Wild Beauty

The marketing line for Montenegro is “wild beauty”, and it is clear that this is a well-chosen descriptor on the first drive from the airport. The Black Hills are rugged with brush, cactus and the dusty green of olive trees. The roads are windy and steep, offering a spectacular view of the large lake, mountains and, of course, the ocean.

Annie and I went to Montenegro in the middle of August to spend a week with my friend, Ana. Ana was born in Montenegro, grew up mostly in Belgrade and lived the last 16 years of her life in Russia. (Her family knew the writing was on the wall when Milosevic came to power.) Ana has a place in her birth-land and kindly invited us for a holiday.

Ana has set her apartment up to have her own main living area and then a separate guest apartment with a kitchen, bath and balcony. What luxury!

Here is the view from “our” balcony, nearing sunset:

The beaches are rocky, instead of sandy. We did travel one day to a sandy beach and it made me appreciate the stones…no sand in clothes, food, or cameras (yikes! Thank goodness I was able to blow it out of the lens over a couple of days.) Although of course Annie loved the swimming and playground!

The first day we just enjoyed the beach near Ana’s place. We borrowed a car floaty thing that was perfect for Annie to swim around with. The water was colder than I had anticipated, which I was very thankful for as every day was between 33 and 37 degrees.

Ana in the sun

The next day we caught a boat and went to an area called Sveti Stefan (St. Stephen), which was near a small island that had been built out entirely for a hotel.

Sveti Stefan from the water. I love the way the rocks look layered.

And from the shore

Cute Annie and lookin' good Ana hamming it up.

After a couple of hours in the sun we took a walk over to the former royal summer residence, also now a hotel. It was a beautiful walk through a more lush woods ending in the manicured lawn and sheltered cove that was well-chosen by the royalty.

Me in my cover up and big floppy hat to ward off that evil sun. No wonder I have to take vitamin D drops!

Former royal summer residence with private beach

The following day Ana’s mom and niece, Zorka, came to visit. Zorka is 5 years old and Annie was happy to have a playmate. Zorka’s family lives in New York but they spend the summers at her grandparents summer home on the other side of the shore from Ana. The girls had some squabbles (Zorka has three older siblings and Annie isn’t used to being teased) but overall it was awesome for her and me that she was occupied with a friend.

A rousing game of the Serbian version of Ring Around the Rosie.

Ana’s mom is absolutely lovely (although we really couldn’t speak to each other) and an amazing cook! I now know where Ana gets her culinary skills. Did we ever eat well over the week. (The other reason for the full body cover up!)

We also took the opportunity to learn a few words in Serbian, which of course Annie picked up much easier than me and could pronounce with no problem.

Zorka and Ana's Mom

The last night we went for a drive around some of the shoreline. We decided to go for dinner at a restaurant that Ana has been going to with her family since she was a child, called Stari Mlin (Old Mill). It is nested in the trees by the water and specializes in, as expected, fish. There is a trout pond that elicited a delightful story from Ana. Many years ago when someone ordered the trout, the father or mother would call to their daughter “Marica, two trout.” Marcia, as wee lass at the the time, would run to the trout pond, grab her net, scoop out the trout (never missing) and crack their heads over her knee. Now that is fresh fish. The trout pond is still there, but I understand the on-request catching no longer happens.

Trout pond

We had a spectacular meal and then headed off to walk through the lit streets of Kotor. On the way we passed the old mountain wall, 16 km snaking up the hill.

Kotor is a city with roots back to 168 BC. The buildings and walls and narrow streets are from the Middle Ages. It is best to go at night with the lovely lights sparkling off the water. My step-father Drew also went to Kotor on a side-trip during a volunteer stint in Belgrade and has very fond memories. Sometimes the awe of what is man-made can grab me just as much as natural wonders.

On the other side, though, there are parts of Montenegro that are still very much developing. The shoreline is well built-out, especially in the last few years with Russians purchasing a great deal of property. But the local people are still coming to terms with what it means to live in a free market economy. They sell land off, mostly to Russians, and then take the money and build large three-storey homes more in-land. Except the money runs out before the house is finished. We frequently passed these half-finished homes, obviously not worked on for months or years. (Oh wait, spending more money than you have? Maybe they have caught on exactly to the free-market economy.)

The rest of our trip was relaxing on the beach, going for late-night walks on the very bustling boardwalk, and eating amazing food, both home-cooked and at restaurants (totally delicious pizza! As good as anything I’ve had, even in Italy).

Ana, I hope we didn’t wear out our welcome, as we would love to come again next year!

3 Responses to “Wild Beauty”

  1. beth says:

    what a wonderful adventure…love the pics. It seems like such an exotic place to vacation, especially from my point of view from Victoria. it’s so great that Annie can experience this, even at her early age, she’ll remember quite a bit, especially with lots of pics to look at and remind her.

    love reading your blog!

  2. hillary says:

    Thanks Beth!

    I didn’t travel much in my youth, so am feeling lucky to be having these experiences now. I have a feeling both Annie and Rebecca will be world travelers for their whole lives!

  3. Ana says:

    Thanks my dear Hillary for such a nice words. I´ve alredy knew that my country is so nice, but I really didn´t know that I am so wonderfull. Thanks!!

    Lord George Gordon Byron >>> English national Poet about Montenegro:

    “When the pearls of nature were sown, on this soil an owerflowing handful was gathered”.