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Into the Rhodopes: Bachkovo Monastery & Asenovgrad Fortress

Bachkovo Monastery and Asenovgrad Fortress


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It turned out that I was the only guest who wanted to go to the monastery and fortress on Monday, so I had to pay a bit more than if there'd been more people, but it was worth it!

The journey took about 40 minutes. On the way to Bachkovo Monastery we passed through the town of Asenovgrad. Luben, the driver, told me that Asenovgrad is known for making wedding dresses and red wine; sure enough, we passed lots of shop windows filled with wedding dresses. Then we went further into the Rhodope mountains, with dramatic scenery at every turn.

Bachkovo Monastery was absolutely beautiful, just as I expected. Although I didn't get all that much time to look round, it was still brilliant. Apparently it's one of the largest and oldest Orthodox monasteries in Europe. The main church gleams white in the sun;

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I loved the frescoes on the ceiling and pillars of the long archway just in front of the main entrance. The interior was intensely atmospheric, too.

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It was lovely to wander round the grounds in the sun, too. There was a sheep in a pen for some reason and cockerels and hens wandered round the edge of the main courtyard.

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I seemed to be one of very few international tourists there; mostly it seemed to be Bulgarians popping into the church to pray and then leave. There was a smaller church as well, but unfortunately it wasn't open.

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The old refectory was closed too, but running round its outside wall was a famous and very well-preserved mural of the history of the monastery, painted in 1846, it shows in colourful detail a panorama of the monastery grounds.

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I would have loved more time here but I knew we had to move on to Asenovgrad Fortress.

Asenovgrad Fortress perches dramatically in the mountains about 2km from the town. The only wholly preserved building in the fortress complex is a tiny church which nevertheless has two floors.

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It has fragments of murals on the walls. It looked like a working church, not just a museum one; there were chairs in rows, a wooden stand with bibles and a colourful cloth on it, and next to a window some coins lay scattered in front of an icon.

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Rising above the church is a hill with fortress foundations clearly on show. A Bulgarian flag flew from the top. It was still very sunny and needless to say, the views I got from the top were amazing.

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Luben pointed out to me two tiny little churches on the mountainsides opposite and told me there are many more in the local area.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:36 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains art birds monastery bulgaria explorations fortifications orthodox_church bachkovo_monastery asenovgrad_fortress Comments (0)

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