I am in the Macedonia city of Tetovo, in the north west of the county, the river Pena sweeps through it with its cold mountain waters and the whole town has the air of sitting in the palm of the mountain range.

Indeed, as we awoke yesterday the mountain range was rising up high behind us, but coming down upon us was the dank hanging mist of looming rain. This gave a somewhat mystical air to where we are - finding the foot of the mountain is itself an imprecise science and being unable to see the tops created an aura of invincibility. It was therefore entirely proper that we spent much of the day seeing and walking in the places of worship.


The Orthodox Church had a certain predictable air for me - intense, rising and candle lit, the mosque was exquisite in its rich celebration of colour, style and tradition - and the Bektashi Tekke was entirely new to me and held elements of wonder.

The mosque - known as the painted mosque - was first built in 1438 and rebuilt in a similar style in 1833, and has all the atmosphere of Ottoman architecture.

But the Tekke - supposedly established by the brother in law of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538 but rebuilt extensively in 1799. Now the Tekke, in true Bektashi style is a large sprawling almost monastic complex - lawns, maintained flower beds, binding halls, payer rooms and a number of pavilions with seating and marble fountains for gatherings, ceremonies and more. This is a place of work, a place of gathering and place to live, but in Sufi and Bektashi style it concentrates on life and what we might euphemistically call self-improvement.

And as we talked round, led by our enthusiastic passionate Bektashi guide, I was struck at how the mist of the mountains, whilst gathered high around us, did not come down to rest in the complex itself. There was a clear sharp clean dew air in the middle of the afternoon. And as we walked and admired and explored I was struck how easy it was to imagine spending some time here, clearing your mind of external worries and pressures, of reflecting on your inner self.

And as the clear water-like reflection of the Tekke stood out, I was gripped by the descending mist from the mountains - it was as though the spirituality I was seeking to understand and reflect upon was itself leaning down out of the clouds to touch us. I don't claim to understand mysticism, I have not studied the spiritual state to any level, I'm no philosopher, but I felt yesterday it touched me. Changed me, no. Touched me and left me curious for more, yes.

I'm attending the conference on Religion and Conflict Prevention on behalf of the UK Unitarians, the conference is organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom. www.iarf.net