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Published: July 31st 2006
the day started out a bit earlier than normal since we had to be ready @ 9:30 for our excursion to Rila, a bit to the south and in a more mountainy area. we decided that we needed to pick out something "monasterical" to wear there, and so started the day's joke. there were 5 of us, but we split into 2 and 3 since we were taking taxis there, even though it was like a 2 hour ride each way. kasia and i ended up with steve, this guy from melbourne. he just finished working on a cruise ship in turkey for a few months and is just traveling. that's pretty frickin' cool.
the car ride was "warm" to say the least, and we certainly got a taste of the best of bulgarian driving. my favorite were the swirves around the mountain roads going more than double the speed limit. nonetheless, our driver was really nice, though he had two cracknails (pinkies) which was rather amusing. he also had a "neck problem" which made it impossible to open the back windows. last time i checked, air doesn't affect necks, especially warm air, but you know those eastern europeans and their obsession with catching drafts and all of that...
we got to the monastery in maybe an hour and a half, minus the 10 minutes we spent at a gas station. there were a lot of tourists there, and its weird to think that monks can still live and pray there while at the same time deal with all the annoying tourists. the complex itself was gorgeous, especially the incredible frescos from the 1800s. the monastery is much older than that but was destroyed by i believe a fire, so only this one stone tower remains from the original complex - 15th century? i very much enjoy the orthodox-style design, making god look like zeus sometimes and other cool things. the bottom of the frescos on the outside were lined with scenes from hell which was also cool. the inside was pretty "busy" with people lighting candles and whatnot, and we got to see the "tomb" where the heart of Bulgaria's last "tsar", Boris III, is kept.
we went to the museum inside, the coolest part of which was this intricately carved cross. it took twelve years to make and left the craftsman, this monk Rafail, blind. there was one awkward tapestry thing of god and jesus, and it looked like they were sitting on a big pile of shit. seriously, it was this big brown mass that definitely couldn't have passed for clouds or anything of that sort. after exploring everything we could, we headed over to the little restaurant for some lunch. i got a shopska salad (surprise!) and some kebabcheta, these grilled sausages. good stuff.
the ride back was incredibly hot and stuffy. my back was basically glued to the seat with sweat, so obviously that was great. back at the hostel we chilled and had our free pasta dinner before getting ready to go out for the night, picking up some smirnoff vanilla and some papierosy. we hit up this bar/club 'saks' but considering it wasn't too hopping, we took a cab to some other club, but that was closed. back at saks, we made two friends and they took us to yet another club, except they had no money to get in, so it was just us, plus another australian guy from our hostel we ran into. this club was pretty packed, and there were literally girls with torches shooting fire. oh bulgaria...despite the fire, we ended up leaving pretty shortly after and just heading back to crash...
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