Cities / Towns Visited: 58
Countries Visited: 16
Steps Taken Today: 7,738
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,052,153
For once we had managed to line up a day with very little on it, meaning that we had the rare opportunity to sleep until we were well and done. Thus with the morning slipping away we eventually opened our eyes and allowed ourselves the pleasure of a slow wake up.
A bite to eat and we were off meandering into the old town once more. Our day would consist of visiting the two old monasteries which sit at either end of the walled city. The first being that which belongs to the Dominican monks. Paying our fee we stepped through and we’re suddenly struck with the beauty of the inner cloister. A trademark of monasteries, this open courtyard is surrounded on all sides with covered walkways. Their pillared arches perfectly framing the peaceful tranquility of the yard, with its stone well, and its lush flowering bougainvilleas adding smatterings of purple to a scene I’m sure the producers of Game of Thrones would have longed to use, had the monks not forbade it due mainly to the subject matter of the show. Unsurprisingly they are less than approving of the high levels of violence and nudity, let alone the topics of incest and witchcraft.
Having drank in enough of this picturesque scene, we moved inside to view their collection of antique and highly valuable religious art and treasure. From gold and silver chalices and altarpieces, to stunningly painted biblical scenes, to an incredibly well preserved 11th century bible handwritten by monks in cursive so neat it appears almost printed onto the pages. They also had a number of old reliquaries, including one in which the saint’s bone fragments are mounted onto a piece of orange coral, which is native to the waters around here and can be found making up jewellery and souvenirs across the city.
Having thoroughly explored, we moved on down to the other end of town and headed into the Franciscan Monastery. Heading in we passed Europe’s oldest running pharmacy, which despite having moved on from dispensing questionable herb concoctions and poisons masquerading as cures, still stands in the same space that it’s pharmacists and apothecaries have sought to remedy the masses for centuries. Much like its Dominican cousin, the first thing that hits you as you walk in is its cloister and courtyard. Although similar, this one has a much lusher installation of plants filling the centre, only split by a small stone path running up to a stone fountain. Around the top of the cloister walls sit a series of painted religious reliefs from medieval times.
In the next room is a display of quite a selection of religious paintings and sculptures, as well as some more treasures, and the original bench, scales, shelves, ceramic pots, and other odds and ends from the pharmacy before it’s modernisation. There is also a few places in the building where you can see the damage caused by the bombings of the city in the 90’s. Unfortunately you are unable to take photographs of this space, so the memories in my head will have to suffice.
Stepping back outside we quickly ducked into the church next door to finish off our rather religious sightseeing for the day. It’s towering white barrel vaulted ceiling, cool marble, carved decoration, and brightly coloured biblical murals, makes for a light and airy place of worship, and a welcome retreat from the heat.
With the afternoon at its hottest and our touristy obligations fulfilled for the day, we took it upon ourselves to buy an ice cream and scurry on back to the quiet sanctuary of our apartment. In the process of life admin and clothes washing we stumbled upon a rather wonderful occurrence. Whilst hanging out the washing my partner noticed that a tortoise, which we could only assume was someone’s pet, as it seems unlikely, if not impossible, that it could have scaled the stairs up to this landing, was tottering around the small garden beside the clothes line. Taking a moment to get closer to nature I grabbed a ripe cherry tomato from a nearby plant and lured it out to pat and fawn over it for a short while, before we let it go back to doing tortoisy things.
The day had been one of few in which we travelled as most people do; slowly, leisurely, restfully. The way our trip is planned is done in such a way that we fit as much as humanly possible into our days in order to maximise on our time and money. The result being that at times we find ourselves utterly exhausted. Whereas many people would factor in rest days, our travels have left us taking less downtime than we used to working full time in hospitality. By the same token I feel like if we had a day with nothing planned we would find ourselves feeling rather like we were wasting our resources simply haemorrhaging money of food and accommodation for seemingly no reason. With that being said, these uncommon half days are certainly a welcome addition, if only because it leaves us with time for a sleep in and an afternoon siesta in order to recharge and catch up from the endless run of 6 hour nights sleep. I am loving the trip, don’t get me wrong, but it is certainly testing my stamina.