After Sofia, we rented a car and headed inland to the Rila National Park for some hiking and wine tasting!
The morning started off rough — the car rental office at the airport typically doesn’t open unless flights are arriving even though we requested it earlier (as a result we got on the road later than expected), the weather seemed to have turned on us with fog/rain like cloudsand the last few nights were not so great for sleeping (our sleeping cycle was out of whack) thus, we were exhausted. But with an impromptu nap and some fast food energy, we were back on the road and managed to find the sun!
Some other memorable things that happened this week, Maeghan got a cold that made sleep 3 more nights even harder with her coughing and sniffling. And Amelie (Olivier’s sister) welcomed the birth of baby Raphaël — our godson at 2:30am Bulgarian time! 😊 We got the news and FaceTimed in bed locked in a monastery that has a no noise policy which we had to break to celebrate the good news.
The road trip continued to Melnik where we enjoyed wine (that Maeghan couldn’t taste) and great food surrounded by the sand mountains of the national park.
The 7 Rila Lakes are as described, 7 lakes in the mountain range of Rila National park scattered between the landscape you hike. It’s 2,500 meters high and we were up for the challenge of hiking with next to no sleep the night before.
The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as the Rila Monastery is situated deep in the mountains and home to around 60 practicing monks.
We learned that the monastery has a long standing tradition of letting pilgrims seeking refuge stay at the monastery over night and learned that we could actually stay!
It is open to the public by day, but by 9pm closes its doors and is completely silent. We signed a form calling ourselves pilgrims and with a handful of other backpackers stayed the night.