Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Looking for miracles and war criminals

Bells on the mountain monastary at Ostrog

Hundreds of pilgrims light candles and pray for loved ones in this chapel at the monastary. Outside bulging garbage bags of deformed, burnt-down wax-globs were waiting to be carried down off the mountain.

The monastery is filled with pretty mosaics and icons. Co-traveller Doug thought this saint may have once done a stint on Star Trek.

Religious tourist spots are so bizarre and interesting and the monastery at Ostrog did not disappoint. It dates to 1665 and it's a memorial to Saint Vasilije, whose embalmed body is kept in a tiny stone room attended by priests. Pilgrims line up to go in a see the corpse. They cross themselves and pray and ask for miracles.

The monastery is built I don't know how high up in the mountains -- but there are 77 steps just from the lower part of the structure to the upper. The drive up narrow winding roads with a sheer drop off the right-hand side terrified Jane, who vowed she'd see everything at the place, buy everything and never come back again. Exhausted pilgrims doze on pads in the shade outside the monastery.

That Ostrog is so remote and difficult has fed rumors that it is one of the hiding places of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who along with Ratko Mladic, is the most notorious of still-uncaptured war criminals from the 1990s war. He may have been there while we toured the place, for all we knew. Among the tourists and pilgrims leaving coins and bracelets in all the nooks and crannies of the monastery were many hulking, burly men, some in priests' garb. It sounds ridiculous and I imply nothing. But you can see how rumors take on life.

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