Sitting outside in the sun this morning having brunch, it feels more like mid-September then the middle of November – it is a very warm 20 degrees with a fresh autumn breeze. The weather here is one of those great surprises that have made this life experience such a pleasure. Coming from Vancouver – known more for it’s Pacific Northwest rain than it’s blue skies – I didn’t know how much the sun and heat were good for me before moving to Montenegro. It’s true what “they” say: sunshine is healthy for your spirits. Here there is no need for those desktop light machines they used to sell at Whole Foods to help the rain-and-grey-cloud-bound-crowd with their Seasonal Affected Disorder.
We are entering our third Autumn of a new life in the country of Montenegro and have grown to appreciate many of the customs that were so different from home; so foreign to our past lives; many of which I tried to describe in my previous blog posts which were intended to be a running commentary for friends and family on the cultural differences of the West Coast of Canada and the Central Mediterranean to give everyone some flavour about this experience.
You may be surprised to hear that many things have changed over the past two-plus years. This year, my residential permit renewal is automatic. No more travelling to the smoke-filled attic of the Kotor City Hall for the rubber stamp ritual. Last year I had my fingerprints digitally recorded in Tivat. Progress for sure! Signs on public spaces still say “no guns, no dogs and no ice cream”, but now they also say “no smoking”. When we arrived in 2009 you could not avoid smoky-filled lobbies, bars and restaurants. Now, you are only allowed to smoke outside. A refreshing change for sure, especially because the air here is so nice and clean, free of big city pollution.
Other things, like banking, have not changed at all. It is still very much a “shared” experience with everyone crowded around you when you go to your bank. Line ups are almost unheard of and, at peak times, the experience of waiting and vying for a teller still taxes my patience. I still have not found the perfect Ceasar Salad, but maybe that is because I have stopped looking for it. I have, on the other hand, found the perfect pizza — wood burning oven, crisy crust and right here in Porto Montenegro — simply addictive, and I only have to walk over to the next building. In other areas like recycling you are just starting to see the birth of the movement.
It is an interesting time to be living in Europe. The financial and political turmoil is putting everyone on edge and Montenegro — as an official EU candidate for a year now — is not immune to the roller coaster political and economic drama happening between Greece (just to the south of us), Italy (across the Adriatic) and the power houses of Germany and France. The local court judge’s are on strike right now, and the opposing political parties are in daily power plays. Our development of Porto Montenegro gets caught in the journalistic crossfire between the newspapers depending on the party they are supporting.
December is almost upon us; we are planning a road trip to Switzerland, Prague and Budapest. It should be a great addition to the life experiences we have had thus far in our new life in the country. Travelling farther eastward than ever before.