Friday, February 6, 2015

Day 76 Unplanned fun

I left a monastery in a deep fog - and though the one sister there and an aspiring sister-to-be who live in the small fortress church with a history of Turkish invasions offered me plenty of the customary liqueur and wine to ward off the cold, the fog was not in my head, but hugging the mountains and the ground.  We had a fun evening, a treat for me that we conversed in English since the two women are well educated, happy to have an opportunity to practice, and happy to have a visitor, so it was a bittersweet parting at dawn.  The sister pointed out that though my footprints remained in the snow from the previous evening's arrival, the freeze of the night gave enough icy crust that there were no footprints as I descended the mountain path. She shouted after me - 'you don't disturb the snow, you must be an angel!'  I'm happy I didn't fall on the sheer ice.

I hiked for hours in the snowy foggy mountains, enjoying the animated tranquility.  I stopped by another monastery, high in a gorge, though like all the others, never fully able to hide from the medieval Turks.  Tea with the monks there and a discussion of the footpath that continued through the mountains to get to the next monastery on the opposite side.  Discussions like these are all quite vague with monks and nuns, attached as they are to their monastery, they don't seem to get out and go for long walks, and don't care to know where they fit in geographically.  Vague compounds poorly with fog and snowfall... maybe it was a tad foolish of me to head off into the mountains without a proper map and without a firsthand account of the way.  I loved every minute of it: breaking trail on a wide forester's track; the abundance of deer tracks was amazing, either a few of them were running in circles around me or there were dozens of them; I heard the sickening screech of wild pigs startlingly close and then one darted out from under a pine tree a stone's throw away, blood gushing from a wound in it's flank, a rank stench left hanging in the billowing fog; surprising for the depth of winter, a duo of black squirrels leapt through the fresh snow deeper than their own height, like cartoon animals... never stopping, I was captivated for hours with the imprecise sense that I was gaining elevation and heading west-ish.  The fun had to end eventually - before dark, always the objective - and somewhere safe.  I reached what seemed to be the top, walked along a ridge for a few hours hoping for a break in the inquiet fog to get a view, and then found a wide white carpet that headed down, the snow being just above my hemline, instead of no footprints in the snow, I now left a strangely adorned set that would likely perplex someone, if someone were there to notice.

Downward and moving fast to reach somewhere before dark, I followed a babbling brook, which fed a stream, which became a small river, then one too large to cross, and hoped I was on the appropriate bank.  A hut, abandoned... a cluster of farm buildings set back, maybe occupied, maybe not... a few roofs visible ahead... domestic debris littering the river... a footbridge, creaky and unstable, but sufficient for purpose... and out onto a paved road into a village of sorts.  Whew, and all without foreknowledge.  The greatest surprise, atypical for the Serbian villages I had already visited, a tavern, with lights on in the full dusk the crept in as the fog lifted, and a view that nearly burst through the window into my yearning eyes - a roaring fire in a great stone hearth.  I couldn't have planned it better.  Okay, so no one inside spoke any of my five good languages, so we relied on my squishy Russian/Ukrainian/generic Slavic/conjugate-as-you-will, gestures, and a few letters of introduction handwritten by some of the good folks who had offered me hospitality.  Hot tea, soup being prepared, a stranger among us, call all villagers, we're having a party.  Who wouldn't love to be a pilgrim?  Scrutinizing a detailed topo map, the myriad of forest roads appeared like spaghetti thrown on paper; I swung too far south and having walked about 30 kilometers, was still about 25 kilometers away from the monastery I targeted for the day.  Ah well.  Off the Schengen clock, I'm in no particular hurry and know full well I can't visit all the monasteries Serbia has tucked in the beautiful nooks and crannies of its mountains.  The proprietor was as gracious as could be, though had no idea of what a pilgrim is in his own language - hodochasnitza, was delighted to have hosted a wayward American woman.


James Suntum said...

Another try at responding - I found your account of foggy parties and travels hilarious and delightful!! Who wouldn't want to be a pilgrim indeed! You are in our prayers and the Masses constantly. Vaya con Dios siempre!! Jim, SF

Kym said...

I love your posts. I check everyday to see if there is an update. In the meantime, you are in my thoughts and prayers. Journey well.

James Suntum said...

So the Lenten part of the pilgrimage has begun! Where were you on Ash Wednesday? Was it a universal day of prayer and church attendance and "get ashes" there? !Vaya con Dios siempre! Jim, sf

Sheila Wright said...

76 days of winter. Hard to imagine drilling through the snow, skimming the ice every day until darkness sets in. But you are the one to do it. My blood is so thin these days I'm even cold in the house with the heat on. But a new chemo seems to be working, so that's the good news.Sounds as if those monks and nuns are always up to some good..and loving to celebrate whatever they do. Hope that backpack is still holding up! Thinking of you often. Love from Roscoe also.