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Published: September 14th 2018
7-15-18 Sunday. Rousse, Bulgaria. Sofija, our charming and efficient tour guide arranged a taxi for us since we were going on a private excursion into the countryside to see some medieval churches in limestone cliffs that have murals. Our driver, George, was a short local man who could speak enough English, was funny and warm, so good company. After passing through farmland and a small village we came to the hilly national park where the churches are. The first one was accessible by a trail that went up to a ridge with valley views and we entered through a narrow passage that had been blasted through the rock into the rear of the church. The original entrance is now a balcony in a vertical rock face a few hundred feet above the valley floor. Originally access must have been by ropes or ladders. Walls and ceiling of the cave, maybe 12 feet wide, 8 feet high and 25 feet deep, are covered with murals of Christian mythology. There was a tiny depiction of The Last Supper that was painted 150 years before the daVinci version. Adjacent and down a few steps was a smaller chapel, also painted. Next stop was Basarbovo
Monastery, where the chapel caves are in the cliffs, accessible by stairs, above an Orthodox Church and monastery . After lunch on the boat we wandered into town which has a lot of the Beaux-Arts architecture that I find so pleasing. An example is the theatre fronting a large public square with a fountain and a tall pillar with a bronze figure on top guarded by two large bronze lions below. One modern building is reminiscent of le Corbusier. A wide tree-lined walk leads to the red, pink and white Neo-classic opera house which is adjacent to an Eastern Orthodox Church. A few blocks away a yellow Beaux-Arts museum building faces another plaza, this one has a round fountain in a square pool, a bronze woman on each corner facing away with each receiving a jet of water that arcs up from the center then down to hit their backsides.
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