OK, OK … Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv were the shining stars of our road trip in June, no doubt about that, but we found a few other hidden gems often missed by tourists.
The first ones are the Rock Hewn churches from Basarbovo and Ivanovo, less that 20 km away from the Romanian Border, in Russe area.
St. Dimitri Basarbovo, the protector of Bucharest
On the beautiful valley of Lom river, there is a church that was built in the limestone walls of the hill. A peaceful place and a place of worship dedicated to St. Dimitri, who is very important for the Romanian Christians as well.
Here is the short story of the place:
The oldest part of the church was first built by Basarab I of Wallachia, six centuries ago. Then St. Dimitri lived here most of his life and here he was buried at the end of it. A few centuries later, during one of the many Russian-Turkish wars in 18th century, fearing that the place was going to be destroyed, the remains of St. Dimitri were moved to Bucharest, to the St. Constantine and Elena Cathedral, and since then he became the protector of the Romanian capital.
The newest part of the site, the church between the stone walls, was build some 150 years ago and it’s actually the only rock church in Bulgaria where sermons are still kept to this day by the monks.
- The entrance is free
- The historic rock churches were closed when we got here. You can enter to the old but now bare rooms of the monks that once lived here.
- The stairs are narrow and slippery, so be careful and hold a good grip to the safety bars.
UNESCO Rock Churches from Ivanovo
10 km further away from Basarbovo, still on the Lom valley, you find the Rock Hewn Churches of Ivanovo or the “Orthodox Buried Churches“. They are a complex of a few hundred chapels, cells and rooms carved in the cliffs in the 12th century by the first hermits, the first people to retire from ‘social’ life and live in solitude for their religious beliefs.
The”Holy Mother” church and chapel is the most famous. The entrance of today was made at the end of the 20th century, a narrow and short alley that takes you inside the church.
However, the real entrance is far more spectacular, and was located where today’s balcony stands.
Inside there are many frescoes dating back to 14th century, an example of medieval Christian art from the art school of Tarnovo (Veliko Tarnovo of today) depicting many celebrated religious scenes.
- There is a entrance fee inside the church of 4 Leva/ 10 Romanian Lei. You can pay in Bulgarian Leva or in Romanian lei (luckily for us, because we had no Bulgarian Leva at this point of our trip)
- At the base of the cliff, there are a few car parking spots and a camping with wooden tables and benches where you can stop for a quick snack.
1 June 2017