Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly have any more family, my dad’s cousins from Razlog (a stunning town and ski resort in southwestern Bulgaria) came to Kardzhali to visit, bringing with them mounds of food and treats to gorge on; baked chicken, rice and sauerkraut, a huge loaf of tutmanik (banista bread), marble cake, bulgarian beans, and more. To accompany we made our own shopska salad and tarator (the Bulgarian version of tzatziki, but better of course).
The following morning I was rather confused about the day’s events, perhaps being (not) so rudely awakened disturbed my zen. And so all the happenings seemed even more surreal than they probably were. In the morning I could’ve sworn I was in heaven; family and friends from a town called Kalofer had come down, joining Kardzhali friends and family and neighbours alongside our Razlog pals to attend a memorial for my grandad at a tiny church with the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was filled with exotic flowers, little ponds and rows of wooden arches entwined with grapevines. A cat and its litter of kittens bathed in the heat of the day, butterflies and dragonflies skipped from flower to pond and back, as locals strolled around admiring the view. Vibrantly coloured religious artworks ornamented the walls of white buildings with dark wooden framework, and a tiny church stood at the heart of the beauty. Inside is as you’d expect, but somehow incredulously vibrant in the solemn darkness. A beautiful chandelier hung high and lit candles flickered amber during the service.
After being unable to handle the post-trip to a graveyard my aunt and uncle whisked me away to perhaps a more serene setting; driving through the twisting roads of the Bulgarian countryside, now reaching over 35 degrees and seeming sahara-like, we went to visit a tiny 7th century church the Stone Wedding.
“According to scientific calculations and assumptions, Stone Wedding started forming 40 million years ago. At that time the territory of Eastern Rhodopes today was located at the bottom of the warm, shallow sea. There the relief continuously changed under the influence of active volcanic activity.
The name, Stone Wedding is given for several rock formations in which a good imagination can be assimilated. On the natural wonder of the Stone Wedding there is a beautiful legend, which tells of an unhappy love affair.”
From what I gathered, a couple were happily in love, however some Turkish invaders tried to steal the beautiful woman and so the couple vowed to be wed. But at the altar were turned to stone so the invaders were no longer able to steal the woman.
The rock formations were stunning. I can’t imagine what other more prolific rock formations and canyons around the world must look like! Surrounding the rocks were endless hills of luscious green grass and forests, yellowed farmlands occasionally peeking through. A wide empty road diverged the land, making way for the curious and the travelling.
Below: inside tiny 7th century church.
Outside of the church: a stunning view onto the lakes and mountains that engulf the tiny town of Kardzhali.
That same evening we headed to another extremely heavenly place; Glavatartsi, a village in Kardzhali Municipality, Kardzhali Province, southern Bulgaria. Mountains surrounded a gigantic deep blue lake, fit for swimming, fishing and boating. Once there, I stumbled down a steep staircase to sit on a rocky embankment right by the shore to watch the sunset and draw pictures and clear my mind. Once I realised I forgot how the sun works and my skin became extremely sun-kissed (i.e. fairly burned) we played chess and ate cheesecake until the crescent moon drifted past the edge of the mountains into the middle of the night.