Friday, July 24, 2009

I Split with Croatia and make a pilgrimage with Franco and Luigi in Medugorje

Fabrice's father worked for the UN Peacekeeping force in Sarajevo, and had left to visit him, so it was just Kieran and I enjoying the performance. I say "enjoy", the taste was rather special, the day somehwat submerged in lethargy at the dawning of another 35 degree day, baking in the stone oven of the medieval buildings, I dozed on a 1700 year old plinth watching Verdi's Naboosh, a free rehearsal that many people attended in the Palace of Diocletian, a roman emperor.
Well, I stayed another night, the hostels in Mostar were all booked when I checked, so I stayed again at Jagoda's. I took a trip courtesy of the very kind 100 kuna that Janja gave me to the picturesque town of Trogir, only medieval and not classical in age! Huge luxury boats sat all shiny and shark like, high in the water and casting great shadows along the palm tree lined harbour, the miniature town surrounded entirely by water, at the far end of a cresecent shaped bay from Split. As the boats discourged their clientele, you had to stand back and not try to buck the tide, creamy icereams swirling in their eyes and electronic gadgets dangling from their sides like trinkets of good luck for the traveller.
It was hot and tourists swarmed like flies, I placed myself in acafe in the main square and put my feet up to read Voltaire's Candide, resolutely aloof to these imposters all around and their stupid oversized sandals, eerly exactly plush with the shiny stones, were they scared gravity would fail and they would fall out of this place? They waggled around, following the grim LEDs of their cameras, filming...what?
Candide is a story about a man expelled from a perfect life in the plentiful castle of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh where he was in love with the beautiful Lady Conegunde, and is forced to walk the earth and have his philosophy of optimism put to the test. This is descirbed as a passion for seeing all occurrences, no matter what, as having some positive end, and so in as much it mirrors my own sense of hopefullness it has been good tor read as I too have travelled and looked for providence along the way.
This is overlong, I am sorry. For our last night, Kieran and I went out to a restaurant and then few bars in the town, he reading Heideggers Being and Time, and we attempted to discuss this, me giving the fearful, briefly understanding and pleasured, then compleely baffled expressions of the foreigner. A lot of communication is like this as a tourist (I mean traveller!).
Providentially, Jagoda had given me 100 kuna to take me to Mostar, but the enxt day ont hue bus I got chatting to a pilgrim in sack-cloth robes called Franco, and another strnger to both of us, Luigi. They were speaking in italian, but Franco's wild grey hair, puppy dog friendliness, huge frame and simplicity of deportment (mirroring his unadorned tan sack robe) drew me into speaking with them. Luigi was a busker, making only enough to live on with his classical guitar. Franco, after finding God in 1997 and spending 2 years int eh vicinity of Turino wandering and praise giving, in the domain of his life and his acquantaince-making, spent 10 years making roads all around Europe. In his words, pointing up into the overhead strorage, "He is with me, every minute, every second, every moment. What I feel in my heart I do, where He says to go, I go. And in every place, I trust to providence."
Providence! They told me where they were going, to Medugorje, the famed Bosnian locale where the Virgin Mary is reported to have appeared to soem children in a vision in 1981, telling them to pray for peace, tears streming down her face. 9 years later the Balkan War began, and said Luigi, Mary is the embodiment of Faith. She trusted the divinity of her babies conception, and trusting the Godpath despite the societeal threat of death by stoning to conceptions occurring outside marriage. And so, he said, people should have had faith in her and prayed, prayed for peace, but they did not. They didn't have faith. Each tear she shed is a tear for many lifes, a tear for every life at Srebrenica, and later for every life at Kosovo. Anglicans trade blows with Catholics about such reverence for a mere mortal, a sinner, but as a Humanist I admire this worship for her and her exemplorary traits of total unquestioning, unwavering and unrationalised faith.
So shortly after saying goodbye to them en route to mostar, as I changed bus, the bus climbed one of the many mountains in bosnia and I ahd a change of thought, I would go to find them in Medugorje. By the time I harangued, and probably scared the unimpressed bus driver to let me out of the bus, in the middle of nowhere! we were 2 kilometres out of town, and so I hitched back to the bus station with some very pleasant and helpful party of american and bosnians. A coffee in the shade of the retro-styled bus station ("kava, molim vas?"), groovy in its 1960-70 yellow and orange roofing arching over the concourse like a table from a plasticated cafe, I decided to wait out the heat from 330 til 530 pm, chatting to Eldin and Leila, two young "European Muslims" about the beauty of Mostar, its two "sides" straddling the river and the beauty of the two old bridges that synthesise the two spheres and the ugliness of the politic that seeks to emphasise the cool and rushing river in the gorge below and its boulder ripping divisiveness. "Welcome to Bosnia", they said, "I hope you feel at home here!". And I actually did. Loneliness was ripping the composure out of me, and the labryinthe of insecurity had felt to be closing in, but I was pulled back and placed on my feet again. Thankyou to strangers.
So, the road, and after 45 minutes of humorous, sometimes ironic, baffled and often deadpanned expressions from the drivers of the cars (much cheaper and older models than in the land of United Kingdom) Zdravko stopped! Expressive and humbly friendly, we took me about another kilometre, but I seeing the beautiful country asked him how far? and as it was only 7 kilometres I decided to walk.
Flip. Flop. What do I see? I get my glasses out as I climb up the hillside, and glancing back turn around. A festival of hill shapes confornt my sensibilty and tug my artistry. Eldorado! The name of the promised land Candide inadvertantly discovers in Voltaire's satire, Eldorado, the "best of all possible worlds".
Pryramidal peaks, traingular and finely described in the low sun, come out of the pale beyond dark with yellowish sillhouettes, ranged together perhaps twenty in total, upright like rhino's horns, the green foothills below a passing resemblance to an undulating savannah.
Lookign to the other valley, greater peaks rise up, white rocks amid green scrag, rough and severe, but lower, a pure green shrub coated mantle dresses their feet, wooden and full in its geological shape, like enormous doorstoppers making a more sensitive angle between the precipitous mountain and the flat pastoral land beneath that walsk towards me in the sunlight waving, fields, red tiled-houses and barns, and a lush and watery green pierces the arid air and is illumined in fresh tranquility.
The road passes burned and regrowing hill,a nd then turns around to climb another hill, at whose top a brown slender farmer's daughter tends to the coppery soil of a vegetable garden before a humble hometsead, the garden a display of jubilant growth, the whorls of grape vines and kiwi trees flourished like prize-winning rossettes.
At the very summit of my walk, I come accross a boy returning from the fields with an insect spray tank on his back. Unexpectedly, he actually hails me and we speak, his name is Srećko and while we exchange polite words and exhaust my repertoire of Bosni-Serbi-Croat, we have arrived at his veranda and I meet his father and sister. They bid me sit, grant me coffee and a cigarrette (honestly, the first in 4 days! it is rude to decline I feel) and thus begins a rapid and vertitudinous langauge lesson, the voluptuous Sladana joining us, the charm in her warm eyes fabulous like the land. Dopily, we are all still chatting as the sun sets, and I make a too hasty departure, regretting my demure and bashful failure to flirt, and the night bullies me into a punishing march, hsutling and bustling me past the now cloaked giant spiders on their road side web dwellings (they were was fat as spruots, looking like fun-size everton toffees and as creepy as crabs hooked onto nets) towards Medugorje, still according to a local 5 kilometres away! My tarrying!
So I stick out a thumb and Nicola hicthes me into town, his rosary beads jangling with each pothole. I have no idea where FRanco and Luigi are, people are gathered by the church with candles and guitars, I join them in body and voice ofr a little song, but no great big wild haired Franco or tanned bald and bespctacled Luigi. And so to bed... "10 euros? Dobro, hvala! I will take it". The langauge is the same here, so I bid you doberveche!

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