From Serbia to Bulgaria
After some marvellous days with Magdalena and Marieke in Belgrade and a day trip to Novi Sad, my train ride south towards Niš was an awful affair. I had been so unfortunate to place myself in a seat that was reserved and once the people with reservations arrived the rest of the train was full. I had to stand up most of the four hours looking at an empty seat because the mother of a small child wanted him to have it though he did not sit there for fifteen minutes in total. Thank goodness a middle aged woman gave me a few moments of rest by offering her seat for periods of the ride.
From Niš the journey was changed to buses due to maintenance of the tracks and I managed quickly to secure a seat for the trip to the border. Here we were taken to a waiting train with seats enough for everyone. I sat across two Serbian girls and a group of young Serbian musicians and the rest of the trip was a lot of fun as the train slowly made its way through Bulgaria and onto the suburbs of Sofia.
I arrived in Sofia by late evening and was fortunate that the hostel was picking me up at the central station. Even better was the chili and beer I received after arriving. My harrowing journey from Belgrade was soon forgotten as I settled in to a a few days of exploring Sofia and hanging out with a large group of friendly and interesting backpackers.
On one of my days in Sofia, the hostel helped me arrange for a driver to take me to The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, the largest Eastern Orthodox Monastery in Bulgaria and one of the most visited sights in the country. However, I seemed lucky since beside myself, a Chinese guy whom I shared the ride with and our friendly driver there were not many visiting on this cloudy day.
The monastery was founded by a hermit in the 10th century, but the magnificent buildings which largely make up the monastery today are from the 19th century and so are the impressive frescoes. However, it seems that what the Bulgarians show most pride in is the fact that Pope John Paul II visited the place in 2002. And they aren’t even Catholic.Our driver offered me lunch in the small and very local tavern behind the monastery as we were waiting for the Chinese guy to marvel at the wonders of Rila Monastery. All-in-all a perfect day trip out of Sofia.
While in Sofia I went on a day trip with a fellow backpacker from Leicester, England to explore one of Bulgaria’s most celebrated Plovdiv.