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Bulgaria: Rila Monastery

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Rila Monastery | Bulgaria | Europe

[Visited: April 1989]

In a time when I still had to hunt for the cheapest possible tickets, I ended up in Sofia, Bulgaria on the way to Zimbabwe. Actually, from Amsterdam I had a stopover in Vienna before arriving in Sofia. Then, another plane would take me to Harare via Malta and Lagos, Nigeria. Instead of a non-stop flight, this looked like adventure to me! And it was even possible to stay a few days in Sofia. Obviously, this is exactly what I did. But the airline paid only one night in a luxury hotel, and I decided to stay in another place for the other nights. So I went to the tourist office, and at least at that time the country was not touristy at all. In fact, it was just half a year before the Berlin Wall came down and Bulgaria was known as one of the better allies of the Soviet Empire.

Picture of Rila Monastery (Bulgaria): Rila Monastery surrounded by woods and snowy mountains

Communicating was not even difficult and soon the only other option appeared to be staying in a private home. This is what I did. After staying nearly 8 weeks in the late summer and autumn of Zimbabwe, I stayed again a few days in Sofia. Upon arrival, tired of the long flight with the same stops, I longed for a bed. The customes officer made me sign a document but when I tried to go through, he stopped me. To make a long story short, I had just signed a document in which I declared that I had nothing to declare while I still had some Bulgarian money on me, worth around US$ 15. After some calculations I had to pay around US$ 250 (cash) for punishment of this crime. The only alternative was going to a Bulgarian jail, the officer told me consolingly.

Picture of Rila Monastery (Bulgaria): Rila Monastery: look from inside the courtyard

These last days I went to the famed Rila Monastery in the mountains with the daughter of the house where I was staying. It wss, at least at that time, surrealistic for me to be walking around an old Bulgarian monastery in the snow and the cold, a day after having left from the nice temperatures in the south of Africa. At that time, I could not imagine that less than a year from that moment, it would become my lifestyle.

Picture of Rila Monastery (Bulgaria): Rila Monastery: view from inside the courtyard

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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