I went back to the “California” smoothie shop for breakfast, grabbed some lunch items at the supermarket and we left Sofia around 11am. We drove south through gorgeous scenery into the Rila mountains, to the Rila Monastery. It was all very Pacific Northwest-y. The Rila Monastery was founded in the 10 century and acted as a safe haven for Bulgarian culture during their foreign rule and WWI & II. It’s in great condition and a beautiful complex. The Nativity church is extremely colorful, but it’s the whole structure, with the balconies and forest background that makes it just perfect. I’d love to see it in the winter, with snow on the ground.
After leaving the monastery, we drove down to Bansko. Like Sinaia, in Romania, Bansko is another Eastern European ski town. However, they’re quickly expanding, due to Sofia gunning for the 2018 Winter Games. The town center is fairly small, but the outskirts is filling with newly built condos.