Rila Monastery and some pyramids all in one day ?

So this one has been on the list from the very beginning!

The monastery is one of the most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments in the whole of Bulgaria, and it’s on the UNESCO list !

So Paloma is resting directly in front of the monastery, she has been joined by our neighbours from the few days we spent in Sofia and probably the friendliest family I have ever meet, who are holidaying from Paris. (N42.13344 E23.340163). Could this possibly be the nicest place to kip in the country.

Our day didn’t start out to well, we left Ivan’s backyard, in Sofia and pulled into the fuel station a couple of hundred meters away, only to have the attendant run towards us waving, so we pulled up to the pump and jumped out, he was trying to show us the we had a massive Fuel leak !!

Arrr !!!

Plan A)

We have European breakdown cover though Safeguard, no worries we will ring them, but it turns out after getting an answer to an email that the number they list in the documents can’t be phoned from a mobile….

So thankfully we had broken down in a good place and not stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Anyone needing the correct number to dial  from a a mobile it’s ……


Plan B) and the one that worked !

Around the corner was a small garage, who thankfully for us had an english speaking chap, problem explained and I had two guys, both with fags in mouth looking under the bonnet at the fuel leak…

Turns out that somehow the top of the main fuel filter had come loose and was spraying fuel everywhere…

Once diagnosed, he hoped onto his motorbike and raced off across the city to collect the part, part fitted and the bill

200 lev – that’s for towing to garage, new part and fitting as this so little we left each of them enough for a good few beers and we were on our way.

So back to the days activities ……..

On our way to our destination, we looked out for a good lunch stop and by chance found Stobs pyramids

The “pyramids” aren’t so much pyramids as they are pillars—large towers of dirt and sediment rock  that remain standing after the ground around them long-ago eroded away. Many of these pillars have impressive stone hats sitting atop them, giving them a very mysterious air. It seems that the terrain near Stob is ideal for these types of formations, as they can also be spotted on surrounding hillsides, away from the designated Stob’s Pyramids site.

The sun was cooking us as we started off on the 30 minute climb from the Carpark, but the views were amazing as we climbed higher and higher.

One legend states that long ago, a man from the nearby settlement of Kolibite took a young maiden from Stob to be his bride. As was custom then, the groom was not allowed to see the bride until after the marriage; however when the wedding party was approaching Stob, the groom’s best man unveiled the bride and kissed her—a terrible sin. Because of the best man’s transgressions, the whole party was cursed and turned to stone.

I don’t know, but epic view !

And then onto the main event………

The monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila and was built by his students while he lived in a cave. The original Rila Monastery was destroyed but re-erected at its present place during the 14th century. The oldest buildings are the Tower of Hrelyu (1334) and a small church just next to it (1343). Most of the monastery was destroyed by fire in 1833 and reconstructed between 1834 and 1862.

If you do want to go inside the monastery itself then you must remember the rules, be covered up (especially the girlies) and no photos……

To this day the monastery here is not just a magnet for visitors seeking out authentic culture, jaw dropping beauty and stunning surrounding, but it is also still home to 60 monks and is a functioning monastery.

Whilst wandering around the impressive courtyard  we came across many monks working and preaching, it really adds to the authentic and calming atmosphere within these historic walls.

From inside the complex you can see the peaks of the Rila mountains soaring over the domed roof of the main church of the monastery, the birds sing in the trees and the fresh mountain air blows through here to create a unique atmosphere.

The main church is of course the most well known of the buildings of the Rila Monastery, the iconic striping on the outside makes it one of the most recognisable buildings in the Balkans.

But that is just the start, Even the external domes and archways are painted in a level of detail that it is hard to take in. Impressive frescos in gold, deep red and bright yellows pop out from every corner!they tell stories of heaven, hell, heroes and demons that set your imagination alight.

Once under the archways the sweet bitter smell of incense drifts through the air and beams of light pierce the smoke in a rather biblical way. Even being unreligious exploring such a jaw dropping piece of cultural and architectural beauty was quite the spiritual experience.

If you ever venture towards Bulgaria, this must be on your list !

Oh did I say no photos inside, unless you get lucky and they are having a late night service to honour a saint, then it’s ok – but you have to also listen to the enchanting monks sing!


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