Travels with Steven Part 1

 

Stephen.

I kept on running into him, never knowing who he was.  

I crossed borders, changed countries, and there he was again: bloody Stephen.

Statues of Stephen. Stephen with a sword. Stephen with a holy cross.

Parks, schools, streets named after him.

His image on bank notes.

Stephen (or they called him, ‘Stefan’): hero of the southern Slavic peoples.

 Defender of the Faith. 

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Travels with Stephen Part 2

 

Leaving the portal, we entered the monastery grounds.

There was no one about. The silence hung heavy in the air.  

An early morning sun glanced over the perimeter wall.

What was once a fortified monastery built in a time of war and inhabited by hundreds of monks was now more like a museum.  

There was a wide area of grass on our left, whitened with frost. On our right, there was a church with high turrets. We went over there and circumnavigated it slowly like two children making a new discovery.

In these precious moments of solitude, it was possible to reimagine the past and the generations of monks who had lived and died there over the last 5 centuries.

Then the silence was broken.

Someone yelled.

The sound echoed in the cold air.

It took us a while to identify where the yelling was coming from: in an alcove next to the wall was an old monk sitting in a chair basking in the early morning sun. Dressed in black, a grey beard and a walking stick. He motioned for us to go over there

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