If you are staying in Veliko Tarnovo for a few days or for the majority of your holiday. Then I do recommend a day trip to the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of God. The monastery is a good option if you want to visit a new place close to the city and learn more about Bulgarian history and religion. The monastery is Eastern Orthodox and is located in the Dervent gorge of the Yantra River. It lies near the village of Samovodene, seven kilometres north of Veliko Tarnovo, in central northern Bulgaria. It is one of the five stauropegic monasteries of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. We traveled there by car, and I am unsure if you can book day excursions from Veliko Tarnovo, if this isn’t possible, the Bulgarians should make it a possibility because this is definitely a great tourist hot spot, I am aware you can take a taxi and there are buses nearby too.
It is not a big place, but has an amazing atmosphere in any season of the year. The church is small,but worth a visit because it is situated on a cliff and you can walk around the grounds including taking a peek at the older buildings that are now falling to ruin, the locals don’t recommend you go near these buildings as they are unsafe, however we did see a few Bulgarians venture inside them regardless of the warning sign posts dotted about. The church itself has many awesome paintings. I was pretty impressed with the whole place because we don’t really have anything like this in England, the monastery had an air of mysticism and of the bygone days of old Bulgaria.
The paintings inside are really unusual and beautiful. Unusual because alongside the typical traditional depictions of Christ, Apostles, Mary and other saints there are demons and animals eating humans, strange lizard-like creatures in the sky, the all seeing eye in a triangle and the horned devil as you set foot in the doorway which reminded me very much of William Blake’s illustrations and Dante’s Inferno mixed with Pagan symbolism that was rather haunting, the further you walk into the church you see walls caked in traditional Christian Orthodox art. The entire building is covered in gorgeous frescoes inside and outside and it is definitely a trip to take as the sun goes down because this Monastery is situated on the side of a mountain and just looks beautiful during sunset, thus this is a great way to end your day in the area. There is also a little Eco-trail that is child friendly too.
The grounds of the monastery is sadly a bit run down, due to low financing, but it is steeped in amazing history since it was a centre of culture and education in the Bulgarian renaissance and even before that. There is also a paining on the outside wall “The wheel of life” showing the many aspects of a humans path made by the famous Bulgarian artist Zahari Zograf. The grounds also include a nice garden and a bell tower. The view from the cliff face is astonishing, looking out to stretches of forest land over the gorge and river below.
Do visit this place, its so beautiful and peaceful!
Missed previous posts about Bulgaria? Click on the links below:
Two days in Sofia
Day trip to Krushuna Falls
Living in & Visiting Veliko Tarnovo
Day trip to Emen Gorge
Day trip to: Etar Living Museum
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