Gordon: The 86 km ride from Blagoevgrad to Melnik was fast, pretty and varied. We passed through another canyon (popular for whitewater rafting) and a number of traditional villages before climbing into the hills that surround Melnik. Our tripometer turned over 4,500 km during the ride.
Melnik is a node on the tourist circuit. This is not a bad thing, as it means that there is comfortable accommodation, great food, and more than typical attention to maintaining the historic character and appearance. The small town, with a fraction of its original population prior to the withdrawal of its Greek residents in 1923, is attractively nestled in a dramatic landscape of hoodoos (the Bulgarians call them “pyramids”). It is a wine producing area, famous for its robust reds, which we had the pleasure of sampling. Winston Churchill reputedly had wine from the area shipped to him by the barrel.
We made an excursion by bike today to the 13th century monastery at the nearby village of Rozhen. It is a tranquil place, with an atmospheric church in which a solitary monk was singing throughout our entire visit. There are some great 16th century murals, including a depiction of a ladder to heaven from which unworthy sinners are being dragged by nasty devils.