I haven't seen that much of it, but I am amazed by what I find, and at times, amused by my amazement.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Budva, Montenegro meets Photoshop

I guess I am about to make a fairly standard blogger apology:

“I can’t believe it has been a year since I last posted something on my blog!”

I have started several posts that didn’t quite make it out of my laptop. Now I am playing serious catch-up.  Not that I will catch up...

My last current post was in May, 2010. I had just gotten to South Africa for a job across the border in Lesotho. That was four jobs ago. Since that time I also worked in: Mexico City - a short side trip during my stay in South Africa, and Port Louis, Mauritius – an island nation in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar.

I am now working in Podgorica, Montenegro. It is summer, 2011 and today is the first time in a while that Joann and I haven’t used my one day off per week to pack in another activity. Today, we have opted to stay home and get caught up on more leisurely activities like sleeping in, getting up to coffee and Baileys, and perusing the internet.

Montenegro is another one of those countries that many people in the US seem to be confused about exactly where it is. That isn’t totally surprising. As an independent country it is only five years old.

A Very, Very Short History of Montenegro

Nothing on the Adriatic Sea is really new, of course. During the time of Alexander the Great the area to the north of Macedon was known as Illyria. Alexander headed east and south however, and he missed his chance to add it to his empire. Numerous ruins of castles and forts along the coast line indicate the land’s importance to the Romans, and was a part of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. Byzantine rule was followed by Venetian rule, Ottoman rule, Austro-Hungarian rule, and Italian and German occupation during WWII. All left their mark on the country. After the war, Marshall Tito declared it one of the six republics of Yugoslavia until 1992. Local people still talk about how good the economy was during the Tito years.

       During the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, Montenegro aligned with Serbia against Croatia, Bosnia, and Albania. After the wars, with no real resources Montenegro became a hub for the smuggling of items like petrol and cigarettes. Their desire to join the European Union has apparently curtailed these activities. In 2006, a referendum passed with 56.1% of the vote to end its close association with Serbia and become a fully independent country.

At the end of March 2009, after I completed a job in Skopje, Macedonia, Joann and I rented a car and took a trip through Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia, returning to Macedonia via Serbia before flying back home to the US. We spent a night in Podgorica, but we didn’t have a chance to visit much. We did drive up the coast however, and saw what a beautiful country it was.

Pivo & Hleb (Beer & Bread)
Montenegro is a dangerous place – for weight control. The food, much of it Slavic and Italian inspired is served in huge quantities. We have been forced to order only one dinner and share it. Seafood and roasted meats accompanied by heaps of potatoes and vegetables cooked in olive oil and butter are standard. Pizzas and pastas, breads, cheeses and sausages abound. For a reason that we have been unable to understand, Montenegrins, by a large majority are tall and slender. How do they do it?

Dinner in Budva - moments before the onslaught of food
Me, Joann, Matt, Lisa, April, Ben

Podgorica is an hour from the coast and we have made several trips to the beaches. Several of my co-workers have their wives with them and a trip to the coast is often two taxis full. Budva is one of the nicest coastal towns, but with the start of the summer season the beaches are packed and we have done some searching looking for one less crowded.

The beach at Ulcinj -  not exactly less crowded.

In May, Joann and I chartered a sailboat for a day and toured Kotor Bay. The skipper we wanted turned out not to be available.  The skipper we got was proficient, but spoke no english, so we couldn't use the sailing trip as an opportunity to improve our sailing techniques with some on-board instruction.

I had only one day off work, but it was a good day and a light breeze kept us sailing along after we got out of the closest protection of the harbour.   Kotor is at the back of a fjord-like bay that takes twists and turns before opening out into the Adriatic.

Joann displays the Montenegro flag on our chartered sailboat

Saint George's in the middle of Kotor Bay

Sailing on Kotor Bay has some things in common with sailing on Lake Roosevelt, like dodging ferries for one.

The weather set in at the end of our sail, about half an hour from the dock. The skipper must have known what was coming, because we took the sails in about ten minutes before the first gusts strong enough to give us trouble hit. It brought with it a light, but driving rain that passed by the time we motored to the dock.

Storm clouds close in on our return to the harbor

My daughter Arista and friend Tony took their first international flight and came for a visit in June. We showed them a bit of Podgorica and spent a night in old-town Budva before they headed out for a whirl-wind tour of Italy.
 Arista & Tony in Budva
Update:  It is now early-August, Joann has returned home to Republic and I am just finishing this blog post.  I will most likely see October here.  Maybe I can get some more posting done...

No comments:

Post a Comment