking is such a popular activity in Bulgaria – there’s hardly any scrap of land that isn’t scenic and breathtaking. Well, cities aside. It is possible to stay at this monastery, but we didn’t look into it. Dunno why, we just didn’t.
Random thing we discovered in Sofia – McInternet. Once again, I have to point out that we don’t usually go to McDs, but once in a while, when it’s available, it’s familiar comfort food (in a clean environment!). They also have a walkthrough, which I think is a novel idea. Also, the drive throughs that we’ve passed along the highways (there have been a couple) are called McDrive. It’s a whole new dimension to the Mc, isn’t it?
After Sofia, we decided to find a quiet place to rest up for a few days, and headed to the traditional village of Koprivshtitsa (it took us a few days just to be able to pronounce it!). Another gorgeous mountain setting, this village is nestled in a valley. There are still quite a number of families using horse drawn carts to go about their daily chores; we saw quite a few people in the fields and meadows haying by hand. There were a few tractors and machines, but all small, and probably as many horses (or more) as machines. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse where the woman spoke excellent French (which didn’t stop us from having communication issues in arranging for breakfast one morning). We also had tv – satellite which changed several channels between day and night. During the day we had CNBC, at night we didn’t. We did have one (mostly) English movie channel, and CNN International. Boy, did that get old fast, you’d think not a single news worthy story has taken place outside of Lebanon in the past few weeks! We’re not normally tv people, but sometimes it’s nice to just chill in front of the tube for a bit.
We didn’t really do a whole lot there; there isn’t really a lot to do – a few house-museums (we visited one), and lots of walking/hiking/relaxing. And that’s what we did. There are a number of streams that cross the village, and one day we just followed a path beside one, and wandered through the countryside/forest. Just incredible scenery, the odd paddock here and there, one house, a few horses, with their owners haying in a nearby patch of field (not really fields, as it is quite mountainous). Hopefully the pictures paint a better picture, because I really can’t put it into words.
One evening as we walked about town, and then settled for dinner, we were accompanied by the sounds of a marching band (that wasn’t actually marching). It was quite nice and unexpected. We suspect there may have been a band-camp or something similar happening in town, as the bus that we took from Sofia had a number of youngsters who were seen off from Sofia by their parents.
Although cats seem to be quite common in other parts of the country, the only cat (kitten) that we saw in Koprivshtitsa was promptly shoo’d away by some crumpy old jerk who threw rocks at it – while we were trying to pet it. That certainly hasn’t been typical behaviour here.
There was also a herd of sheep at one end of town; we walked passed a couple of nights to have a look. They had really long fluffy tails (I’ve never really looked that closely at sheep, but for some reason I always thought they had short tails), and really big, um… other parts. Unusually so. I thought they were udders. Until Neil pointed out that they didn’t have teats, and the animals had horns. Ooops!
One evening, the lady that was herding them also had a tiny dog with her, a puppy of the breed that usually becomes sheep dogs – collies, maybe? This thing was so tiny and full of pep, it really did look like one of those battery operated toys that bark and do flips. It was the same size! The lady was having fun, playing with the dog, and laughing at us laughing at her dog. Although I would probably get bored of such a lifestyle, the people of this village really seem to have a nice peaceful way of life. And it is soooo quiet. At night, I don’t think we even heard crickets.
After Koprivshtitsa, we decided to go to Veliko Tarnovo. A quick chat with the lady at the info office made it sound like not too daunting a prospect, take the train to one town, and then there should have been either a train or bus option the rest of the way. Turns out the route we chose required 5 buses and 1 train ride, including a stop in a town so small and remote that it was not on our map, and had not a single taxi. That was a little worrisome, as we had no idea where we were or where to go. (the lady at the bus office in the previous town was trying to help, I think, and she did have it right, but couldn’t get it across to us very clearly, so we didn’t know where we were supposed to go next) Fortunately, a nice group of travelling Bulgarians noticed us walking back and forth up the main street, looking lost and looking helplessly at the Cyrillic bus schedule. They told us which town we had to head to next, and once we got to the next town, we knew where we had to go from there. The hub and spoke transport system means backtracking to hub would have been more efficient, rather than going from small town to small town and hoping to make connections. Still, for all that, the trip was still shorter timewise than that one in Greece. Oh, and it seems that many of the buses in this part of the world were designed for midgets, pre-teens, or anorexic models. The seats aren’t big enough to comfortably accomodate our big western butts!
So, now we are in Veliko Tarnovo, whose main big attraction is a large fortress, of which our hostel has a fantastic overlooking view. Last night we watched a neat sound and light show (minus the sound). Maybe later today we’ll get off our lazy butts and actually go explore it.
That’s all I can think of for now. Hope everyone is making the most of their summers, enjoying steaks and fresh produce, and what all else comes with it. I’m missing my big juicy steaks. Not much beef to be had in this country.