|Rila Monastery, Rila, Bulgaria|
After two hours of driving through the rolling mountains with brightly colored leaves, we finally arrived in the small village of Rila and, soon after, the monastery complex itself. But before entering the monastery, our driver took us to a little spot in the woods where we climbed the side of one of the mountains for about 30 minutes until we came upon a small, simple church and a cave.
|The Simple Church and Path Leading to the Cave|
The outside of the complex is unremarkable, but the minute you enter the gates, the stunning beauty hits you. The complex is formed by the walls of the monk living quarters, which are styled in traditional white plaster and wood beams. There's a larger brick plaza in the middle of the compound, and in the midst of it all is the monastery, itself quite large.
|The Monk Quarters and Church|
Inside is equally as gorgeous. The black and white striped floor tries not to distract from the wall frescoes which detail the various kinds of torture that sinners receive in hell. Despite the grotesque theme of the paintings, they are painted in vivid and vibrant colors.
After an hour of walking around the monastery, we settled down at the nearest restaurant and nursed drinks as we looked at the mountainsides surrounding us and sat alongside a rushing stream. The cool autumn air nipped at my skin and as I tried to soak in the awe-inspiring beauty of it all, it finally hit me that I'm not longer in Cameroon.