Rila Monastery

On a cool November day filled with autumn sunshine and golden leaves, we overcame our COVID laziness to get out of the house. It’s becoming a little too easy to just spend the morning making waffles, and then spend the rest of the afternoon taking pictures of the cat! Rila Monastery, on the other hand, is one of Bulgaria’s most famous treasures. It was founded by a hermit, St. Ivan of Rila, who actually stayed home so long that it turned into a holy place.

As a UNESCO heritage site, Rila is famous in the Eastern Orthodox religion and brings pilgrims from all over Bulgaria. The frescoes are bright, the icons rimmed in glowing halos, and the wooden iconostasis is plated in gold.

Inside, the cold stone rooms chilled us through, and we wondered at the amount of soup that could be boiled in the huge iron pots hanging over the fire? Outside, the leaves fell in deep drifts, and we followed our noses through the cold to the deep-fried smell of sugared doughnuts.

The kids ran around the woods playing hide-and-seek, climbed onto each other’s backs, and threw sticks into the river. It is peaceful out here, where the afternoon light filters over the faded summer, and flickering candles softly lift prayers to heaven.

COVID has made time feel longer than it used to, but maybe these long weekends are a small answer to my own prayer, that these growing children will stay preciously mine. The vibrant chill, in this autumn moment, is my own little heaven.