6 - 6
Rila - Winter
Meters of snow piled up beside the narrow gravel road up to Rila Monastery. It was January and dark clouds hung on the snow covered trees along the steep slopes of the valley. My small Lada Niva climbed up the valley bravely and after about 2 hours I reached the Monastery. Normally huge groups of visitors enliven the place but today nobody seemed to here. Maybe because of the weather, maybe because it was mid-week in winter. When I stepped through the huge main gate into the courtyard only some monks were flitting from their rooms to the main church in the center of the complex for their prayer. The monastery was established in 927 by Saint Ivan of Rila. Actually he never put one stone here, but only lived in a cave close to todays building. His students, who were educated by the hermit started to build the monastery in the shape as the complex stands today. I set myself on one of the benches in front of the main church. This was a moment of sheer beauty: light snowfall turned the place into a mystical fairy tale. The church with its wonderful frescos was illuminated by some sun rays, which made it through the clouds. A monk brought me a cup of hot tea, while I was watching the century old painted walls and I started to dream about this wonderful winter day.