The next morning, we hike up Rozhenski Dal and over the ridge to Rozhen Monastery, and return by the road, passing through the tiny village of Karlanovo.
Our room at Baba Rada's comes with a very small and high-speed striped kitten named "Divi." He introduces us to Rada's neighbor Stefana, who may be an oracle, and who is on a first-name basis with every life form in the Rozhenski Dal.

Stefana renames us "Marianna" and "Keef," and invites us to visit the church of St. Atanas. An unimposing pile of rubble from the outside, the inside is pure romantic fantasy. Frescoes portray the interior of a mansion, right down to columns and lace curtains, and the iconostasis is a riot or floral motifs and winged cherubs.

"Hajde! Hajde!" Stefana calls early the next morning, and we set out on another hike up Sveti Nikola hill. Along the way, she tells me that when she sits under a low canopy of trees, "the slavej (swallows) sing, while the kateritse (squirrels) listen and pray."

Behind Sveta Zona Chapel, Stefana gathers "bodem" (almonds) that taste of burnt chocolate.

On the same ridge, we visit the ruins of Sveti Nikola (9th-10th c.), the Slavovata Krepost (fortress), the monasteries of Sveti Haralampiy and Sveta Bogoroditsa.

We can only say good-bye to Stefana and Melnik by promising that we will return again next year ...