I am on the Bosfori Express, headed back to Istanbul. I said goodbye to Andy and Katho and now I am travelling by myself again.
We had a really good day exploring Veliko Tarnovo together. Last night we finished up with a few beers on the balcony of Hikers Hostel (the three of us were the only ones staying there at the moment) and chatting to the guy who works there (he said he is incredibly bored at work with no one there). We had a view of the castle and watched the sound and light show.
Andy said he expected more lasers.
A good night's sleep and a nice shower work wonders, and this morning I was ready to look around.
We walked down to the Tsarvets Fort and as we walked in the gates Katho and I were disgusted by the hideous contraption that played piped medieval music and had corney moving dummies of the King and Queen inviting us to explore. Andy said that it was enchanting, and better than Katho's favourite ride at Disneyland.
The fort is very large, an entire hill walled off, enclosing the ruins of 400 houses and a score of churches. We walked along the walls to Baldwin's Tower, climbed through the ruins, saw lizards scurrying and the execution rock. the most bizarre was the 1000+ year old Patriarch’s Church in the centre, which was restored ten years ago and turned into a museum. During the restoration they covered the inside with bizarre paintings, a dark and twisted modern depiction of the bible, closer to the 'Scream' than to religious paintings.
After Tsarvets we caught a taxi to the nearby town of Ammervasi, where we wandered around and saw the Nativity Church, unusual because it was built during Ottoman occupation of Bulgaria, and they insisted on no dome or cross, and the building had to be lower than a Turkish solider on a horse holding up his sword. To make up for the low long building, they covered the inside with paintings, thousands covering the surface from the Old and New Testaments and of saints. The paintings are unique in their deviations from orthodox traditions, and some are heretical, such as a wheel of life hinting at reincarnation, and the unusual depictions of god.
We took a nature walk back from Ammernasi to Veliko Tarnovo. Katho was sad that a bear cub didn't jump out and attack her with hugs during the walk. We saw St Dimitri's church, where the rebellion to start the second Bulgarian Empire was started, and had an excellent dinner before I had to leave.