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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Short: Documentary Malacca


In this short documentary, I explore the culturally and historically rich port of call after which the Strait of Malacca was named. Talking with locals and exploring the city, this short follows me as I get in touch with the real Malacca that is seldom seen.

For all the extras from Travel Geek: Documentary Malaysia, visit http://www.MovingStillsMedia.com.

Friend me on Facebook: facebook.com/thetravelgeek

Read the blog at http://www.cyleodonnell.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

How to Eat a Cockroach


I get asked all the time whether I eat strange foods while traveling. And to answer this question, yes.

Among the stranger delicacies throughout Asian cuisine, cockroaches of various species are on the high class menu.

Personally, I could go my entire life and never even see one of these again, and it would still be too soon. But it seems apparent that these disgusting creatures aren’t going anywhere. They’re found everywhere on earth. And because I travel native style, it’s time to man up and eat one like a local.

Singapore Day Two: Part Two:


In the evening, I headed over to Little India to experience what all the fuss was about: the food.

Just past Mustafa Center is the section of town that leads to Arab Street, the famed location of many amazing restaurants and even the growing glamour of Kampong Glam (Glam Village).  Here, you’ll find an array of delicacies – not the least of which is stingray sauté.

And of course, how can one eat out with friends and not share some “shisha?”

Shisha is a long time favorite item of restaurant goers here.  After dark, younger adults to  senior citizens group-order food and wash it all back with a bubbly brew of their choosing – much to the chagrin of the Muslim locals in the area.

The key ingredient, though, is flavored tobacco from a giant water bong known as a hookah.  And because of the way that it is inhaled, it’s both incredibly addictive and extremely harmful.  In fact, it’s about 200 times more dangerous than smoking cigarettes.  But that doesn’t seem to stop these anxious smokers from indulging.

In any case, after some lovely eats and chats with others having a coke-and-a-toke, I ended my night by catching up on journals and planning for the next day.  Which, of course, was epic.

Be sure to come back in a couple days and check out the video from indoor skydiving, swimming with man-eating sharks, a mile-high cable car and much more!