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:
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…
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!
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.
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.