Yesterday we enjoyed another relaxing day by the river in our campsite. We saw more deer, a whole family this time with two little bambi lookalikes in tow. A lovely Montenegrin family arrived and spent the afternoon having a BBQ, there was music, fun and laughter. Yoda once again attracted the attention of the youngsters and cemented his role as International Relations Officer, enjoying more fuss and playing up to the assembled children. Later on they asked us if we would like to try some of their food but unfortunately we were already eating – but what a lovely kind gesture 😀
Later we were joined by a French lady and her two daughters who had their own cat travelling with them, Yoda retreated to safety underneath Red Dwarf – he doesn’t mind children but he’s not a fan of other cats!
This morning we got up and whilst getting Red Dwarf ready for the off I did my bit for Anglo-French relations by helping the lady and her daughters untangle their aforementioned cat who had become very stressed cat afyer getting caught up in it’s lead. This involved me throwing my towel over the cat and pinning it down whilst they freed its back leg and we all deftly avoided it’s flailing claws.
We said our au revoirs and set off for todays destination, Ostrog Monastery, high above the Bjelopavlići plain. I keep saying this, but the drive was spectacular! We climbed up from the Rijeka Crnojevica river delta, the sun glinting off lily pads and reed beds, stopping every now and then for a photo opportunity.
Our route took us into Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, where we did a quick shop after which we started the climb to the monastery itself. Perhaps because this is the number one pilgrimage site in Montenegro, the roads were better than we have been used to – still steep and winding but wider and with a decent surface. The last few kilometers we good fun with excellent views across the plain below.
We parked up and had a spot of luncheon then got ourselves ready to walk the final ten minutes up a stepped path to the monastery. The dress code dictates that one should wear a long skirt or trousers and that shoulders should be covered. Today was the first time I’ve worn jeans since sometime in May!
The monastery is built into the face of a sheer cliff, it’s white walls are visible from miles around. There is a small shop selling religious icons and another kiosk selling candles and bottles of holy water. Those of you who know me will know I am not a religious person and neither is Jules. In fact we both felt ‘out of place’ amongst the obviously devout people around us. We had already asked if it was OK to stay overnight in the car park and been assured that it was. Google informed us that the monastery closing time was 5pm so we fully expected to have the place to ourselves…
Idiots! As we sit here at 10pm there are probably 40 cars in the car park and still more arriving. I Googled images of the monastery and found pictures of pilgrims sleeping on mats in front of the building. On closer inspection people arriving had blankets, some were cleaning their teeth in the toilets, indeed whole families where making their way up to the monastery to sleep under the stars – and despite my recent protestations about the heat it’s going to get down to 13°C tonight!
There are cars here from Montenegro, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Austria and more. It is customary to bring offerings to the monks of the monastery and also the homeless. We have seen people carrying bags of clothes and blankets up the steps. The site is visited by pilgrims from Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim faiths, they are young and old, families and couples. As an observer, it is a humbling experience.
We aren’t here to worship, we aren’t here on a pilgrimage, we are here because this is one of the major cultural attractions in Montenegro. No one has questioned our presence here, in fact the only attention we’ve had is from some Dutch tourists who took a photo of our tat strewn dashboard!
I’m not quite sure how to feel about staying here tonight, should we feel guilty because we are not believers, I don’t know. If we were the only ones here I don’t think we’d give it a second thought but somehow it feels like we’re intruding.
Right, philosophical mode ‘Off’… Not much we can do about it now as it’s too flipping dark to drive back down that helter skelter road.
On a slightly less eccumenical matter the jar of Ajvar sauce I bought a few days ago is already nearly finished… Good job I bought another one 😀
In the words of Dave Allen, ‘May your God go with you…’