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Logbook to the middle ages. XVIII

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And on my last Sunday in Berat I went to church.
I woke up early and strolled the same boulevard that on every night is full of people, teeming with excitement and joy. But in the early hours of the morning nothing is going on. Some of the places are opened but they sell nothing but coffee. It is too early to get a croissant or something to eat. The cleaning ladies are washing the backs of the restaurants, a man sweeps the street, another collects the garbage. I walked for a while.
And then I remembered. I had been trying to go to the ancient church but it was always closed. But today it is Sunday and for a church that means it is business day. So I walked there.
The church is small to the point of quaintness, a little pile of rocks housing some local history. I walk in and immediately feel at home. And I know it might come as a surprise but I just love a church. The silence and peacefulness inside, the soft lights that always penetrate from above. At this hour the priest is preparing his sermon and does not even look at me when I come in. I never kneel or cross myself when I enter a church but I give the most subtle bow to the figure in the cross, acknowledging our differences, and I sit down. In the empty church I feel at ease and it is easy to collect my thoughts, to just drift for a few moments. I stay in there for some time, I take a few pictures, I breathe deeply this air that I will not breathe again.
I love churches because I do not believe they celebrate any god. I love mosques too, and Stupas and Hindu temples because what they really celebrate are the masons that built them, the men that gave their best effort for something they believed in. And I will grant that these temples yield some peace on days like this but that pales in comparison to the accumulated suffering the institution has piled on generations.
So I get up and leave. The priest has commanded an assistant to toll the bells and as I walk away forever I can hear the church on the other side of town replying. I cannot avoid the verse coming into my head:
Far away, across the fields
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells
Spells they are, and I walk away slowly and start feeling that sense of leaving. I am a man that always departs and Berat will let me go today. And as I take those final steps along the promenade there is a sadness about leaving this place. I will miss walking these cobblestone streets, I will miss that small pizza place, I will miss that way that Albanian people wiggle their head when they say yes but which confuses me (and many) because it is sideways, as in our way of saying NO.
I will miss Berat. It has been so kind.

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Updated 09-20-2019 at 08:33 AM by ponchi101

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