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Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Day with New Friends Outside of Plovdiv

Sorry again for the spacing issues; I will try and fix them before my next post.

While up pretty late working on the computer in the sitting room last night (9/30), I began chatting with another guest Dahlia, who hadn’t been able to sleep because other hotel guests were having a grand old time out on the patio just below us even though it was after midnight. She and her partner, Noam, are from an area not far north of Haifa, Israel and had come to Bulgaria for a week or so in part to discover her Bulgarian roots as both of her parents had emigrated separately in the late 40’s to Israel. Dahlia most generously invited us to travel with them in their car the next day as they toured Assen’s Fortress and Bachovo Monastery, located about 25 miles south of Plovdiv. We were thrilled as we’d hoped to visit both places and also it meant that we’d be able to do it while enjoying their company – certainly a no brainer for us!

After finding the right road out of Plovdiv, we were on the way about 10ish, driving in the mountains that reminded us of being back home and going out for a fall drive driving home from Evergreen. Assen's Fortress was built in the 9th C. by the Byzantine empire to guard the gate of the Aegean pass as well as to secure the area's Byzantine border.
The lovely Dahlia and Noam

The 12th C. St. Mary of Petrich Church in the fortress.

Near the altar was this painting on an elevated slanted table with coins on the bottom; no idea what it was.

We walked up here for a great view of the valley below and also a different perspective of the fortress.

From the fortress Noam drove us to Bachovo Monastery, about 25 miles south
of Plovdiv, which was founded in 1083 by 2 Georgian aristocratic brothers in
Byzantine military service. After being ransacked by the Turks in the 15th and
16th centuries, it went through major reconstruction in the mid 17th C. it’s Bulgaria’s
largest monastery after Rila. 

From the courtyard, we walked through the Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa, built in
1604, which contained many beautiful frescoes and murals. 

What was especially 
moving was this much cherished icon of the Virgin, allegedly painted by St. Luke 
though actually dating from the 14th C. We witnessed pilgrims pray in front of the 
silver encased icon, touching it repeatedly as they did.

There was a rarely opened courtyard next to the church which led to a small church,
Church of Sveta Nikolai, above, which was unfortunately closed. We were able to see the exterior ceiling frescoes through a chained gate blocking the front door however which led us to imagine how beautiful the interior would be.

Sign at the monastery's exit.

 The four of us hiked up a path a few minutes to the Ossuary for some more lovely views before returning to the car.

Dahlia had see this lovely Bulgarian china shop on our way to the monastery so Noam patiently stopped on the way back so she could get out and have a look. Unfortunately her bargaining skills were wasted on the shopkeeper who refused to budge on price.
Noam and Dahlia then kindly drove us all the way back to the Guest House while
trying to decide where to stop next, at Rila Monastery or at Boyana Church before
staying in Sofia for the night. We urged them to go to the latter as Bachovo Monastery
was so similar to Rila and Boyana was so much closer since they were under a time
crunch. I wonder what they decided!

It was sad saying goodbye but we hope to meet up with them in several weeks when we’re in Haifa as they generously said they’d be willing to show us some of their favorite places on a personally guided tour! How thrilled I am that there was so much noise in the outside garden that prevented Dahlia from sleeping and therefore led to our meeting! 

Steven and I spent most of the afternoon relaxing in the sun and reading up at the Archeological Complex or Ancient Fortress dating back to the 12th century B.C. on Nebet Hill just steps from the Guest House. Plovdiv’s magnificent 2nd C. AD Roman Amphitheater was built by Emperor Trajan (yup HIM again!) at the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd C. but only uncovered by a freak landslide in 1972. It once held about 6000 spectators, was active until the 5th C. and was used for theatrical
performances as well as gladiators’ and hunting games. We came on one of the best
preserved ancient theaters in the world through a small passageway into the Academy
of Music, Dance and Fine Arts.