A Travellerspoint blog

Hiking through the hills; Preobrazhenski Monastery

Preobrazhenski Monastery and Veliko Tarnovo


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

Today was another beautiful, sunny day, so I decided to take full advantage of it with a visit to Preobrazhenski Monastery. It lies a few kilometres away, on one of the hills near to Veliko Tarnovo. 'R' and her friend 'T' planned to walk both there and back, but my back has been bad recently so I decided to go there by taxi and then join them for the hike back.

They had only been there for a few minutes when I rolled up in the taxi. What a beautiful monastery, and in such a wonderful setting! The views of the surrounding hills are dramatic. Inside the monastery grounds there was the church itself, with recently-restored frescoes on the inner and outer walls; a beautiful new stone bell tower that replaced one that had been destroyed by falling rocks; brick and stucco accommodation quarters with wooden stairs and balconies; and a courtyard with trees, one or two benches and a little stone building with a wooden deck and tables.

IMG_8586.JPGIMG_8596.JPGIMG_8583.JPGIMG_8592.JPG023f29a0-2251-11e9-a91f-95b6ee22153d.JPGIMG_8585.JPGIMG_8595.JPGIMG_8594.JPG

I could also see one or two large boulders which had fallen from the cliff behind - these were the prime cause of the damage to the former bell tower. T told us a story about how the monastery church was saved once many years ago, when a large boulder, which was heading straight for it, miraculously split in two just before it got there.

The interior of the church was typically very atmospheric. I paid 3 leva to go in, but it was 100% worth it. The fresco restoration had clearly not quite finished yet, because when I looked up at the ceiling I could see the sharp contrast between where the clean, bright colours ended and the dirty ones began. I wonder how many years of candle smoke had caused this amount of dirt to build up. I know the frescoes were finished in 1851; maybe they had never been cleaned until now?

IMG_8591.JPGIMG_8589.JPGc62f6140-2251-11e9-a91f-95b6ee22153d.JPG

I lit a candle for Dad, before leaving the church and climbing the bell tower. I admired it once again as I did so; they had rebuilt it very sensitively, so it fitted in beautifully with the surroundings. No ugly concrete! I was wowed by the views from the top.

IMG_8616.JPGIMG_8607.JPG3fae08a0-2257-11e9-a485-496590cf2cc0.JPGIMG_8604.JPG42c819e0-2257-11e9-a4a1-3fd4d1888315.JPG42987e60-2257-11e9-a485-496590cf2cc0.JPG

Once we had all looked round, T led me and R round the corner and down a pathway to a tiny little church and overgrown cemetery.

ba6fa990-2257-11e9-9404-33e02fa91d65.JPGIMG_8622.JPGIMG_8624.JPGIMG_8614.JPG

This is where lots of monks and the benefactors of the building of the monastery were/ are buried. The church is no longer in use, but the door to the crypt was open, so we went in. T said that when she came here a few months ago, it was filled with bones from where skeletons in the cemetery had been dug up! Unfortunately I can't remember why she said this had happened. Maybe, because it is so small, the graveyard is getting too overcrowded. We saw wooden boxes piled up on the floor and on one wall a shelf of human skulls with black writing on them. On closer inspection, we saw dates and years - 1889, 1893... we assumed these were details taken from the gravestones.

IMG_8620.JPGIMG_8617.JPG

From there we retraced our steps to the monastery and struck out down the road. I was interested to see what appeared to be lots of white and sky-blue boxes in a small field; there seemed to be lots of bees around, and then suddenly it clicked - they were beehives! I have no doubt that these are owned by the monastery.

0c8574d0-2258-11e9-a68a-9539156abc79.JPG0a905b90-2258-11e9-a68a-9539156abc79.JPG

After a few minutes we left the tarmac road and climbed a woodland path up the slope of the hill directly on our right. The walk through the wood was pleasant; as we got higher and higher and could see through the trees, we started getting an even better view if the scenery than we'd had at the monastery. Eventually we came out onto a track right near the top of the hill. We walked parallel to the length of the valley for a while; I felt like I was on top of the world! It was such a fantastic experience.

IMG_8628.JPG385fce20-2258-11e9-a485-496590cf2cc0.JPGIMG_8629.JPGIMG_8630.JPGIMG_8632.JPG37edf980-2258-11e9-a485-496590cf2cc0.JPGIMG_8633.JPG

It was hot work, and we stopped on several occasions for a drink of water. Eventually we reached an exceptionally lush meadow with a gradient of at least 45 degrees; by the time we got to the top I was knackered. We had been hiking for at least an hour, if not nearly an hour and a half.

IMG_8637.JPG74b9c970-2258-11e9-a4a1-3fd4d1888315.JPG

At the top of the meadow we reached the base of the top of the hill - the barrier between us and the top of Veliko Tarnovo - but we didn't need to climb it because a short path led round the base. At the foot of the hill we came across a large pipe gushing ice-cold, crystal clear water into a stream; 'T' said it was safe to drink, so I filled my water bottle and took a long swig. How welcome that was!

Round the corner from there and we joined a tarmac road. This turned out to be the upper edge of the town. I bought an ice cream and some Diet Coke from a small supermarket to keep myself going on our walk down the hill to the town centre. As we came down the hill, through the historic Varusha quarter, the view was amazing; Veliko Tarnovo spread before us, and I could see the hills and enscarpments beyond. I felt so lucky to be there.

IMG_8641.JPGIMG_8642.JPGIMG_8643.JPG

Posted by 3Traveller 10:16 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art monastery dad bulgaria veliko_tarnovo orthodox_church preobrazhenski_monastery

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Required
Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: