Looking up at the archaic wooden door of the monastery, I read with a sense of awe 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 as the wind danced amidst the treetops, I was all alone. As the sun hid behind the clouds I gazed upon the facade of the church wall. Forlorn, decaying yet defiant in it’s timeless beauty it captured my imagination. An inscription carved in the entranceway of the monastery in ancient Greek read, “Let the love of Christ be the light of your life that guides you” seemed to have presented a mirror mirror before me.The words “What is the meaning of life and what is my purpose”? seemed to echo within the depths of my soul.
Walking along the deserted street, I paused momentarily. The soft patter of my lone footsteps ceased; only the gently lapping of the waves in the nearby harbour punctuated the stillness of a cold winter’s morning. I marvelled at the archaic scene before me. Buildings on either side manifested a mediterranean facade of earthy hues decaying yet defiant in their timeless beauty. Scarlet sandstone walls with elaborate wooden doors contrasted brilliantly against well worn blue cobblestones. In the distance the ringing of Church bells, slowing brought me out of my reverie. I smiled as I soaked in the timeless beauty of a bygone era.
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 his boat alongside the quay. 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 heart, and in this man I sensed a deep sense of humility and serenity despite providing for his family in difficult times. Never before had I experienced such hospitality amidst suffering. I told Harris “May God bless you and always be with you”. Harris responded with a sad smile of conviction. “And that’s the greatest gift that one can ever wish for in life”
The climb down the sheer cliff face was arduous; high steps hewn out of solid rock wound their way down to the cave house overlooking the caldera. A beautiful view overlooking the brilliant blue of the aegean immediately transfixed me in a state of reverie. Looking back from our track I paused in a moment of profound awe. “The simplistic beauty of the white washed stone walls, contrasted against the beautiful blue domed churches were amazing to behold”. I was immediately transported back to a time far gone, yet mesmerising in its simplistic beauty.
Passing down a narrow cobblestone street I suddenly veered left towards the ocean, winding my way down a narrow staircase. The thought of exploring the unknown stirred my heart with childlike enthusiasm. Looking back from whence I came, I looked upon a windmill. Located on the cliff face overlooking the ocean, its white washed walls manifested a simplistic beauty contrasted against the blue sky. The wind swept clouds formed a beautiful mosaic adorning heaven itself. A lone figure perched atop a cliff face, I felt a sense of profound peace in that moment of solitude.
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.
The climb up the steep and winding path was strenuous. Pausing briefly I surveyed the castle away in the distance, magnificently positioned in an elevated and defensible vantage point, reached only by a narrow and difficult route. “The king who once owned this castle chose his location wisely” I thought to myself. I paused for long moments surveyed the surroundings. Suddenly, I was plunged back centuries into the tales of my childhood. Tales of noble knights on heroic quests and beautiful maidens brought back childhood memories. I smiled to myself, a young boy’s dreams had suddenly come to life. Narrow cobblestone streets were surrounded on either side by old stone buildings. Beautiful coloured bouquets of flowers ordaining balconies, providing a striking contrast to the grey stone buildings complete with red tiled roofs. Cast iron lanterns and street signs, archaic cobblestone pathways and towering stone ramparts manifested a truly medieval experience.