Melnik


After leaving the Rozhen Monastery, I headed to Melnic to grab some lunch. Eating authentic Bulgarian cuisine is definitely something you should do on your visit here. It’s always hearty, always full of veggies and definitely healthier than in most other places throughout Europe. Plus, nearly all of the fruits and vegetables that you’ll find in your meal are grown locally – or at least from nearby Greece or Macedonia.

Once finished with lunch, my producer, Mariana, and I trekked into the ruins. Among them are churches, forts, baths and residences. it’s really interesting to see the old and new mixed together – or rather I should say the “old and the old,” since the only things here that are new are the cars parked on the pedestrian choked roadways.

The construction has been kept at least with the emphasis of the medieval style, with buttressed awnings and second floors. Stonework adorns most walls and the occasional vaulted columnar vestibule overlooks the wealthier views of the village.

Check out this video that I made of my short visit there.

Advertisements

Rozhen Monastery


This weekend, my new producer and I went out to visit some really cool places throughout Southwestern Bulgaria. It was a trip back in time to the 1700s when our first stop brought us to the Rozhen orthodox monastery in Blagoevgrad Province. This place was packed into the history books with the Spanish Inquisition.

The Rozhen monastery is the biggest in the Southwest of Bulgaria, and is known formally as the Monastery of the Nativity if the Mother of God. This orthodox encampment is one of the few in the region, and is well preserved. You can reach it by car, as my gracious hosts have offered to me, or by footpath from the town through the sand pyramids – a highly recommended jaunt that should only take an hour or so. This is the trail that the original monastics used, so it’s something of a pilgrimage that can be made in the same footsteps as used in the time of its inception.

Everything from the art on the walls to the listless grape vines splayed along the second story buttresses, drinking up the sun. From before even stepping foot into the grounds of the compound, the centuries-old, riveted, iron-plate door swallowed all sense of recency and equipped the eyes to take in something from long ago.

rozhenpainting2_resize

The paintings alone, finished in 1732 by local monks, are enough to lock you into a gaze of intentional curiosity. Like the paintings of the period, it’s not the masterful work that absorbs you. It’s the context of the themes themselves. They show depictions of the most important moments in the orthodoxy’s history. And they’re displayed right atop benches and walkways that people inconveniently rub away without any regard to preservation of the artwork. Perhaps this is more the fault of the keepers than the visitors for not protecting with more attention.

Nevertheless, it was a very cool experience to have been a part of. And what’s more, I was also given the rare privilege of shooting inside the monastery itself, with other opportunities to film around the grounds.

Here are a few of the images I took while I was there.

 

After walking the grounds, we also visited the grave of Yane Sandanski, the revolutionary after whom the neighboring town of Sandanski was named. Yane (or Jane) Ivanov Sandanski was an interesting chap. He is widely recognized as the revolutionary leader who lead an anti-Ottoman uprising and assisted in estoppel of the Turkish campaign of forced Islamic conversion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

His grave site lies behind this stoic edifice, and is certainly presaged by locals to be the tomb of a hero.

yanechurch_resize
After leaving the Rozhen temple, I headed into Melnic, the least populated city in Bulgaria. More about that next time…

Finally Back Out In the World!


Oh, how I have missed you all these past two years. And also missed journalism. And traveling. And making neat, little travel shorts. I think the last time I actually sat down and wrote a blog was before I went back to the states in 2014 to start my latest of two graduate degrees – a terminal master’s in Intermedia, at the University of Maine.

It’s been a whirlwind adventure with plenty of ups and downs and lessons big and small. I am proud to announce that I have completed all of my coursework and have actually been offered a full time professorship at UMO’s sister campus, the American University in Bulgaria, which they helped open in 1991 (and are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year). The ties that I have built at the University have grown so strong that I’m even planning to complete my PhD studies through UMaine while I’m here!

To put it lightly, I couldn’t be happier. I am living in Bulgaria and enjoying a splendid little corner of Eastern Europe. I have plans to be filming in Serbia and Macedonia soon, having already traveled throughout Bulgaria and Greece for some great photo opportunities so far. So this note is to let you all know that I am back out in the world, boots on the ground, camera in hand and creating more content for you to read, hear, watch and enjoy of my humbling journeys around the globe.

Here’s a short video of the trip to Thessaloniki this past weekend, with the promise of more to come.

Travel Geek Podcast Cover


As many of you know (especially those of you following along on my Facebook page), I have started work on my podcast show. And as a point of order, I need to know what you guys think of the cover. After I get a few more episodes, the channel will be live, kicking off on several channels and platforms. So it’s gotta be right.

So, whadya think?

10411314_332856350199976_4892975541068483879_n

Lemme know in the comments or email your suggestions to cyle@cyleodonnell.com

6 Things You Won’t Get with Fast Travel


Pockmarking your passport with stamps just to fill the pages might get you an interesting conversation on the plane ride back home. But it won’t actually teach you anything about the world.

Consider what you’re NOT learning when you speed through your travel plans, rush the ticketing office and hurry to get back to your home port. It ain’t much. Even less if your heart simply isn’t in it.

This article comes from a Matador U alumni, and it spoke to me. So I decided to share it.

“YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”
– Edward Abbey

It’s been nearly 50 years since Edward Abbey wrote Desert Solitaire, a declaration of love to the Southwest whose ripple effect left a legacy of environmentalism in its wake. But, in a world of expedient travel, do his words still carry weight? After walking, bicycling, and driving across America, this is what I have learned we sacrifice by traveling too fast.

1. Serendipity

On my first long-distance trip — a bike tour — I frequently told myself to avoid distractions that would cause me to delay my itinerary. This was on my mind the morning I crawled out of my tent to find myself surrounded by decorated caravans. There was an impromptu art festival taking place in the small riverside town of Stockholm, Wisconsin.

As jugglers drifted by and painters set up their stands in the early sunlight, my traveling partner and I debated whether to stay or make more miles. Four years later, I have never regretted deciding to stay and explore the little town that quadruples its population once a year.

2. Quality time

My journey from New Hampshire to Georgia was a harrowing 30-hour bus ride. I witnessed a drug deal, an attempted religious conversion, and a loud conversation about erotic dreams. During the night, I was woken every few hours by a scratchy PA system, prodded into a fluorescent bus station, and after ten minutes of blaring televisions, returned to my stiff seat.

My trip back took six months, covered nearly 2,000 miles by foot, and was much more enjoyable. I experienced violent illness, hail, and poisonous snakes, but always with the driving reminder that if I quit, I would have to take the bus home.

Traveling quickly saves time. But time is a nebulous concept that has been measured in everything from money to distance to cups of tea. I have learned that I prefer to measure my time in quality. For me, 30 hours on a bus was longer than six months in the woods.

3. Context

Hail the size of peach pits was pockmarking our bare legs and arms with reddish welts when we finally reached shelter in the Greyson Highlands. But the hectic sound of the deluge was replaced by our laughter as the hail suddenly stopped and a rainbow broke out of a countryside teeming with wild ponies. I would walk through a hailstorm daily if that were my reward each time.

Struggle, difficulty, and uncertainty are not words you’ll find in a tourist brochure, but they are words intrinsic to long-distance travel. Our lowest moments on the Appalachian Trail made us truly appreciate our highest.

4. Cultural exchange

Driving appealed much less to me. Watching the country go by behind glass made me feel separated from it; I spent most of my time looking in the rearview mirror. Hiking, we found that people in town wanted to talk to us, and our leisurely schedule afforded us the time to listen. We witnessed the gradual changes in landscape and local attitudes as the Deep South transitioned into the Northeast.

5. Human connections

On multiple occasions, traveling slowly has forced me to spend a lot of time with someone completely different than me. If we were seated next to each other on the bus, one of us probably would have moved. But instead, we always find common ground and often stay in touch after the trip is over. The bond between travel partners is made out of stronger glue than friendships built on similarities.

Bike touring and hiking, my immediate future was usually uncertain, and that vulnerability made me seem approachable. I made dozens of unlikely friends this way. In a car or on a bus, people treated me as one more tourist. They were polite, but distant.

6. Perspective

I spent several months in Montana before I got used to the “big sky.” It was an optical illusion — because the mountains were separated by flat expanses, the sky appeared larger. Similarly, after a week in Seattle I was shocked to realize that, unlike in Boston where honking is a hereditary instinct, no one honks their car horns in traffic.

I’ve always thought these quirks and small mysteries shape a place’s personality. When I’m on a schedule, though, I skip smaller things in favor of larger ones. Traveling the US by car, I made sure to stop at Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and Nashville, but I failed to visit numerous small canyons I had read about, hike through Joshua Tree, or have a real conversation with a stranger.

By comparison, when I was cycling across the US I toured the last standing Cold War-era missile site on a whim. Hiking, I visited abandoned mining towns hidden in the woods of Appalachia.

Travel, like most things in life, depends on your priorities. If you want to see something beautiful without any context, you can drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and be on your way to New Mexico by sundown. Or you can forget about your destination and crawl.

Original article by BY

Travelcast with Lisa Egle of Chicky Bus, Podcast #16


In this podcast, Lisa Egle, author of Magic Carpet Seduction and creator of http://www.chickybus.com, covers global politics, talks about her latest and greatest tales on the road and offers her insights as a single, female traveler abroad.

Lisa is one of the most accessible and genuinely involved travelers out there. Stop by her page, subscribe to her monthly newsletter and help support her engaged writing by buying her newest title. Also follow her on twitter: @chickybus.

Check out more podcasts at: http://www.travelgeekmagazine.com

follow on twitter: @cyleodonnell & @travelgeekmag

Find on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thetravelgeek

Like on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cyleodonnellthetravelgeek