Shaken not Stirred
Here I am. A sultry summers day. Best served on the rocks. Shaken, not stirred and with a red-hot rendezvous.
Sipping sweet and sticky turkish coffee at my favorite coffee bar in Porto Montenegro.
This strange new world. Made famous by the James Bond movie, ‘Casino Royale’.
A majestic backdrop echoes sunshine. Draping deep valleys in sweltering hot shades. Montenegro. Bordered by infamous countries you know from CNN.
Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A silent mysterious country of medieval villages, scant populated. Narrow pebble beaches. Glacial lakes, limestone spires. In winter, wolves roam snowy landscapes. Bears cruise sun dabbled woodlands in summer. Fearsome heat. Unlike anything I’ve ever met before. Forty five degrees celsius and change. The ocean steaming, no chance of cooling off.
Welcome in Montenegro
Chased by wind and waves we had sailed five days from Sicily. Across the Straits of Messina, along the sole of Italy’s boot and over the Adriatic Sea from Brindisi. In our wake lay the hot, dry and flat eastern Italian coast. At our bow the next day a deep fjord like bay. Upon arrival in Tivat we tied up to the customs dock. A forbidding red and yellow sign in cyrillic and english welcome us.
An uniformed officer of Porto Montenegro handles the dock lines. We walk to an office in a square compound. A stern dark-haired Montenegrin police woman sits behind a small window. I hand over the boat documents and our passports. She takes her time flicking through the passports. Scan the bar codes and stamp a random page. Then on to another office where my ‘guard’ fills in more forms, by hand, and makes 3 sets of copies. These are friendly young men and woman. We chat about South Africa. I ask them to teach me a few Montenegrin words; ‘Please, thank you, good morning’. The word for ice-cream is ’sladoled’. Definitely not sounding appetizing.
The harbormaster’s office is at the top of narrow steps. Peeling paint on walls. Open doors and empty offices with many faded yellow files. Unpronounceable words written in cyrillic etched on the spines. A dusty office and another stern matron. Checking through all my papers again. I pay 125 euro’s for a one week cruising license. Back to the police office. More copies made. Two more stamps and we are free to roam.
Invaded by the KGB?
News reports and movies influenced what I know of the Balkan States . That is why I was reluctant to come here. Then again, Montenegro is preferable to Tunisia or Albania now.
Plus we had no choice but to leave the EU for a few days. A foreign flagged boat may only sail in European Union waters for two years.
The rough seas had taken her toll on the boat and a day later four large sweaty young men stepped onboard. Neither the red-hot rendezvous I envisioned nor James Bond to the rescue.
Carrying black tool bags and boxes of new equipment, I felt as though the KGB had invaded Mojito. It didn’t help not understanding what they were saying among themselves. The Montenegrin language is a mix of the countries bordering them as well as some Italian. Venice ruled parts of Montenegro in the fifteenth century.
It turned out that I did not need rescue. English is the second language in Montenegro.
A medieval city
Narrow single lane roads hug the coast. Between the road and the sea strips of pebbles and concrete jetties. A few patches of parched grasses and stunted trees.
We cycled 30 km to Kotor. The oldest medieval town in Montenegro. Passing small villages. A glimpse of crooked stone stairs. Cracked institutional green linoleum on the floors. Rickety furniture.
The people are friendly. Kids play in the water. Two men sit on the side of the road mending fishing nets. A gallon plastic jug of home-made wine at their feet. Women chat in the shade of a tree. Mismatched cups and a chipped enamel pot between them.
The villages are shabby. Scrawny kittens sleeping in the shade of fig trees. Faded tents and rusted caravans standing in unkept front yards. Extra cash for enterprising homeowners in summer. Pop-up mini markets sells water and beer and some supplies to the ‘tourists’.
In Kotor, Pippi Longstocking sits on the castle’s crenelated parapet wall. Rod in hand and a float bobbing in the moat. Inside the old town walls more kittens. Worn alley ways. Bars selling cold beer and cocktails. Hundreds of tourists wander aimless. Smells of stale pizza and sweat and beer. We leave.
All too soon the long lazy days of soaking up moments are gone. Days swimming in the fabulous pool of the yacht club. Eating marvelous food. A delicious change from a diet of pizza and pasta in Italy. Sipping chilled champagne under an ink blue sky pricked by stars.
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