Summer at Verige Beach

Summer at Verige Beach

Summer at Verige Beach is epic. The Bay of Kotor is well known for all the little beach clubs that open during the summer season. Like mushrooms they pop up at the beginning of June, then they disappear at the end of September.

There are beach clubs for your every mood. Purobeach if you want to be in the middle of the action and fashionable even in your swim trunks; Almara Beach Club at Lustica Bay if you still feel like being fashionable, but don’t want to be in the middle of it all. If you want drinks only, there is a little place called Verona Beach just to the South of Tivat. Very relaxed, but you have to put up with the occasional airplane taking off just above you as the beach sits near the end of the runway. Of course there is aways Pirate Bar if you find yourself over in Perast.

Then there is my new favorite place, just discovered this summer, Verige Beach (pronounced very-gay, but it really isn’t) which is a few minutes past the Lepetane Ferry to the North of Tivat.

 

Verige Beach from the Water

 

I must have driven or boated by this place a hundred times in the past few years. I always said to myself that I needed to check it out. Nestled under the Kotor Bay road at the narrow entrance to the bay. You can easily spend the day watching boats go by; catching up on your reading; chatting with friends; swimming and lying in the shade. The staff are incredibly nice; prices won’t break the bank; the food, cooked outside behind the bar, is simple and delicious; the music selection is always perfect: relaxed in the morning and gradually increasing in pace in the later afternoon as children and families migrate home, leaving the place a little more ready for a party. Best of all, it is only a few minute drive from home.

Whichever time of day you go, Verige Beach will not disappoint. I only wish I had discovered it earlier. There are so many other places around here that I have been saying the same thing about: “one of these days, I have to try that place”. I have said it countless times about Bigova Bay. That will be the next place to explore!

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Living in Montenegro: Four Summers later

Living in Montenegro: Four Summers later

Living in Montenegro has been an amazing experience. This month marks a milestone; it is our fourth summer living here in Montenegro. My love affair with this country has only continued to grow since we first landed here on that hot summer August day in 2009.

When we arrived from ultra modern Vancouver, it was like stepping back in time. The 40 stories I have written since then are testimony to the country in transformation and the cultural differences I have experienced and continue to cherish. However, as time went, on I noticed less and less the differences between my old life and this new one.

It is only now though that I realize that I was protected by a team of incredible colleagues who worked through all the idiosyncrasies of living here; they made my life as easy as possible.

I was recently sent back to those early days here… when I went to get my car registered. This was, of course, after I extended my residency permit because I was not able to register it past the expiry date of my work permit. This would have been fine – register and insure the car up until the day my permit expired; you know, pro-rata from now until that day. The only problem is that here you cannot do that. No matter when you register your car, you must pay a full year of registration and insurance. Then when you renew your work permit you have to pay that full amount again. So, whether you are registering or insuring for a month or 12, you pay the same amount.

With residency recently extended through to January 2013, I went to get my car registered. It is a second car, so it had been sitting in the garage since last November. I had to do ten separate payments, payable to various entities and through various offices, ranging in size between 4 and 300 Euros to complete the “transaction”. I had to take off my license plate and give it back. It was an iconic plate, Tivat “007” which perfectly suited the 1999 BMW Z3 which it was attached to. Now the car has Tivat “009”, and it just does not seem as fun. Payments and paperwork completed, I had to wait a full week to get my registration card before I could drive the car.

Anyone back home in British Columbia would have done the whole operation in less than 15 minutes. Nothing happens too quickly here, and that is one of the things I love about it.

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Of course, not everyday am I able to hone my Erkhart Tolle skills and be completely in the “now”. This week I needed to get new mobile phone number; not one of those pre-pay things that you get when you are travelling, but a regular contract where they send you the bill at the end of the month. On Monday morning I went in to the local telecom store and they told me I had to go in to Kotor. It is only 15 minutes away, but I found out immediately after that I really did not need to go to the neighbouring town. So, I went back to the store and was told to come back in 20 minutes as there was someone who spoke better English who was coming in to work. In the end it took 5 trips to the store – an international telecom giant – to get my new SIM card. It was supposed to be activated by 6pm on Tuesday. Well, it took until Friday morning to start working.

There is something beneficial about being forced to slow down. It really did not matter if I got the phone activated on Monday or on Friday; the urgency, of course, was self-fabricated.

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So, as we begin our fourth year here, one must note that some things have not changed at all and a few things have. This past week reminded me of my first posting: “Coffee, Cigarettes and Ink Jet Printers“. There is still lots of instant coffee around, but the “Illy” brand has also arrived on the scene from Italy. Cigarettes are still smoked here more than any other place I have lived, but there are now government sponsored anti-smoking campaigns and laws against smoking inside (not always respected, but we are getting there). I have not seen ink-jet printers in a while, but I did see carbon copy paper getting used the other day at City Hall.

Old and new. The lovely essence of this little country in the centre of the Mediterranean.

There are exciting changes on the horizon. New projects and new challenges ahead as this life in an emerging market proves to be as interesting, exhilarating, rewarding and fascinating as the first days when we arrived.

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Kotor Night Out: Dinner & Dustbusters

Kotor Night Out: Dinner & Dustbusters

We had visitors from Vancouver this weekend. We took them to our usual favourite places: Sveti Stefan, Budva, Perast, Kotor and everywhere in between.

On their last night we took them to, what is considered, one of the best restaurants in the Bay of Kotor. Sitting right over the water, it is a truly stunning location.

Dinner was sublime. Local delicious white wine from the producer Plantaze; fresh grilled fish; risotto with saffron and shrimp; black squid ink risotto; local organic vegetables. The weather was not on our side, but the pitter patter of rain on the glass was relaxing and created a dramatic evening picture-frame for the ancient fortress walls of Kotor.

Ken had just remarked on how “Western” he found the establishment. The menu, place settings, linens, wine list and so forth all seemed much more “international” than he had expected. Certainly, there are lots of other venues that are considerably more Montenegrin, but we thought this might be a nice last supper. Next time they come we can explore the 300-year old mill house restaurants and all the local other culinary offerings. However, moments after Ken’s remark, the server arrived to ask us if we wanted coffee or dessert which we all declined. Not only did he have the menus in hand, but a hand-held vacuum cleaner. At first I thought someone on the next table had dropped something and made a mess of themselves, or he was on his way to tidy up some small mess.

Before we knew it, our server was vacuuming our table. You know that tradition when the server brushes away your bread crumbs with a small purpose-made blade? Well, this was the local interpretation of that tradition.

Our dear guests quickly realized that our “new life in the country” was still full of these kinds of stories that make you smile and appreciate this secret garden and its amazing hospitality, hand-held vacuums at the dining table and all.

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In Praise of Slow and Community

In Praise of Slow and Community

I visited Vancouver for the first time in over two years this month. It made me appreciate Montenegro for a couple of its unique traits.

The first being the incredible sense of community that is present there.

When I was walking the streets of Vancouver, considered one of the cities with the highest “quality of living” in the world, you cannot help but notice the homelessness and panhandling.

In Montenegro you see non of that. So even though the country has a relatively low average per capita income and very few social institutions to protect those in need, there is nobody left out on the street at night; nobody begging for food or money. No matter how little anyone has, there is always room to help a neighbour, family member, friend or stranger. The only apparent exceptions to begging are the Roma people.

Peter Block has written an excellent book entitled “Community” about how modern society is plagued by fragmentation. The people of Montenegro seem to have taken some positive lessons from his book.

The other thing you notice in Vancouver are the vast numbers of people walking around (often quickly) with big paper cups full of coffee. With the exception of the Costa Coffee shops at the airports, you never see Montenegrins walking around with their coffee in throw away cups.

They always take the time to sit with friends, have a conversation, and enjoy their coffee.

As I sit in my London hotel room about to continue my journey back to Tivat, I look forward with anticipation to the sense of community, respect of time and the slower pace of life that Montenegro has to offer.

Boiled or Roasted Kid?

Today I had a quick, but lovely, lunch outside by the water here in the Bay of Kotor. With the exception of “spaghetti bolognese” and a couple of other items, the Montenegrin menu was difficult to decipher. Yes, I know. I should be farther ahead than I am today. The kind and attentive server, aware of the selection challenge I was having, brought me the English menu. I ordered a dish which I knew had chicken in it, but I was not sure what else was coming. It ended up being a delicious spicy pasta dish with chicken and vegitables. Perfectly wonderful. I am just glad that I did not select from the Appetyre section of the menu… chewy and bitter come to mind!

I thought you might enjoy a couple of the other menu items I came across recently. How about Roast or Boiled Kid?

Ever been puzzled about what do to on your next holiday?

 Each day in this amazing life experience I am reminded of how quickly this little nation on the Balkan peninsula has been launched into 21st century Europe and the Anglo-Saxon dominated world. I greatly respect how they are catching up so quickly. Little signs like these are great, and slightly comic, reminders of the great diversity of the world we live in and how important it is to respect that diversity.

A year in Montenegro

A year in Montenegro

Lady of the Rocks

It is hard to believe that it has been a year now that we have lived in Montenegro. My initial culture shock has been transformed into a new way of life. The last few months have been filled with bright sunshine, hot sun, glistening waters full of people and boats of all shapes and sizes. The coastline of this mountainous country completely transforms itself in the summer season making it even more stunning that I can describe.

The extremes of those early days from September of last year are now less sharp then they were in those first few months. We have moved from ancient Kotor to our modern apartment in Porto Montenegro and grown accustomed to the differences between this seaside living and our previous seaside home of Vancouver.

Traffic still baffles me. They love to pass each other here at high speed, even in the most precarious of driving situations. A year in Montenegro has made me a very defensive driver. Of course, it has also made me appreciate so many more things from the kind people, to their simple foods and proud personalities.

Pieter has had to leave his Kotor cats behind him since we moved into the residences at Teuta. Somehow in Tivat there seem to be less stray animals around. Dogs asleep in the middle of busy intersections are still common though. Nobody seems to mind.

We are about to embark on our second year of this life changing experience. It should be an interesting ride. We have much more to do in the next 12 months!