P.S. I love it!

P.S. I love it!

It’s still love at first sight

I got a message from one of my local friends last night (he is one of my best friends here, except when he is my trainer at the gym). He said: “do you like being here or not, I can’t figure it out from your (last) post?”

I apologize for any ambiguity. I love it here. I have since I first landed in the summer of 2009. It was, love at first sight, and that has not changed.

There is something magical in the air, that makes you yearn for it when you are away and fills you with joy when you step foot on the tarmac and walk back into the airport across the airfield.

I am glad that it is not Canada or Switzerland, the places where I grew up. Yes, there are things that still frustrate me: the rather aggressive drivers; the billboards everywhere (even though I use them in my work now too); the lack of protection for animals; the challenges facing special needs people or people of diversity; the lack of recycling… all things that are evidence of a land in transition.

“There is something magical in the air, that makes you yearn for it when you are away and fills you with joy when you step foot on the tarmac”

Yes, there are things that I miss from Vancouver or Zurich. Friends obviously; diversity in dining options; all the conveniences of a modern city. I miss trivial things like being able to phone for home delivery of almost any type of international food you can imagine. But then you think of the cost of living in Vancouver or Lugano and compare it to how much further your Euro goes here, and you forget all those cravings!

So Milos, to answer your question: I love this place; the friends I have made; their welcoming nature; the incredible Wild Beauty from seaside to mountain ranges that I never get used to; the amazing summers at the beach or on the water; the simple, yet wholesome real food and my favorite locales; the simple, slower, life. The incredibly tall people (thanks for reminding me Zaga). It is less stressful here, but we work very hard – building, marketing and selling new communities in this emerging market that is still remote, with its storied past, is no easy endeavor. That challenge is an invigorating and exciting one!

The Office Stray (well loved and fed) Dog

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

A Dukley Billboard

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Summer fun with friends at Almara Beach

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Mountain Fun with the Girls in Kolasin

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Working with Jovan

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

I hope this post has cleared things up!

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Check Please!

Check Please!

Life in Montenegro can be, for someone arriving from the West, full of quirkiness. Your day can sometimes be full of little things that make you slightly crazy . . .

. . .  things that, even many years later, you never really get used to; lingering leftovers from a bygone era (remember carbon copy paper?), or new inventions of a bureaucrat who has too much time on his or her hands. If you come for a visit, here is one example of local quirky you will like to know in advance:

Getting your bill at a restaurant

Each time you order something from the menu, a fiscal receipt has to be printed. This means, that over the course of a long dinner or drinks with friends, the server has to bring a bill for what you just ordered and leave it on the table… and this happens every time you ask for something. There is no such thing as getting a nice clean check at the end. As drinks or your meal evolves, all of these little receipts, typically get stuffed into a small shot glass on the table or under an ashtray (yes, you can still smoke inside in many locales).

I’ll take the check  . . . I mean the handful of receipts

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

At the end of your bar or restaurant experience, your server has to manually add up all the little receipts to give you your total due. It is especially fun when you have to save these for office expenses! It may be a great way to ensure that fiscal crime is being fought, but if any receipts fall on the floor (or someone takes a few and puts them in their pocket), the server has to make up for the difference.

Recently, while brunching at one of my favorite spots, Restaurant ONE, I was sitting beside a couple of Americans where were having their first “fighting fiscal crime, one chit at a time” moment. The, polite and thorough, explanation by the server did not go very far in helping them understand why the corner of their table was full of little paper chit receipts for each of the vodka martinis they had ordered over the past couple hours. There was confusion on both sides (and it was not just because they were drunk) and they left their first Montenegrin hospitality experience scratching their heads.

I am still getting used to “quirky”, one day at a time…

 

TRAVEL

The Essential Montenegro

LIVING HERE

The Ultimate Guide to Living in Montenegro

DOING BUSINESS

Business Development in Montenegro

Lunch at Prova in Tivat: a story of Eclipse, Ox and Ulcinj

Lunch at Prova in Tivat: a story of Eclipse, Ox and Ulcinj

The other day I was having lunch on the Tivat waterfront at Prova Restaurant (one of the prettiest places in the town of Tivat to sit and dine or relax by the water). I was with one of my favorite colleagues from Porto Montenegro. He is from the port town of Bar in Southern Montenegro. A man with an incredible memory, attention to detail; full of stories and someone who knows everyone in the country. This was a particularly special lunch because he gave me ideas for two more blog stories:

The First:

Eclipse in Tivat

With Eclipse, the largest yacht in the world, sitting in the Bay of Kotor just beyond the jetties of Porto Montenegro, he thought it would be a good idea to tell the other story of Montenegro; the one of those who live at the other end of the financial spectrum than the owner and guests of Eclipse; those people in the mountains just a few dozen kilometers from the more affluent coast. There, transportation is still dominated by the ox. From immense superyachts to ox-driven carts; it is all part of the story here in Montenegro. He said I should interview them and ask about the US Presidential Election or the European Union to see their perspective; both are probably not on their radar screens. Vast contrast in close proximity (which takes some getting used to). The writing of this story will require another road trip to Niksic, a translator and some interviews. I am very much looking forward to that adventure, and I will post the story and photos as soon as I get there and back…

The Second:

His other idea was to tell the story of Ulcinj and the legends of its history of piracy. When I mentioned to him that my trip to the most south point of Montenegro, near the Ada Bojana (which the NY Times has named one of the best beaches in the world) where the sandy beaches stretch on for kilometers, felt like I had left the Balkans, he could not have agreed more. To me, the area seemed more like Northern Africa than Southern Europe. I could not have told you why that day, when I went exploring, but something was so different than where I had just come from up the coast. He explained that, towards the end of the 14th century, Ulcinj became a centre for piracy and continued to be a dangerous refuge until the 18th century. Populated by North Africans, Maltese, Turks and others for centuries, it is for this reason, that this place feels so different than the Montenegrin coast or the mountains. This new post will also require another road trip (less invigorating than the mountain drive to Niksic and Ostrog Monastery), a translator and some interviews too… but I think it will be worth it!

Stay tuned.

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No Logo, No Ceasar…

No Logo, No Ceasar…

Ceasar Salad

One of the most refreshing aspects of living and working in Montenegro is that the country has not been overrun by international corporations and brands. There are no Starbucks Coffee shops ensuring you get the same latte here that you find back at home; there are no fast food chains that guarantee you will get the same super sized meal here that you would find back at home in anywhere USA or Canada; retail chains like Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, The Body Shop, Tim Hortons, Boots Drug Stores and so on are non-existent here.

Organic, local, family retailers and national brands are more the vibe here. Finding things you need often becomes a bit of a hunt, but that is half the fun.

Sometimes though, I get a ping for something familiar, so when I saw Ceasar Salad on a restaurant menu a while back, I had to have it, but I was left disappointed as it was not at all what I was expecting, or I should say, craving. Unfortunately for me, as I subsequently explored this menu item around the country, I realized that only the name was familiar. All of the ingredients you think you are going to find in a traditional Ceasar Salad are, here, open to very wide interpretation… from basic (yet fresh and lovely) vegetable platters to chopped up green leaf lettuce with a soupy mayonnaise dressing topped with a couple large pieces of bacon.

Apples and Oranges

Apples and Oranges

A few postings ago I told you about my Montenegrin language skills and how they were not progressing very well. It seems that, after almost a year, I am still not doing that well even if my vocabulary has increased significantly.

The first example of my lack of progress came in the form of a request for an empty glass. You see, we have this lovely local lady in our office that brings us coffee or tea. In the morning before you arrive she leaves you an orange juice and when you get to your desk she brings your favourite kind of coffee. Simply wonderful. Well, the other morning, conscious of the fact that it is now 35 degrees during the day, I asked her for an empty glass which I thought I would keep filling at the water fountain.

What I received was a water bottle full of orange juice. I had to capture the picture for you.

Orange Juice and More

The second example came this week when we were in the capital city Podgorica. There is an Apple Premium Retailer there that we were looking for. They had moved, but we could not figure out the address. We just knew the general vicinity. So we popped into a little donut shop to ask where the Apple store was. The nice little guy across the counter said – in his very broken English – that the apple donuts would be ready in 15 minutes. So between our broken Montenegrin and his broken English we at least knew we were talking about apples. We could not bring ourselves to tell him that we were talking about a store that sells laptops and iPads… so we hung out until the apple donuts were ready.

I suppose that starting with apples and oranges is already a small bit of progress! Now I just have to start learning the verbs, adverbs and grammar! I will keep you posted.