After three days on our own, and a move to a new hotel, we finally joined up with the Gate 1 tour group. Our new temporary residence is the Kempinski Hotel Zografski Sofia. This 5 star hotel has a lovely view, is modern and more luxurious than our previous hotel, but the location is further from the center of town.
I missed our welcome dinner due to a stomach bug, but Tim enjoyed himself and danced the night away. Anyone that knows Tim, also knows that he does not normally dance, so I was sorry to have not been able to witness this unusual sight.
The next day our tour officially began with a walking tour which included a revisit to several of the places we had inspected two days earlier on our own. In all honesty, the FREE walking tour was superior. I was still recovering from being sick the night before, but managed to get through the morning. By midday we were in new territory.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Built in Neo-Byzantine style, it serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. The museum of icons inside the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Crypt houses what is claimed to be the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe.
Tim and I had also slipped into the Archeological Museum where I managed to get this one shot before I was told that no photography was allowed.
The National Historical Museum is the largest museum in Bulgaria. Housed in a former governmental residence, it stores over 650,000 objects connected to archaeology, fine arts, history and ethnography.
Rila Monastery – UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is traditionally thought that the monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila, whose name it bears, during the rule of Tsar Peter I (927-968). The hermit actually lived in a cave without any material possessions not far from the monastery’s location, while the complex was built by his students, who came to the mountains to receive their education.
The monastery complex, regarded as one of the foremost masterpieces of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, was declared a national historical monument in 1976 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Our next stop was Serbia (to be continued)…