A Travellerspoint blog

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Boyana Church

Sofia


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

We arrived in Sofia early in the morning after a seamless journey. We'd been planning to visit a village called Koprivshtitsa once we'd checked into the hostel, but had to abandon that plan after we couldn't find anywhere to buy the bus tickets. We found the smaller bus station next to the central one, but I couldn't find any booth that listed Koprivshtitsa as a destination.

Instead of that we thought it would be great to go up Mount Vitosha, a the snow-capped mountain next to Sofia, but had that plan squelched as well because the hostel staff told us the cable-cars are currently down for maintenance. Instead we swung into plan C - just to explore the city instead and see some sights before Kate and Andrew's last couple of days in Bulgaria. It was another hot, sunny day so perfect for wandering around.

Our first intended destination was the Monument to the Soviet Army, which I recommended and Andrew particularly wanted to see, but on our way there we were irresistibly drawn into a shop on Boulevard Vitosha selling an amazing array of little cakes, biscuity-like things, baklava etc. Kate bought a couple of tulumbi on my recommendation; I'd had these before but Kate and Andrew hadn't. Tulumbi are basically tubes of fried batter soaked in syrup, somewhat similar to churros but thicker and with a softer, almost juicy centre. Delicious!

IMG_6871.JPGIMG_6872.JPGIMG_6875.JPG

Our food adventures then continued because we carried on to the fruit and veg market and discovered an ice cream stand with piles of whipped-up, tasty-looking ice cream in flavours we'd mostly not come across before. I got chocolate, Kate melon and Andrew frozen strawberry yoghurt.

IMG_6878.JPGIMG_6879.JPG

Straight after the market we came to a square with Sveti Sedmochislenitsi church on one side. We hung around in the square to finish our ice creams (and saw a wonderful Samoyed dog and a man on a skateboard pushing himself along with a big stick...) before going inside the church.

IMG_6883.JPG9fc60610-1db2-11e9-bc5d-9b29a4c0a229.JPG

The building is interesting because it was originally built as a mosque by the Ottomans, back in 1528, before being abandoned in 1878 at the Liberation of Bulgaria and used as a military warehouse and prison. It wasn't converted into a Christian church until the early 20th century. Inside seemed pretty typically decorated for a Bulgarian Orthodox church, with frescoes all over the place, icons of Christ and saints, etc. Members of the public were paying their respects to the icons. On our way out we noticed that one of the cases had a relic in it, which made Kate and Andrew feel a little queasy: a preserved finger!

After going on to visit the Soviet monument we returned to the hostel for a while to rest for a bit.

IMG_6895.JPGIMG_6886.JPGIMG_6889.JPGIMG_6898.JPGIMG_6908.JPGIMG_6902.JPGIMG_6901.JPGIMG_6910.JPG

Our destination for the afternoon was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Boyana Church.

IMG_6913.JPGIMG_6923.JPGIMG_6924.JPGIMG_6918.JPG

It is mainly a World Heritage Site because it has outstanding frescoes from 1259. We were shown in and observed by a frankly rather bossy lady, and were only allowed to stay inside for 10 minutes for preservation reasons, which was fair enough because humidity from people's breath etc. can damage wall paintings. I understood why she observed us so closely, because it would be a tragedy if any visitors damaged the frescoes either thoughtlessly or deliberately, but it was still a bit offputting! It was nevertheless a great experience, with the interior being truly breathtaking both artistically and historically. We were all really glad we'd come. We enjoyed the small park surrounding the church before hunting around for a taxi to take us back to the cathedral near the hostel.

We popped into the cathedral briefly as Andrew hadn't been in it before, then walked back to the hostel, picking up pizza slices on the way for a very late lunch.

IMG_6930.JPG

We had a quiet evening, with dinner at the hostel that was provided as part of our room cost - spaghetti with tomato sauce - and then an early night to catch up on sleep.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:55 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art market cathedral hostel buses sisters sofia bulgaria icons explorations orthodox_church unesco_world_heritage_site bulgarian_cuisine boulevard_vitosha soviet_monument Comments (0)

Sofia tomorrow

Veliko Tarnovo


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

Kate and Andrew went on a wonderful day trip today to the rock church of Ivanovo, the rock monastery of Basarbovo, Cherven medieval fortress, Nicopolis ad Istrum and Preobrazhenski Monastery, but I was at work all day and didn't get back until late. I had been to all of them except for the latter before, I suppose!

After we arrived back from Arbanasi yesterday I had to go back to work for 3pm, but Kate and Andrew went to Sarafkina Kushta, the ethnographical house museum on Gurko Street. Kate also revisited the craftsmen's street to buy herself a dish from the coppersmith.

That evening we went to Piccolo restaurant for dinner. I had never been there before, and after the dud meals we had there, I'm highly unlikely ever to return. Kate's in particular was very disappointing. She'd ordered carp because she'd never had it before, but it arrived in greasy battered chunks with lots of bones still in, and her 'steamed vegetables' were just lukewarm frozen mixed veg with tough peas. Took forever to arrive, too. We had been planning to go for cocktails before going round to 'F's at 9:30pm, but didn't have time thanks to dinner taking so long. We had a lovely time at 'F's though; 'R' went round too and we had a great time together.

Up at the crack of dawn tomorrow for our bus journey to Sofia!

Posted by 3Traveller 10:36 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo house_museum Comments (0)

Back to Arbanasi

Arbanasi


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

This morning I took Kate and Andrew to Arbanasi, a place Kate had been wanting to go ever since I first mentioned it last autumn!

Our first port of call was the wonderful Church of the Nativity; just as I thought, they were absolutely blown away by the fabulous, colourful frescoes covering almost every inch of the walls, ceilings and wooden beams.

After this we moved on to Sveta Bogoroditsa Monastery, another place I'd been to with Emma and Mark two weeks before. As it was then, it was picturesque, quiet and peaceful, with no sign of movement from anywhere and the sound of birdsong in the warm, summery air. We wandered through the grounds first of all, with the monastery church on our left, then the living quarters on our right and a small cemetery opposite it and next to the church, mainly full of nuns' graves. On wandering back towards the church Kate got really excited because she heard and saw a cuckoo! She had never actually seen or heard a cuckoo before, despite having read about for many years and even studied them at one point at university.

IMG_6840.JPGIMG_6839.JPGIMG_6847.JPG

Unlike in my last visit, inside the church both rooms were able to be looked round. All three of us bought candles from a lady at a desk in the larger room and lit them in the smaller.

IMG_6842.JPG

On our way out from the monastery grounds we admired the Greek inscription above the entrance gate, paying testament to the fact that Greek was the official language in Arbanasi for several centuries.

IMG_6850.JPGIMG_6853.JPGIMG_6849.JPG

A house museum was next: Konstantsalievata's House, which was the residence of one of Arbanasi's many rich merchant families during the Ottoman era. You could tell that this was a period of marauders' attacks on Arbanasi as the house has really thick walls and metal bars over the lower floor windows. It was really interesting inside, with much care and attention paid to interior decoration and furnishing, and the layout of the rooms. It even had a room specifically set aside for the mother and newborn baby (and if the re-enactment was accurate, they had the baby sleep in a little hammock strung over the raised, furnished platform that the mother slept on!) The expression in the doll's eyes was really quite disconcerting, even spooky.

SAM_6192.JPGSAM_6184.JPGSAM_6187.JPG

Before we set off back to Veliko Tarnovo, we had lunch at Arbanashki Han, a restaurant I insisted we visit because I know how good it is. We feasted on tasty tarator, sautéed thinly-sliced potatoes, stuffed peppers and Bulgarian flattened meatballs.

Our walk back to VT was pleasant, surrounded by lush grass, bushes and trees and accompanied by the sound of a stream flowing next to us. At one point I pointed out the willow tree from which I'd seen old ladies cutting branches for use in celebrations on Palm Sunday the next day. As we drew nearer to VT we could see Tsarevets fortress in the distance, then the town itself.

IMG_6857.JPGIMG_6862.JPGIMG_6870.JPGIMG_6867.JPG

Posted by 3Traveller 07:18 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art birds monastery sisters bulgaria explorations church_of_the_nativity orthodox_church house_museum bulgarian_cuisine arbanasi Comments (0)

Another scorching day for April

Veliko Tarnovo


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

I was teaching all morning today from 9am-1pm, so while I was away Kate and Andrew took the opportunity to look round Tsarevets Fortress. It was another very hot and sunny day and from all accounts they had a really good time, looking round nearly every part of the fortress and taking plenty of photos.

I met up with them for lunch on the balcony of Stratilat Café, the place where Emma, Kate and I had lunch on our birthday back in January. It has a great view of a section of VT and swallows periodically flew around us to nests under the eaves of the building. This café lies on the craftsmen's street and before I arrived, the others had enjoyed window-shopping. Kate enjoyed watching the coppersmith at work with his tools and fire outside his workshop.

SAM_6121.JPGSAM_6120.JPGSAM_6123.JPGSAM_6115.JPG

I didn't need to be back at work until 4pm, so we got to spend some more time together after lunch. First of all we walked over to the fruit and vegetable market in order to buy some veg for dinner, buying a bun much like a kozunak (Easter Bun) on our way. It's always interesting poking around this market and today was no exception; Kate especially enjoyed looking round the stalls, which sell not only fresh fruit, veg and herbs but also produce such as honey, eggs, nuts and suchlike.

SAM_6124.JPGSAM_6127.JPG

After I had got some courgettes, spring onions, aubergines and long, thin red peppers, we popped into a supermarket where Kate bought a 2-litre carton of apricot juice for herself and a big bottle of beer mixed with grapefruit juice for Andrew. We then had a 10-minute sit down in Mother Bulgaria Square before splitting ways; I had to get back to work.

While I was at work, Kate and Andrew relaxed back at my flat until the evening, when they went for an evening stroll to an area of VT they had seen from the fortress earlier - the historic Asenov quarter next to the River Yantra. Apparently it was light when they set off but dark when they got back - in the dusk they saw bats flying around and swooping under the bridge as they crossed it.

Dinner preparations continued later on, once I arrived back. In the middle of these preparations we saw a Tsarevets Sound & Light Show from my windows; no soundtrack, but we could hear the bells. To go with the vegetable sauce we had the sautéed potatoes and scrambled egg left over from dinner the night before, cooked together, plus a couple of boiled duck eggs each. We rounded the meal and day off nicely with the kozunak-like bun.

Posted by 3Traveller 05:12 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges market sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo fortifications tsarevets_fortress river_yantra mother_bulgaria_square extreme_weather Comments (0)

More visitors arrive!

Dragizhevo and Veliko Tarnovo


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

A very, very hot day today in Dragizhevo, a village not far from Veliko Tarnovo which holds a car boot sale once a month between April and September/ October. A few of us went; I bought several things - half a dozen duck eggs, a book and one or two things I hadn't seen since I was last in the UK - garlic naan breads, a can of Dr Pepper and a tin of condensed milk. I also had a sausage & egg roll from the café. I would have liked to have stuck around for longer in order to look round the village, but I had visitors arriving in a couple of hours and I still needed to finish my preparations...

No sooner does one sister depart from Bulgaria, than the other one arrives :-) An hour or two after I got back from Dragizheno, Kate and Andrew arrived in VT from Varna, where they had been for a couple of days after a day or two in Plovdiv.

Almost as soon as they walked through the door we had a lovely Google Video chat conversation with Mum. After that we went up on the terrace, where my colleague 'R' was hosting a late birthday tea. We had a great time, with great company, food and weather. There was quite a group of us there. The food included homemade bean dip, fresh corn bread, potato salad and feta-like white Bulgarian cheese, then two birthday cakes for pudding - one of them a carrot cake. During the tea party we had an added point of interest in that a wedding party went past on the road behind the terrace - at first we didn't know what was going on because all we could hear was lots of car horns blaring, but then someone said that it might be a wedding party, so we dashed to the side of the terrace to have a look. We just managed to catch sight of a car driving along with balloons attached to the back, with a couple of other cars following along behind. (Credit to Kate for most of the following photos)

SAM_5981.JPGSAM_5998.JPG

Around 5ish I took Kate and Andrew on a wander through the main part of VT, including the craftmen's street and an amazing look-out point from the side of one of VT's hills.

cb62c280-1da4-11e9-b025-85a516691882.JPGSAM_5987.JPGSAM_5994.JPG

Our main destination was Assen's Monument, the massive sword-shaped monument on a raised area at a loop of the river Yantra, which flows through the small valleys between the hills. The bridge was interesting - I don't think I've mentioned this in previous entries, but there are yellow painted outlines of human figures in funny positions on the ground. On our way back Andrew couldn't resist the temptation of having his photo taken while lying in one!

cc5f23e0-1da4-11e9-b025-85a516691882.JPGcc139bf0-1da4-11e9-b025-85a516691882.JPGSAM_6012.JPGSAM_6014.JPGSAM_6024.JPGSAM_6028.JPG

Our walk round the monument was enjoyable, with wonderful views plus an added bonus for me and Kate because we saw a wild snake on some rocks above the river!

SAM_6007.JPG

We returned to my flat via Gurko Street. As with much of VT, it was picturesque, particularly as some of the trees are in blossom.

734514e0-1da4-11e9-8ff3-eda901a2b1b7.JPGca56a9b0-1da4-11e9-b025-85a516691882.JPG

After relaxing for a while we went out for a late dinner at Shtastlivetsa - we all had tarator and mains; Andrew had kebapche (flattened meatballs), I had some special scrambled eggs and Kate had what claimed to be 'oriental salad' but didn't actually seem different to a normal one. She said it was tasty, though. We had garlicky sauteed potatoes and grilled vegetables on the side.

SAM_6035.JPGSAM_6037.JPG

We were so stuffed by the end we had to ask for a doggy bag to take away most of the potatoes and some of the scrambled egg.

Posted by 3Traveller 02:41 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges sisters snakes bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street assen_monument Comments (0)

(Entries 111 - 115 of 299) « Page .. 18 19 20 21 22 [23] 24 25 26 27 28 .. »