I have never seen Troyan Monastery as quiet as it was last Friday. True, the main chapel is currently undergoing restoration, but I was still surprised to see the rest of the complex so empty and, well, monastic. There were more people browsing the wooden bowls and chopping boards on the craft stalls outside the monastery walls than there were soaking up the atmosphere inside. Lucky us.
Why were we back in Troyan, visiting a place we’ve been to many times before? A few reasons:
- We’ve been in a pandemic bubble for over a year now and going anywhere new feels illicit, weird or, frankly, just too much like hard work. I’ve slipped into the quicksand swamp that is my comfort zone and I’m staying here for the foreseeable.
- It’s quite a nice drive out there, especially if you skip the main Troyan exit off the Sofia-Lovech road and instead go through Stefanovo and the other villages heading towards Oreshak.
- It had been snowing for a week and we were desperate to look at something, anything, that wasn’t the snowy view from our windows.
- And I wanted to visit the national arts and crafts exhibition (complete with huge shop) just up the road from the monastery. Let’s be honest, this was the main reason we went. The pandemic has put a serious pause on my pottery purchasing proclivities and I needed a ceramic fix. Just enough to get me through more lockdown. (Yes, Bulgaria is back in lockdown as of this week, after only coming out of lockdown on 1st March.) Plus, I had a dream about wooden bowls and felt it was my duty – my actual duty – to buy some local wooden bowls. The pandemic may have warped my sense of civic duty…
So we went, armed with face masks, tea flasks and … sadly I can’t think of a third thing that ends in ‘asks’. But we did take some homemade savoury muffins (these beauties by Pick Up Limes). Just sitting at a rest stop, overlooking some hills, eating a muffin and drinking tea felt like such a 2021 highlight. How small our lives have become. You know you’re living through a pandemic when filling up at a different petrol station feels like an event.
Did I buy any pottery and wooden bowls? Does the Pope have questionable views? Hell yes I bought stuff. Two hand-painted plates by a ceramic artist called Rosita Zankova (we have one of her large plates already). A swirly-patterned platter thing. An old copper Turkish-style tea tray and jug. And a couple of wooden bowls just like the ones from my dream. (Thankfully, the bowls where the only part of my dream to come true. The murderous merman – yes, merman – from the same dream didn’t materialise in Troyan.)
Like I said, we don’t get out much, so I may have gone a bit overboard on the purchases. But, as I kept repeating to myself at the time, ‘It’s fine. It’s fine. We’re supporting the arts.’
Oh, and the monastery was nice, too.