The photo above was taken from inside the car as we entered the village. Although we crossed no border or passed any walls, I was struck by the sudden shift in the scenery, from Albanian flags, billboards, and mosques to Serbian flags, billboards, and small little icon shrines.
As one monk at the monastery would later tell me: "There is an invisible border, and everyone knows where it is."
When we arrived at the walled compound of the monastery, which also now serves as the headquarters for Kosovo's lone diocese, we once again encountered heavy KFOR protection, including several jeeps and armored personnel carriers. This time, the soldiers were from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
When we entered, we first went to meet His Grace Bishop Artemije, a spiritual child of the Blessed Fr. Justin Popovic. Bishop Artemije has been no stranger to controversy, both in his role as sole bishop of the disputed province and on the wider stage as a critic of the ecumenical movement.
Bishop Artemije was very gracious to us and, after visiting with him for awhile and exchanging books, he took us to the small chapel dedicated to St. Maximos the Confessor inside his diocesan headquarters. We are in the chapel in the photo above.
Afterward, a monk took us over to the famous katholikon which lay in the center of the compound.
I hope the photos can give you some idea of beauty and antiquity of the frescoes there.
Here we are in front of the katholikon with one of the sisters of the women's monastery there. The compound is mainly and historically a women's monastery, but, out of necessity, the diocesan headquarters and episcopal residence have moved there now, along with about 5 monks who assist Bishop Artemije.
Next we went to visit the icon studio, where Sister
I had another interesting episode at the airport that night. Since it was rather late, the airport was dead when my friend Rastko and I arrived there. We went to the counter for JAT (the Serbian national airline), where the woman was quietly reading a book. I had a bottle of Decani Monastery's famous red wine that I was hoping to bring back with me, but she kindly informed us that, since it was a liquid, I could not carry it on with me. I asked about checking it somehow, but she said it would probably break. We agreed that Rastko would just take it and, thanking her and wishing her a good night, we started to walk away.
Then Rastko stopped and said: "Why don't we give it to her?" I thought it was a great idea, so we turned around and offered it to her. Her expression was priceless. She was so surprised and happy! She took my blessing and Rastko and I headed out to find a place to sit and wait. When we walked back by the counter some minutes later on the way to security, we looked over and what did we see? She had invited all her co-workers over to her desk, where they had opened the bottle and were drinking it!
I thought: Ah, I love Serbia! :)
That's it for this adventure. Again, for all the photos from the Kosovo portion of the trip, click here.