Visiting Bachkovo

Apparently one of the things to do in Bulgaria is visit a monastery. Many people go to the Rila Monastery, since it is closer to Sofia. Because we were travelling from Plovdiv to Sofia, and taking a non-direct route so we could explore some of the smaller towns in Bulgaria, we decided to stop at the smaller Bachkovo Monastery instead.

With the help of the people at the Tourist Information centre in Plovdiv, we took a public bus, and asked the driver to let us off in Bachkovo, about 45 min south of Plovdiv, and 10 km south of Assenovgrad. Again, we weren’t really sure what to expect. I had hoped to be able to sleep in the monastery, since I’d heard that was possible. When we got there we found out that because we hadn’t booked in advance, and had arrived on a weekend, there wouldn’t be a room available for us. I was disappointed for a few minutes, but I guess it all worked out okay though, because we found a beautiful hotel/restaurant for a very low rate, just across the highway.

In the morning, we packed a picnic lunch, and headed up to the monastery to look around, and then go for a hike in the surrounding lands. The monastery was founded in 1083, though of course there have been some renovations since then. Here are some of our photos of the monastery, on the way up.

About 400 metres from the entrance to the monastery is the two-storey stone ossuary, or bone place, which dates from the earliest days of the monastery. When the priests and monks from Bachkovo die, they are still buried in the grounds surrounding the ossuary.

We followed the trail past the vegetable gardens and the ossuary, and came to a beautiful open field.

We practiced reading Cyrillic on the signs around the grounds, which directed us to the different sites.

Even though our understanding of Cyrillic was very poor, we were able to follow the signs and enjoy all the places we found, including several chapels.

When we made our way back to the monastery, we discovered photography is not allowed inside, to protect the peace and privacy of the monks and the others there. So this is the closest our camera made it:

We took our time strolling around inside the monastery courtyard. There were some interesting remnants of the monastery from bygone years. It was a really peaceful place, and we were lucky enough to watch the priests sing the vespers, or evening prayers. It was our first time partaking in anything Eastern Orthodox, and we found it really interesting. There were extremely old and blackened murals and frescoes covering the walls and ceilings of the church, and only a few seats on the very edges of the sanctuary, for the older priests. Everyone else stood. Needless to say, we didn’t really understand what was going on, but still, we felt blessed to be able to be there to witness it, and we were glad that we made time in our schedule to stop in Bachkovo.

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