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Welcome to the Show

Ostrog: Core of Spirituality

February 25, 2018

 

 Photo (c): Montenegro in Style

 

When we left Ulcinj, we rented a car to take us all the way to Podgorica, mini buses are slow and take forever to get there. But if you are on a tight budget, is gonna be a fun bumpy ride for you! One of the Italian girls in my group, Benedetta, had the brilliant idea of renting a space via Airbnb, so I ended up with her and Marta, another Italian girl and a Turkish guy, Taner, all sleeping together in an apartment in Podgorica. Taner begged us to keep "quiet"...he was recently married and his wife would have 'killed' him if she found out he slept in the same space with 3 European girls. Our Montenegrin guide Tina, was already waiting for us in Podgorica, a day ahead of us. Together, we went to a very popular restaurant in Podgorica, Pod Volat, with 'fattening' food, and next day we were off to Ostrog, nicely packed in her car, enjoying her vivid analytical style and long blond hair.

 Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

The Monastery is a 50 minutes drive away from the capital Podgorica. The landscape is mountain-dreamy so expect to be carried away. The thing is, we set up for Ostrog, but we did not expect at all it would turn out to be such a strong and vibrant place, and especially we weren't expecting to see monks that were so into the 'real' life. The young ones seemed to enjoy talking to strangers and had no problem in discussing with beautiful women. Monks usually are known to be more shy, but in Ostrog you could see their humanity and that speaks volumes of the place. Moreover, we went there with no home-work done, so it was only after the trip that we realized just how special this place is. It is built around the 16th century and sits under the patronage of Saint Basil ( Sveti Vasilije Ostroški), whom in his living days was the monastery's Bishop.

                        Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

 It belongs to the Serbian orthodoxy, engraved, as you can see from the picture, in an almost vertical background, pertaining to the huge rock of Ostroška Greda. 

 

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

 Often, the monastery is above the clouds or into the misty vapors rising up from the River Zeta. From high up the Monastery, you can admire the  Bjelopavlici Plain.

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

About Saint Basil, it is known that before he came to Ostrog, he was in a monastery in the town of Cetinje, where he had disagreements with the Montenegro archbishop of that time. The young monk Basil was against discussions with the agents of the Pope about an agreement, a union of sorts, between the Catholics and orthodox, and was therefore shunned out of Montenegro.

 

The  exact time he came to Ostrog is not known, but he became its bishop in 1651. He sided with Venice, when Venice was at war with the Turks. This gave the Catholics a window of opportunity to spread the Catholic faith throughout the territory of Herzegovina and Montenegro, though Bishop Basil was centered in reinforcing orthodoxy in the area. 

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

When I was in Montenegro, I realized you encounter a lot of Italian speaking people, and many Montenegrins go for work abroad in Italy. My first driver from Podgorica to the town of Ulcinj where I had a theatre course, mentioned  he was an avid Italian speaker!

Photo (c): Benedetta Risolo

 

Among Montenegrins, there are countless stories about the miraculous effects of the relics of Saint Basil. One of those tales is that of a mother who left a wooden cradle on top of the wall just above the monastery. The baby bounced in the cradle and moved, so it fell off the wall from the height of about 70 meters. Even though the cradle shattered into pieces, the baby remained unharmed.

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

On the monastery's website, there is an intriguing story: that of the American Senator of Illinois, William Bill Bar, that suffered an attempt to his life in the 70's and was left without a leg and severe pains. His wife, Dojna Galic Bar, an American physiatrist, and a woman of Montenegrin descent, published a book named “Blue Pigeon” in which she documented her husband’s visit to the Monastery. According to the senator he had an odd dream one night in which he visited a small white church set in a cliff up the mountain.

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

Then, in another recurring dream, an old grey haired man speaking in a language he did not understand walked him through the chambers of the same white church, while at the same time healing the sick and the dying in the church using the healing power of his hands. 

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

Later, the senator met by chance a manufacturer of prostheses, that had some blood lines connected to the Balkan area. During the visit to his office, the senator noticed a picture of a small white church and of a white haired Saint Basil on the wall. He set out to visit the monastery, and as he knelt before the remains of Saint Basil, his pains abated. He returned home from his journey feeling no pain whatsoever. 

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

I wasn't in a need of a miracle myself when I went there,  and I am not religious at all, but I give space to all religions of the world to co-exist and create a melange of spirituality on the planet. What I did notice is that the monastery has a strong vibe, the kind of vibe that 'knows' what its purpose is. It briefly reflects the strong Montenegrin attitude and presence. Pilgrims walk by foot ( or by knee some say, I haven't seen something as radical there) typically from the base of the mountain. The view is breath taking, with the peaks of the mountains piercing through the white clouds like jewels on a fair skinned lady's hand.  The subtle splendor of the monastery lies in the fact that all three major religions : Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic and Muslim recognize Ostrog as a highly spiritual place, and a place of utmost spiritual importance in the area of Montenegro and Herzegovina. In fact, it is one of the most visited shrines in the Balkans.

 

Photo (c): Crna Gora

 

The church Vavedenje that now contains the remains of Saint Basil, it is known as the most holy ground of Montenegro and Herzegovina. The miracle, they say, are performed when you have faith, not when you are in need. In fact, one of my favorite black singers, Jason Warrior, said that indeed the Spirit, the universal healing energy, whatever you wish to call it, comes when you have faith in it, thus creating a space of void for it to manifest and work with you. Definitely not when you feel needy and full of ego. 

 

 Photo (c): Benedetta Risolo

 

You can visit the monastery at any time of the day and night and leave some small items for the monks if you wish. You can also leave the names of the dear ones to be mentioned by the monks on the liturgy. Plenty of kids stroll by Ostrog, and plenty of lovers as well.

 Kids at Ostrog, Photo (c): Nomaddeea

Lovers at Ostrog, Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

What was funny was seeing on the other side of the mountain, a monk side by side with a beautiful tall and curly red-haired woman smoking a ciggarrete by. He volunteered to take some pictures of our group.  

Photo (c): Taner Temiz

 

Since the journey to Ostrog is considered sacred, famous & great minds ascended towards this place. It's a spiritual road for everyone that has made it up to here. Of course, minus us..since we only understood the place after we left.

 Photo (c): Nomaddeea

  

We got up there in Tina's car listening to pop music with windows open. Me & Benedetta were sitting in the back chatting and taking pictures, and our Turkish guy Taner was in the front seat praying to Allah because Tina was driving fast-forward. I'm sure we were not the only crazy tourists on spot, and all Saints have in fact been human.

Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

Ostrog has also been written about in memoirs and travel logs of many scientist and writers that traveled to Montenegro. A general of Napoleons army, Viala de Somier, wrote a book under the title “Voyage historique et politique au Montenegro” and devoted it to the monastery and to Saint Basil. He described in detail the complex of churches that you can find here ( Upper & Lower Monastery), as well as Saint Basil and the fact that he was very much loved by Montenegrins, Bosnians, Serbs, Albanians as well as Italians and Turks.

 

                                                Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

That's the beauty of Montenegro actually! It's intercultural space is still booming: Muslims live side by side with Christians, you can hear Italian music from all 4 corners of this country &  eat Balkan rich in proteins food! Man, this is savage, you gotta try it! And with a guide like Tina, we had nothing to worry about it, as she drove us next day to the airport!

 Plane over Ostrog, Photo (c): Nomaddeea

 

XoXo

Deea

The End.

Is only a New Beginning.

 

 

 

 

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  Drama Moments & Nomad Times : served with a lem on   on  a flying zebra, and a pinch of jazz. Tips, life tricks & international coffee sips guaranteed.

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Deea

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