On Monday Biss was not available to meet until the evening. Honza suggested he rent a car and we use it to see a little of the countryside outside of Sofia. We drove through agricultural areas on our way to the Rilla Mountains. As we passed, we saw the neglect that characterized the countryside. Part of the problem is residual from communism. We saw the deteriorating hulks of failed communist collective efforts. We also saw a countryside being steadily depopulated as people either go to the west to work or move into Sofia. One village we stopped in had become essentially a ghost town.
We also saw the stunning beauty of the countryside as we approached our primary destination- the Rilla Monastery. The last remnants of melting snow are creating temporary waterfalls as the water cascades down the mountain. The Monastery, which dates from the 10th century, was both practically and symbolically the bastion of efforts to retain Bulgarian national identity during the country’s 500 year harsh occupation by the Turks.
After our safe return to the city, we met Biss for a final evening together. As always the conversation was lively, entertaining, and primarily focused on the kingdom.
On Tuesday we made the short flight back to Prague with a feeling of genuine accomplishment for our trip. Honza accompanying me was a blessing in many ways. It was not only of great value to the Bulgarian brethren, but also gave us many additional hours together for study and companionship.