(a view of Varosha from the bottom of the hill)
The second weekend in Blagoevgrad brought many new adventures with it. On Friday, a group of us decided to explore Varosha (the old quarter of Blago). Old houses line narrow cobblestone streets and the Vuvedenie Bogorodichno Church offers a look at architecture from the 19th century. Set into the side of a hill, stairs lead from Varosha up into the foothills overlooking the city. When we set out on our adventure, the sun was on our backs and sweat was on our brows. By the end of the hike, clouds had replaces the sun and rain soaked through our clothes. After not seeing rain during the first two weeks, the skies opened up and poured water on us!
Throughout our hike up the stairs, we watched the clouds roll in and lighting spark in the distance. Assuming that it never rained in Bulgaria, we continued to climb with high spirits. However, as we neared the top, the thunder was right above us and droplets of rain began to fall. All of a sudden, a downpour began and we raced down the wet, slippery stone steps toward shelter. Attempting to wait out the rain in a hotel, we asked the receptionist if it ever rained. Of course, his reply was “No;” leading us to wonder how we could have picked such a bad day for a hike. Finally, after reaching a restaurant in Varosha, we all ordered hot chocolate to warm ourselves after being doused in cold rain. Although it cooled the hot air, the rain made our adventure more epic than any of us had anticipated!
(a wine cellar in Melnik)
Saturday, I planned a trip to Melnik (the smallest village in Bulgaria). Located about an hour and a half south of Blago, we all piled into AUBG vans and set out on our journey. Melnik offered a quaint environment for a peaceful afternoon. Wine tasting was the highlight of the trip; directly from the wine cellar to the glass. White or red in either dry or semi-dry were our options from the owner. Sitting in the cool wine cellar with friends and wine while enjoying a relaxing day trip was a great way to unwind after the first week of classes!
Sunday morning, I received an email from a professor at AUBG inviting me to attend an English language church service at a small church located about five minutes away from my dorm. The service resembled a small Bible study; he and his wife led me and five other students in a discussion of the Holy Spirit. As an affiliate of the Navigators, he had received an email from someone who had received an email from someone else whom I had emailed about churches near Blagoevgrad. I was excited to meet other Christians from AUBG and I look forward to studying the Bible and growing in my faith with them this semester!
Yesterday (Tuesday) was the Unification Day Holiday in Bulgaria. As an American accustomed to large and loud Fourth of July celebrations, I was disappointed to see no parades or fireworks. Apparently, Bulgarians have not learned the value of the throwing of candy from atop a decorated float to revel in the unification of northern and southern Bulgaria. Although I did not take part in any glorious parties, I did not complain about the lack of classes or the opportunity to hang out with friends!