Walking slowly through an old narrow laneway in the Altstadt, I paused in astonishment. The facades of the buildings were unique and unlike anything that I had experienced. The street, almost hidden, barely noticeable connected numerous arcades to the Old Marketplace. The street renown for its goldsmiths that long ago peddled their antique craft in the many shops that line the roadway. Beautifully designed and decorated medieval and baroque facades adorned with religious ornaments and intricately designed cast iron signs of artisans selling their wares were everywhere to be seen. Bouquets of neatly arranged colourful flowers lined the elegant buildings. The picturesque and archaic surroundings manifested a feeling of nostalgia.
Pausing along the banks of the old town I looked out across the river. The night air gently caressed my face as the sound of the water flowing soothed my thoughts. The golden glow of lights illuminated the bridge brilliantly as it stretched forth, traversing the great expanse of water decorated with dancing lights. A sense of adventure stirred my heart, as I crossed the vast iron bridge, stepping onto an archaic cobblestone road. The transformation was immediate as I entered the old section of the city. Disappearing into a secluded street, I paused and looked down the empty street, illuminated by the warm glow of street lamps. Beautiful facades of buildings from a bygone era manifested their magnificence in the stillness of the night.
The large wooden door simplistically adorned beckoned me to enter the deserted street. It was late in the evening; the glow of lamps cast a golden haze across the cobblestone pathway and archaic buildings. The stillness of the night was as profound as the smell of winter rainfall, lingering in the air. Walking along, I noticed the various cracks across the facade of buildings, a historical tapestry weaved from the renaissance to the present day. The scene was forlorn, yet it seemed as though the harsh passage of time could not entirely efface the beauty these stones, heralding a bygone era.
Yonder, across the great expanse of water an archaic building guarded the entrance to the old city along the river bank. Illuminated by the golden glow of street lamps, a warm light reflected in the calm, steady flow of the river. The whirling of the wind intermingled with the gentle sound of waters flowing. My thoughts drifted from the nearby bridge towards the old city with its magnificent blend of classical and renaissance architecture, unique and mesmerising to behold. I pondered an era, long ago that somehow I deeply yearned for. For long moments I stared out from the river bank, silent, a lone silhouette in the stillness of the night. Deep in reverie, my thoughts were entranced and calmed by the beautiful golden glow on the mysterious waters.
From the shore I gazed out towards the magnificent cast iron bridge spanning the great breadth of the river. The old part of the city, lit up by streetlights, emanated a warm light reflected in the calm but steady flowing river. The whirling of the wind dancing around me, intermingled with the gentle sound of running water. Entranced by the soft glow of distant lamps I looked out yonder towards the old city. It seemed the bridge and city were connected by the impulsive drive of mankind to surge forward towards the future while establishing a tenuous hold with the past. For long moments I stared out from under the embrace of this magnificent steel structure. My thoughts were entranced and calmed by the golden glow upon mysterious waters.
Walking along the main road leading to the harbour, I heard the gentle lapping of the waves against the wharf in the distance. After a brief walk, the main road suddenly opened up into a beautiful Venetian harbour. To my utter wonder, I was greeted by a splendid panorama of buildings arrayed in an myriad of earthy hues. As the first rays of sunset shone forth the splendour of renaissance facades sparkled before me. I paused and looked out in silence; for to truly acknowledge beauty one must be silent. Somewhere in the distance a church bell rang; the sound merely enhanced my reverie.
Walking along the Venetian harbour, I felt at ease. The sun cast its radiant glow over the blue water lapping against the yellow sandstone walls. The picturesque walk was complemented by a lone man selling sea sponges on a boat bobbing gently in the water. From early morning to late afternoon, he would be ply his trade; despite rarely ever selling anything he was blessed with a radiant smile full of joy. I was drawn to this man with whom I struck up a friendship, talking to him every day. Harris as he was known was a sailor, having travelled extensively around the Greek islands, and settled long ago on Crete where he had raised his family. He had seen times of prosperity and more recently adversity. I offered to pay Harris to take me around the Greek islands, knowing that he had difficulty making ends meet, however he answered, “My boat is in disrepair, nevertheless I would take you around for no money whatsoever”. One cold winter day he asked me if I wanted to have a drink of schnapps with him. Out of respect I said yes. I admired the heart of this man, even though schnapps was not to my liking. Harris then proceeded to order a couple of drinks from the restaurant across the street from where his boat was moored alongside the harbour. I was deeply touched yet saddened, as Harris was willing in a moment of sheer hospitality to spend several days wages on a couple of drinks in order to please me. I remonstrated with him not to order any drinks, as I thought that he had the drinks within his boat. He asked “Why not, it’s fine! Are you worried about the money?”, as he noticed the concerned look on my face. After reassuring him that it was okay he finally relented. Suffering had merely tempered his beautiful heart, and in this man I sensed a deep sense of humility and serenity despite providing for his family in difficult times. How could one not love such a man? Never before had I experienced such hospitality amidst adversity. I told Harris “May God bless you, and you forever trust in Him ”. Harris responded with a sad smile of conviction. “And that’s the greatest gift that one can ever wish for in life”
The faint echo of my footsteps disappeared into the profound silence that manifested an aura of sanctity about the monastery. The buildings seemed archaic, yet the passing of centuries had merely enhanced their beauty. Decaying yet dignified, the monastery walls and church were marvellous to look upon in their simplistic beauty. As I stood looking upon an archaic facade, a monk with flowing black robes suddenly came up to me full of joy and smiling. He talked in such a beautiful melody, rich and resonant. I could not help but look upon his face in wonder. The thought crossed my mind “Is he slightly mad?”. After a few moments, looking upon the purity of his disposition, I felt ashamed of my thoughts and merely stood in silence. The monk radiated a childlike innocence and joy, yet his words were filled with wisdom and love as he gave me his blessing and wished me well upon my journey. I stood for a long time in silence, not wanting to leave, sensing that I was in the presence of someone special. It was with a heavy heart that I eventually walked away deep in thought. I often think of this unknown monk. The purity of his warm eyes and loving words have left me a lasting impression. A monk living a simplistic life dedicated to prayer and fasting yet somehow filled with profound peace and joy.
Looking up at the archaic wooden door of the monastery, I read with a sense of reverence the ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions chiselled into the archway. Eventually passing through the doorway I felt an immense sense of tranquility, as though I had stepped from modernity into a bygone era devoid of constant and superficial distractions. The monastery emanated serenity and an aura of reverence. Besides the rustling of leaves and the wind dancing amidst the treetops, I was all alone. As the sun hid behind the clouds I gazed upon the facade of the monastery. Forlorn, decaying and defiant in it’s timeless beauty, it captured my imagination. An inscription carved in the entranceway in ancient Greek read, “Let the love of Christ be the light of your life that guides you”. I stood in awe and silence. The words resonated within the depths of my soul and my heart stirred with sheer love for whom I loved most, Christ Jesus.
The little winding side streets paved with blocks of stone wound gently through the quaint picturesque town. The street was lined by archaic buildings on either side, often decaying but truly beautiful to behold in their brilliant array of colours. I stopped by this gorgeous cafe, a green wooden door standing slightly ajar warmly welcomed the passerby. The aroma of traditional Mediterranean food mingled with the melodic sound of music beckoned one inside. Cautiously stepping inside, I glanced at the staff with their genuine warm smiles and open hearts ready to welcome a stranger with traditional Greek hospitality. Their warmth and generosity matched the beauty of the decor inside simple, elegant yet thoroughly authentic.
The soft sound of my muffled footsteps upon the stone courtyard, punctuated the stillness of the air. The monastery was silent, yet there was a profound beauty in such silence. I stood in awe surrounded by sweet solitude and serenity. Before me beautiful archaic facades of paved courtyards and roman arches, met my childlike gaze. Although well worn, their vibrant earthy colours filled me with wonder. I paused by a wooden door on the side of the monastery wall beneath a stairwell. A bell hung nearby, rung to call the monks to prayer and celebration of the divine liturgy. After long moments I pondered in awe recalling the psalmists words “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
The smell of burning wood permeated the cool winters morning. Besides the numerous cats relaxing in the sunshine, there was a strange but welcome stillness, so profound that all ones sense were enhanced. Passing the stone courtyard a flurry suddenly caught my eye, or was it merely an inner sense; looking towards the upper level of the monastery I caught the glimpse of a monks’ flowing black robes as he disappeared into the dormitory. I looked for a few more moments yearning to catch another rare glimpse of the unknown monk; turning around I walked a few steps and came across a staircase. Archaic and worn with the passage of time it was nevertheless beautiful to behold in its antiquity.