I didn't have much interest in flowers before until I started collecting stamps and postcards. Then I noticed that some people collect flower postcards and stamps only, and looking for such to send them, I learned a bit more about flowers. I still collect touristic postcards and don't have an interest in flora cards, but still seeing flowers in the wild has become quite attractive to me, and I wish there was somebody to point out each flower and interesting plant and to tell me a few things about it.
In Rila, there are so many flowers that the fields look like paintings. Most common colours are yellow and purple. I saw for the first time St.Peter's cross and some others. And I picked up some herbs for herbal tea: thyme and St. John's wort. We already had some tea from my dried herbs, it's delicious.
Rila National Park is a protected area because of its wildlife and flora. We didn't see any of the bigger animals (such as bears or mountain goats), and not even rodents, but I guess they avoid tourists. We only saw some beatiful birds like the one on the photo that I don't know the name of. And of course, the frog in Skakavitsa waterfall:)
The last part of the path to Skakavitsa hut goes by the river which is falling down in beautiful cascades and little waterfalls. The path is so steep that you get out of breath quite fast, so this is a great way to relax while enjoying the view. The cascades come up one after the other as you climb. Just watch your step.
Skakavitsa waterfall is supposed to be the highest one on the Balkans. It is within a 30-minute walk from Skakavitsa hut. The path goes by the river and through flower fields so it's very nice. If you want to climb a big higher from the base of the waterfall, you need some more time. We climbed quite high, basically as high as one could get without special equipment (it could be dangerous though!) and we got our shoes a bit wet. We had just finished our water so we refilled the bottle with fresh waterfall water. It tasted great! And we saw a frog soaking in a little pool between the boulders.
A "must see" for any trip to Bulgaria is the Rila Monastery. Situated in the beautiful mountains of southwest Bulgaria, the Rila is the country's most visited tourist destination and a holy place for Bulgarians. Stepping into this ancient wooden Orthodox Church transports the visitor back into early Bulgarian history. The monastery was founded in the 10th century by Ivan Rilski (John of Rila) and the monastery has evolved through time to become one of Bulgaria's most treasured places. Still maintained today by Orthodox monks, the Rila Monastery is open to travelers who want to escape and find a place where the spiritual world brings peace and solitude. Beautiful, spiritual and amazing are just a few adjectives that describe the Rila Monastery...deep in the mountains of Bulgaria.
You can check out my article and photo gallery of the Rila here:
Rila Monastery Photo Album--->
Rila Monastery Article with photos--->
The Rila Monastery is a special place and has helped preserve the pride, national identity, faith, and hope for all Bulgarians through the centuries. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site that will be preserved for all future travellers seeking its treasures.
You can see my photos of the Rila Monestary ----->
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Read the entire Rila Monestary article with photos----->
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Our trip to Rila was pre-VT time so I didn't take many photos, though at the time I thought I was taking lots of them. For instance I have not taken any photos of the ceiling frescos which are so beautiful. Now I cannot understand why. Probably because I knew that we had to arrange our ride back and wasn't able to concentrate on enjoying the monastery and what it had to offer. There were many vaults which for some reason I find soothing and always take many photos of them, which my friend finds bit amusing and she loves to tease me about it. Here are some examples of vaults in Rila.
In the afternoon we knew that we had to find a lift back to the station. It was obvious that there was no public transport. We asked some tour buses but the answer was no. There were no taxis in sight and not many private cars either. I was in no panic but a bit worried though I know that things tend to arrange in a way or another. We saw a taxi to arrive and some tourists got out of it. We walked to the car and asked the driver if he took us to the station. The tourists had booked him to take them back and were worried that he would disappear, but he assured them that he'd be back on time. We agreed the price and off we went. If the man up to Rila drove like a maniac it was nothing compared to the way this young man drove. It was really scary but we got to the station in one piece! Later we realised that we had paid the driver 10 times more than he had asked, by mistake and it wasn't a lot. No wonder that he looked so happy when he left!
We had to wait for some time for the train, but it arrived and took us safely to Sofia, where another adventure in trying to find accommodation began. All in all our visit to Rila was worth it and now we have some funny stories to tell though at the time of them happening it was not always funny. I just wish that we would have had more time in Rila...there's another time I hope....
We really admired the beautiful buildings there, whcih reminded me of Spain, maybe because of the Arab influence in them. Even though I am not a worrying type I ahve to admit that I couldn't help thinking of how we would get back to the station from the monastery and it spoilt some of our stay there. The monastery was founded in the l0th century by the Bulgarian monk St. John of Rila and was rebuilt in the l3th -l4th century. In the l5th century, when Bulgaria fell to the Ottoman Turks, the monastery was abandoned for a short time but in the second half of the same century it was restored to a new life.
We began to explore the monastery area and it was so beautiful. Surrounded by stunning mountains, one of which was Rila's highest mount-Moussala (2925m). If we had had more time we would have loved to take some hikes and see more of the breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately we had a bus ticket from Sofia to Sunny Beach for the following day and the day after that we would (hopefully) flying back to Finland. Anyway this was Bulgaria we had wanted to see away from the tourist filled beaches.
In the morning we walked to the railway station and began to arrange a ride to Rila. It wasn't easy because when people heard that we spoke foreign language they disappeared. Finally the man who sold tickets found two men who agreed to take us to Rila and back (at least we thought so) in their car and finally we were heading to our destination. The storm in the previous night had cut trees and branches and they were on the road but it didn't stop the man behind the wheel to drive like a maniac and were were begin to wonder if we would ever reach our destination. We did. As soon as we got out of the car it took off and drove away. So much of the return ride to the station. It was a chilly but sunny morning and we were hoping to get breakfast. We were dreaming of a cup of hot coffee but learned that the power was off due to the storm. There went our dream. We however found some croissants and our mouths were watering. Didn't last long as we discovered that they were filled with chocolate! Yukky! We bravely ate them though.
These are the huge pots where the monks cooked i guess several years or decades ago...its so darkish inside and the pic is not quite good but you can appreciate the huge ones and the chimney (second pic)..there is a mill also on the right side ..quite interesting
This is the view you get in the other end of the inner square....after cross a tunel you are in the amidst the mountains with a beautifull spring running down..and *** !! some souvenirs stalls ..some small restaurant and not much more
This is the general overview of this complex...its like a rectangular area with the main orthodox church just in the middle ..3 levels with wooden stairs and banisters show gorgeous views from the scenary and the mountains surrounding it
After some time lost in Sofia trying to get the right road to Rila we get to Rila crossroads and turn left to take it...after another road narrower and getting in to the countryside towns we stopped in this small town to take a drink ... people were so weird and they were looking all the time to us.. as we were the rare !!! stupid people !! lol
Mussala is the highest peak in Bulgaria and on the Balkans. Also it is Bulgaria's coldest place (annual mean of -2,9'C). It is covered with snow for 8 months and it's foggy up there around 250 days a year. . However, this shouldn't disencourage you from going there. Climbing takes about 4 hours from the gondola station and it's not too hard, I've seen 4-5 year old kids on the path (climbing faster than me). There is a hut and a small shop on the way, a shelter just under the peak, and a small shop right on the top, where you can have the highest-brewed tea on the Balkans :))
Along the way you see the seven Mussala lakes (which are different form the Seven Rila lakes). I went there last August. We had very good weather almost all the way to the top and had the change to enjoy the views and take pictures. Then suddenly it got very foggy and at the top the fog was so thick that you couldn't see anything. Climbing down, we left the fog behind us so we could enjoy the view again.
There is an iconographer located just outside the walls of Rila Monastery. His studio is next to the store and near the 2 cafes on the far side of the monastery. He does beautiful work, and they are reasonably priced. If you are going to buy an icon in Bulgaria, why not buy one that is hand-written (in Orthodox terminology, icons are "written," not painted) rather than manufacted?