Location: Sofia Type: day trips around Sofia; monasteries; Bulgaria Suitable for children: yes
There are many opportunities for a weekend trip around Sofia, as we have already mentioned. A great option is Saint Mina monastery, which is actually situated within the city – in the former village of Obradovtsi, nowadays a neighborhood of the Bulgarian capital – Benkovski.
Saint Mina monastery
I`ve wanted to visit the monastery for some time – my parents have been visiting it many times in the weekends through the years. They`ve told me that once it had been run by two elderly nuns. Its buildings weren`t much remarkable, but the well-kept courtyard with a lovely garden full of flowers in the spring and summer was worth a visit. What attracts many pilgrims and subsequently contributes to the expansion of the monastery complex is the miraculous icon of St. Mina. It is said that if one prays with a hand on the icon, his or hers prayers will be heard. The water from the holy spring in the yard is also believed to have healing powers.
Whether that is true, I can not say. Today, however, the monastery has expanded beyond recognition with the help of donations from grateful people. It has not one, but three churches – the old church St. Mina with the icon of the saint and the churches St. Ivan Rilski and St. Nicholas, located on two floors in a common building. The gardens of the nuns are preserved, but not as lavish as once.
How to get to the monastery
In order to reach Saint Mina monastery, you have to head to Benkovski, exit the neighborhood and follow the signs leading to the monastery. They will take you to a parking lot where you can leave your car. The parking lot is not built in front of the monastery itself – you have to cross a bridge over the Vladayska river before entering its yard.
If you have a baby stroller, you will have to move it a few steps up and down the bridge, otherwise there is no other difficulties on the route. We have to mention that the view around the bridge resembles a jungle with its lush vegetation in the summer, and the smell of the river is no less stunning. You just have to turn off your smell sensors while you’re crossing it.
Around the monastery complex
When you reach the monastery’s outer gates, you will be freed from the presence of the specific fragrances and will be rewarded with tranquility, so typical for all holy places. A path will take you to the second gates that surround the monastery complex itself. Around the path are gazebos, children’s playgrounds and small villas, which can be rented for overnight stays. They seem to have recently been renovates, and at the same time are not in the best condition – I’m not sure how exactly this effect has been achieved.
Our visit to the Saint Mina monastery happened during an unusually sunny for this spring Saturday. Fortunately, there were not many other people and we were able to take our time around the monastery. We touched the miraculous icon, sipped water from the holy spring and enjoyed the beautiful flowerbeds.
Our little daughter had some great time herself, playing with other children in the yard. Overall – we had a very pleasant afternoon.