On our way back to Sofia after having visited the Rila Monastery we stopped somewhere on the way to buy honey directly from the local producers.
As we were approaching Sofia, there were again the "control towers", which are in fact police observation boxes located at most of the major road junctions ... quite an interesting way of "supervising" the traffic and not only (I suppose).
Because many of us were interested in buying local artifacts to bring back home, Georges (our guide) took us to a small local shop, we would have had difficulty in finding ourselves (mainly because of its apparent small size and no particular indication as to what it sold) where we were able to find a wide variety of Bulgarian products from the simple postcard to the intricate embroidered shirts and folkloric outfits). I did buy a few things (not many).
We still had time to visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral once more (this time on our own) before heading back to the hotel to get ready for a folkloric night.
Mosaics over the entrances. Jesus Christ blessing over the central entrance (left).
The folkloric night took place at a well known restaurant with an authentic Bulgarian atmosphere, in terms of decoration and cuisine. The whole scenario was complemented by Folk music played by traditional folk musicians dressed up in typical outfits and sung by two different female singers. Four dancers, two of which danced outside, whilst the other two danced inside provided us with an insight into the various traditional types of dance, as according to the different regions and influences.
Two of us were called in to dance with them (I being one of them). I must confess that apart from the nervousness which I tried to desguise, it was very interesting to have to rapidly learn not only a few steps but also quite a few hand movements which "accompanied" the dance. I managed to do it surprisingly well
Late into the dinner we were all called out onto the restaurant patio where a fairly old man was revolving burning coal ashes within a circle like arena with a shovel and according to a certain ritual shaped them into a sort of cross. He then walked on them barefoot to the sound of the drums and the utmost surprise of us all.
He initially moved back and forth on the burning coal on his own to soon be joined by a young lady dressed up in a sort of white night gown holding a wooden frame with some painted icons on it. The whole scenario looked very much like a pagan type of dance ... and yet I have since then found out that this fire-walking ritual called Anastenaria is commonly practised by Eastern Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria and Greece and revolves around icons in a gesture of purification from the Devil.
Pagan or Christian we were all impressed and felt that ... in a way this had been a rather interesting way to finish the last night in Bulgarian territory. Some of the people in our group were leaving fairly early in the morning, though the group we were in would only be leaving in the afternoon.
Because the restaurant was located in the Vitosha hill, we still had the possibility of looking at the illuminated city one more time ( ... yet one last time) before driving back to the Hotel.