Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | September 10, 2011

I keep thinking today is the day …


… today is the day that Bulgaria will let me down.

… today is the day that Bulgaria will irritate me.

… today is the day that I’ll wish we were back in Minnesota.

Well, today wasn’t that day.

Our landlords, Elmira and Tsenko Vachkova, took us on a little road trip to show off more of their fascinating country. So we loaded ourselves into their car (a Chevy Equinox, by the way — my dad is a Chevy man, so that should make him happy) and headed south.

Our first stop was a fascinating trip back in time to the Rozhen Monastery. It’s called “St Nativity of Mother of God” and it dates to the 12th or 13th century. It is an active monastery and it is one peaceful place. We were invited, thanks to a little chat between Tsenko and the top monk (we weren’t sure what his exact title was — and I’m sure Melody will post a picture of him on her blog). We were invited into a private area, treated to a snack of Turkish coffee, water, chocolate and a special glass of the monks’ own Rakia. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this stuff is sanctified here, whether by holy man or peasant. And this was an especially good batch of the stuff. Yeah, it was about 9 a.m., but it went down smoothly.

After our extended visit and a little meditation, we were off to Melnik (apparently the place Spartacus called home). It’s a famous wine-producing area and, yeah, we took a tour of a winery (almost every house there has one). This place was owned by family friends of Elmira and Tsenko and had some deep, deep cellars (again, I’m going to count on Melody to post pictures of this). The house was built in the mid-1700s. Fascinating stuff. We had some wine (by now it was about 10:30, 11 — and Tsenko, our trusty driver, abstained so as to keep us on the road. There was more to see).

After a little walk through town (see pictures), we were off to Sandanski, a place of spas, a beautiful (and I mean beautiful) city park, pools featuring healing mineral water and air that is said to have healing properties. It proved to be another delight, so after a nice stroll through town to further build up our thirst and appetite, we stopped at a cafe where we proceeded to eat and drink the next two and a half hours away, reveling in the beautiful weather and breathing in that healing air.

Then we were back in the car and sprinting back to Blagoevgrad, our minds, bodies and spirits completely fulfilled. Maybe tomorrow will be the day that disappoints, but I highly doubt it.


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