Posts Tagged With: Rila Monastery

Interesting Signs photographed along the way

As we travel between Scotland and Argentina, we thought we’d take a break from chronicling our travels and do something a little different with the blog today. As you might expect, we’ve taken thousands of photos on our trip so far. Along the way, we’ve seen some hilarious, curious and confusing signs. We wanted to share ten amusing photos that we’ve seen from New Zealand to London.

Really, really a place that serves food

We saw this marquee in Kyoto, Japan and it has since become one of my favorite photos from the trip. Hey, if you don’t know what beef is, I’m probably not going to eat at your restaurant. Every time we look at this photo, we come up with more questions than answers.

THAT's a Camera?

This unmarked sign could be found everywhere on highways and major roads throughout Asia and in parts of Europe. It wasn’t until we arrived in Scotland did another adjoining sign give us a clue on its meaning “Cameras being used to check speed.” In what century is THAT the image you use to indicate camera? Should we be on the look out for a photographer on the side of the road with his head behind a hood and holding up an old-timey flash? If you’re speeding, will he chase you down in a horseless carriage? Good Goulash, that sign is outdated.

Don't go chasing after your hat!

This one can be found at Tokyo regional rail stations. I love it because it’s such a remarkably specific sign. Although I can’t read any of the Japanese, I’m going to go ahead and translate this as “If you’re a young girl who has dropped her cute hat on the subway track, please wait for the transit worker with the long stick clamp thing to retrieve it.”

This one is just so simple its genius. Several locations in Eastern Europe have a very simple designation to let you know when you’re entering or leaving a city, area or region. It’s actually one of those things that is so basic, it took us a while to figure it out. The first sign means that you’re entering this area and the second sign means you’re leaving this area. No knowledge of the local language needed!

Aye! Breakfast!

This package in a Highlands grocery store had me in stitches because I don’t think you could put a larger, more outlandish Scottish Stereotype on a box of Oatmeal. Its like having Uncle Same bursting out a box of Rice Krispies. The only thing that’s missing is the tagline: “Before you go shot putting in the Highlands with your kilt and chiseled, model good looks, make sure you down some Oats!”

Brooke has never been so confused

Every now and then, Brooke and I revisit this photo taken at Tokyo’s SkyTree Tower. We’re like scientists reworking an experimental theorem hoping to find something we missed the first time. To this day, we still don’t know what in Godzilla’s name is happening on the front of this package. Or even what is inside the package. Odder still? We found this in a toy store.

Old City, Bucharest

Clever bar owners know how to attract attention. And in Bucharest’s Old City you have tough competition with bars that have clever names like Beer O’Clock. But this entrance to a themed bar wins the award for best bar entrance we’ve seen. No, we didn’t go in. Yes, I went ahead and looked up here skirt. No, I’m not telling you what I saw.

Well, THAT'S not the tower

Fair enough: The Military Museum in Belgrade only has a bit English on the displays, but they really got this one wrong! Not many people mistake the Arc De Triumph for the Eifel Tower! You have to look closely at this one or click to blow it up, but the caption says “Victory Parade of the German Army at the Eifel Tower.” Man, The Eifel Tower sure looked different in 1939. You can see some visitor was kind enough to pencil in the correct building name.

I roared with laughter when I read the name of this Edinburgh furniture store aloud. Who doesn’t love a good pun? But judging by the “To Let” sign, I don’t think things were “so good” for very long.

Want to end this post by showing that the amazing stuff we’ve seen outweighs our snarky nitpicky take on signs. Here is a great image I just rediscovered from the early days of our trip on a New Zealand beach outside of Raglan. This trip has been made of amazing moments from the hilariously surreal to the sublimely beautiful. I can’t wait to see what’s waiting for us in Argentina!

-Phil

Categories: City Visits, Europe, Exploring, Landmarks, New Zealand, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rila Mountains and Monastery

What a view!Having lived in New York City for the past six years, we are somewhat starved for nature.  Yes, we try to chip away at our hunger by taking short trips outside the city or visiting my family’s cabin in the Great North Woods.  We have slowly been working our appetite back to fulfillment, but years of living in the “Concrete Jungle” leaves a lot of work to be done.  After our journey today, we feel satisfied.  The warm contentment that comes only after an amazing day surrounded by lush green forests rests solidly within our souls and we are happy.

Today, we visited the Rila Monastery which sits nestled in the Rila Mountains, the highest range in the Balkans. Bulgaria is filled with monasteries, and this one is easily the most beloved and visited by tourists.  Hostel Mostel, the hostel where we are staying, arranges daily trips for this two-and-a-half hour journey outside of Sofia.  Accompanied by our driver, Ivan, and a French traveler, we set out into the Bulgarian countryside.  As we began to wind our way up into the mountains, the warm air sweeping through the car cooled and the surrounding forests grew thick with foliage.  Feeling confident with the sharp turns, Ivan sped around bends that were starting to make me a bit queasy.  And then, out of nowhere, the monastery appeared before us.  Grateful to be there, we slowed to take in the sights.  Driving past the monastery, Ivan pointed out places to eat lunch and other points of interest, but then kept driving. We were momentarily confused, he explained that he was first going to take us to a small cave just three kilometers up the road.

The minute we climbed out of the car, the beauty overwhelmed me.  Images of my family’s home in Canada flooded my brain and immediate happiness ensued.  Ivan told us it would be a 15 minute hike to the cave.  It was balmy–65 degrees, sunny with a lovely and light breeze.   The perfect day for a hike.  I only wish I knew this was going to be part of the trip–I wore my sandals, which worked but would not have been my first choice.  Before spotting the cave entrance, we came upon an old church.  In broken English, Ivan explained that this was used hundreds of years ago by monks (we later discovered this was the original location of the monastery).

That's a backdrop that would make Olan Mills droolAfter wandering around, he led us into the cave.  Now, we have had two “cave experiences” on this trip–Waitomo Caves in New Zealand which was amazing, and Heavenly Cave in Vietnam which was underwhelming.  Those trips bare little comparison to this one.  Upon entering, Ivan told us a monk lived alone for 12 years in this cave, filling his time with prayer and religious study.  We had to double over to enter the cave which was pitch black inside.  Probably 15 feet long, 7 feet wide with maybe an 8 foot ceiling at its highest point, this was a cramped space.  Ivan lit 3 small candles to provide some light for us to see the ledge where the monk probably slept. The tiny space made it impossible to imagine living there for so long.  Ivan motioned us to a ladder in the corner which led toward daylight.  He began climbing to exit through the top of the cave and indicated we were to follow.  As I watched him squeeze through the hole at the top, my self-consciousness made me question whether or not my round hips would fit through.  I slowly started up and twisted myself into one awkward position after another until I was able to emerge on the other side.  We all made it safely through, which is an especially good thing–apparently legend has it that only those without sin can fit through the exit.  Glad we made it, though I’m not so sure the legend holds true.

After sampling some delicious spring water, we descended the slope so we could continue on to the monastery.  Phil and I found ourselves walking slowly, taking deep breaths of the crisp clean air, and wishing there were a hammock for us to spend more time soaking in the environment.  Eventually we forced ourselves back into the car, but not without lamenting the fact that beauty like this can’t really be captured in words or photos (as much as we like to try).  It can only be experienced.

We ventured back toward the Rila Monastery.  Built in the 10th century, these grounds hold a special place of importance in the hearts of Bulgarians.  The monastery, which has been threatened by destruction from the Ottoman Empire as well as a disastrous fire, prioritizes the preservation of Bulgarian culture.  It has been rebuilt and maintained as needed throughout the years and now attracts thousands of visitors. The architecture is striking, but we were most impressed with the paintings which cover the walls of the church entrance.  Meant to teach the lessons of the Bible, these sometimes cartoonish depictions are quite entertaining.  We particularly love the facial expressions and the ways the devil tries to tempt people into doing evil deeds.  Both entertaining and educational.  What more could a person want?

After wandering the grounds for a bit, we took some time to soak in just a little more nature before we got back in the car to head to Sofia.  One of the things I found so amazing about the journey back was that in the span of twenty minutes we saw a monk checking a cell phone, a family of pigs running out of the woods into the road, a BMW speeding around a tight turn, and a farmer driving his horse-drawn cart.  This constant juxtaposition of old and new continues to emerge during our visit to Eastern Europe, and that is what makes this such a great place to be at this moment in history.

As if to punctuate the thoughts I was already having, our driver stopped by a privately owned museum (of sorts) on our way back into Sofia.  Really, it was one man’s collection of antiques that he had on display for visitors who gave a small donation.  Old cars and motorbikes caught our attention first, but it was the bust of Stalin and the wall of old TVs and radios that had us enamored.  Our French friend was fascinated by the WWII era bombs which were on display.  A cross between a museum and a junkyard, visiting this collection was the perfect end to what can only be described as a perfect day.

–Brooke

Paintings on the outside of the church designed to teach parishioners to stay away from the devil!

Phil climbing through the afore mentioned caves!

Categories: Bulgaria, City Visits, Destinations, Diversions, Eastern Europe, Hiking, Hotels, Landmarks, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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