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!

Sweet Neighbours and Fast Trucks

Sweet Neighbours and Fast Trucks

Summer has arrived. Most days now are around 30 degrees. So we decided to put some large pots with plants outside our front door, as the door quite literally opens on to the narrow street that separates our house from the sea. Those extra 30 centimetres somehow add a modicum of assurance that the little cars and bigger trucks whizzing by won’t run you down as you step out for the day. We also placed some planters in the driveway and filled them with fresh summer herbs.

Nobody expected that a truck would smash into one of the pots within a day of having placed them outside our door for “protection” from just that kind of (fast and distracted) driver.

The pleasant surprise was that the young driver came back to the scene to claim responsibility. In such a tight knit community, there is virtually no crime, and this was not going to be a random act of negligence. All the neighbours got involved in cleaning, fixing and solving. Within no time he had gone back to the garden supply store and replaced the large concrete pot which we thought was so invincible.

The second pleasant surprise was that we found some geraniums anonymously planted in the driveway planters the next day. Another reminder of the kind and modest nature of our neighbours.

Lil-Fudge, Smoke, Tiger, Blotch and Two-More

Those are the names of just a few of our new “friends”. What does not lack here is an abundance of stray dogs and cats, some of which we have practically adopted. There does to appear to be anything resembling the SPCA here, or at least I have not seen them yet.

Kitten in Courtyard

From the number of animals around it looks like they don’t need a society for the protection of animals. This crowd is very much self protecting (mmm, maybe they resemble more their armed countrymen then I thought). Driving your car here becomes a challenge for the simple reason that you are not only having to be very attentive about other (fast) drivers, but you have to make sure you are not creating road kill on your way to and from the office. Dogs and cats are everywhere and they are quite accustomed to running around in packs and thinking they have the right of way!

Anyway, one day soon I will have to tell you about some of the facts about the natural beauty and history of this last amazing land. For the time being though, I can’t help but be intrigued by more pedestrian observations.

It looks like we are not the only one adopting animals. My colleague Max might even be taking one of these dogs home. She hangs out at one of the security gates to our marina, but wont for much longer. She looks like a miniature version of Lassie, just a lot more scruffy. We decided to call her Two-More because she had a funny little growth on her forehead. Needless to say these sweet little street animals have not seen the vet lately.

So there you go. We are now feeding seven cats instead of just our (spoiled) two that we brought over from Canada. I just hope that they don’t figure out which house the food is coming from, otherwise the band of brothers will migrate from the garbage dumpsters by the parking lot to our front door!

I already have my next blog posting in mind, so you will hear from me soon. This past week we had a bank visit our offices and the before the meeting could get started the president had to go and make tea for one of her (male) staff members. She smiled when she got back to the conference room and said, “one of the benefits of having a woman for a boss”. What a different world. Behind that small gesture is a whole conversation about social practices that are still in place here.

First Impression Montenegro: Instant Coffee, Cigarettes and Ink Jet Printers

First Impression Montenegro: Instant Coffee, Cigarettes and Ink Jet Printers

Welcome to Montenegro

Municipality of Kotor

You are probably wondering why I decided on such an odd name for this first entry.

It came to me the day that had to go to City Hall in the old town of Kotor as part of the process in getting my work permit.

In order to get a work permit here you must supply the appropriate authorities, along with a host of other documents, numerous copies of your rental lease and an original copy of the land title for the apartment or house you are renting.

Kotor from the water

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Instant coffee, cigarettes and ink jet printers provide the perfect visual for the experience of getting the original land title to the apartment we are renting. It all started with the first visit to the main lobby of city hall where I picked up the two payment slips that had to be taken to the Post Office around the corner where payment was to be executed and receipts given to me to prove payment. In order to pick up an original copy of the land title you must prove that you have payed the two invoices totaling 8 euros and 6 centimes.

“Instant coffee, cigarettes and ink jet printers provide the perfect visual for the experience of getting the original land title to the apartment we are renting.”

Once I paid the prescribed amount (with cash, because no matter how big the bill, you have to bring cash to the post office to pay anything. They do not accept debit cards there) I ventured back to city hall where I needed to now make my way to the land title office located in the attic. The elevator did not appear to be making it to the main floor anytime soon, so I took the stairs.

Steps to our first apartment in Kotor.

After waiting outside the wrong office for a half an hour with my colleague who was translating along the way all morning, we were told to make our way to another office. The person that used to issue land title certificates no longer did that task. It has to be mentioned here that the entire staff of city hall had been replaced just a few weeks earlier. I never understood why this had happened, but in a country emerging from a past tainted with pockets of corruption, I had my suspicions.

When we opened the door to the correct office, the lonely worker told us that it was not Tuesday. Apparently, that is the only day that she dealt with the general public. We were told to go to the other office at the end of the hallway.

Once there we were greeted with slightly more hospitality by a couple of ladies each having a cup of instant coffee, smoking cigarettes and sitting behind their desks. Once we gave them the receipts for the document we were supposed to get, we were asked to leave the room while it was being printed on an old ink jet printer.

After two hours that reliable old printer sputtered out the document I needed to get that morning. With the appropriate rubber stamps we were on our way. The only thing that was missing was carbon paper, but that would come another day!

TRAVEL

The Essential Montenegro

LIVING HERE

The Ultimate Guide to Living in Montenegro

DOING BUSINESS

Business Development in Montenegro