Rila Monastery: Monk-y Business

August 7, 2010

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Rila Monastery one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments, and should be included in any visit to this country. That said, visitors should resist the temptation to spend a night in one of the monastery cells. I learned this lesson on my last visit to Bulgaria 10 years ago, but seem to have forgotten it under pressure from a heavy pack and a late afternoon arrival. We queued up for beds with a posted price of 10 leva apiece, and the monk took my 50-leva note and gave me two twenties as change. But when it came time for Barb and Susan to pay up, the price suddenly jumped to 30 leva PER PERSON. When we asked about the apparent error, the monk summoned an evil pinch-faced woman who spoke English with a German accent to discipline us.

“DO YOU WANT THE ROOM OR NOT?” she barked, for the benefit of the long line of tourists behind us. We caved, but I was PO’d enough that I hardly took my camera out of its case.

Our tiny room was outfitted with three cots with mattresses the thickness as maxi pads, and springs that sagged so badly they looked like hammocks. Had elephants slept there?

By far the best part of the visit was a hike with Barb along the trail to the Cave of St. John of Rila. We waded through waist-high wildflowers with an escort of grasshoppers and butterflies, and a magical waterfall at the end of the hike. My church is Nature, which will not surprise anyone who reads these pages on a regular basis.