Journal - Napló

Days 15-19. Montenegro

Posted on March 23, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Days 15-19., Montenegro



Day 15.



   We crossed the Serbian border at night and started to hitch-hike at the border station where there was some public lighting. Of course, soon we were told to get the hell out so now we’re heading toward the border 4 kilometres away in the dark, walking. A couple of hundreds metres later we ran into two gentlemen and after a few words of explanation we were now sitting in a car approaching the station. Our benevolant helper, a retired inspecter of fish-shipment, wasn’t satisfied with only giving us a ride on a brief part. He started inquiring about his friends in the village until he got a key to a riverbank pansion. We’re given the opportunity to shower and sleep in bed. We were all alone in the pension.

   In the morning we cautiously went downstairs, because we heard sounds but didn’t know if the workers knew about our presence. The two ladies were a little bit surprised but definitely not scared: they even offered us coffee. Stepping out on the terrace did we realize how beautiful place we just got to.  The guest house was situated between two mountain rivers or at the junction of a river’s two branches; forest-covered mountains all around.

   After a few short rides a taxi sign carrying, antedeluvian car stopped seeing our Podgorice board. Two people were sitting in it. We told and showed that ’no money’ when the driver indicated it’s not a problem. He opened up the trunk and invited us to put our stuff in. They were heading for the seaside Budva which was just perfect for us.

   It was a long trip, without any communication. The situation was suspicious but we were waiting. We were going along the river Tara and its deeply cut bed southwards until the sea suddenly turned up from among the mountains. We’re slowly winding towards the shore, tempted stronger and stronger by the smell of the water.

   Entering the town, the other passanger payed and got out. We hopped off near the centre. I initiated a gesture with my hand as a token of thanks when he started demanding money. We’re trying in vain to explain ourselves, he was putting his feet down and took his phone to call the police. ’Just go for it!’ – we said and picking up our stuff we were heading to the seaside. We won’t get in a taxi sign carrying car again, no matter what the driver might say.

   Soon we were sitting on the beach with Marko, our host in Belgrad. We asked him questions about history and religion, drinking tee in the meantime. In connection with these topics he drew our attention –and everybody else’s who wants to know more about the Balkan- to Ostrogorsky’s The History of the Byzantine Empire. In the evening we were walking in the town when a guy and his girlfriend said hi to us and offered help as they were involved in tourism. Saying goodbye to Marko we followed Rade. It turned out that he owns a youth hostel not far from the centre and said that if we don’t want to rent a room we can easily sleep on his terrace for 5 Euros and we’d even get internet access. You don’t meet this thoughtful and kind host very often.



Day 16.



   After a couple of hours’ sleep we were packing in the shade of the little building when a kindlysmiling, older lady showed up carrying coffee and some breakfast. She didn’t accept any money but asked us to write some lines about her and the place in German. We’re pleased to do so, said goodbye and started to look for a gas station Rade suggested.

   It must have been less than a half hour when a girl spoke to Kenneth who was just inquiring about a ride at a car. She tells us that her friend and her are on a hitch-hiking trip themselves. The two Estonian girls invited us to join them and their bottle of wine under the trees nearby.

   They both study journalism. They were madly telling us about the Russian press that used anti-Estonian propaganda –i.e. the Estonians are nationalists- in order to mislead people (I hope this won’t lead to nationalism at the Estonians –as a reaction to an attack like that). We talked for hours about happiness, Rainbow Gathering, Kosovo (which they just loved and spent 5 days at instead of the 2 planned, becasue the locals’ hospitality ’didn’t let them go’;), until due to a wine spot they started to fight with each other and we found it a good idea to leave.

   A couple of minutes later a Dutch minivan stopped. Rodrik and Marta were heading for Albania but they wanted to visit some Dutch acquaintances in the nearby village before.

   Their job is to prepare representants of the government, prison guards, security staff how to react mentally in case of violence. In addition, Rodrik, as an actor, is touring Europe with a small theatre group. Not to mention how much he travels around the world. We’re listening to his stories with joy.

   … At the age of 21 he traveled as far as India riding a three-wheeled little moped. He only had problem with the wheels once, he got to the East before one year was over. Asking for his advice on our trip he told us what tricks he used in certain cases. If something didn’t work out, he always blamed the upcoming, neighbour country. Thus he got along well with the local people. Second, he always said he was looking for his dad. Family has great respect in most countries so a goal like this could turn one who might be malevolent at first, into a helpful friend.

   Through them we got to know Albert, the Indonesian-born Dutch painter and his wife who works with teenagers of bad background. Not long ago they bought a small property at the mountainside, not far from Ulcinj and they built a little woodenhouse. A whole little Dutch colony was there, consisting of friends and families who back home, too are neighbours and live in the same little street in the same little town.

   In the evening, Albert and his wife went to visit some friends while Rodrik, Marta and us cooked dinner on a semi-finished concrete stand and we were talking until dawncame.

   … Rodrik visited Namibia, too, with a friend. They would have had to wait three weeks for their car sent on a boat, so they decided to purchase two motorcycles and set out on them. The Chinese machines needed regular maintenance but what most memorable to them was, was the fact that they spoke to the drivers. No direction indicating, engine starting and stopping remained without Chinese comment. They were trying to turn these functions off in vain. Thus, the Chinese machine voice shouting in the middle of the monumental desert silence was giving them a hard time trying to preserve the romantic of such a journey.

   … At our request he also told us the adventure when he was most scared. In India, he was driving a bus full of tourists when they suddenly found themselves in the middle of a huge riot. The furious demonstrators attacked the bus, too: they broke the windshield screen, the windows. Surrounded in every direction by yelling people, Rodrik felt impotent. Like the cornered animal, in his final dismay, he grabbed an iron stick and lifting it he hopped off the bus. In a couple of seconds the mass moved away from the bus and the road opened up. He didn’t hit anyone: his action itself was the reason why they were able to leave the mass. Those belonging to the lower class were demonstrating against a decision that would restrict their number at universities… and that number was low.



Day 17.



   We spent most of the day sleeping, rockclimbing, swimming on the stoney-rocky-urchiny beach. In the afternoon Albert introduced us to Arne, his Dutch neighbour who knew the local people very well.

  One of our plans involves some kind ofvolunteer work in as many country as possible, in order to work withthe locals together, learning their tricks, getting closer tounderstanding them. Arne told us he’d ask around regarding this inthe neighbourhood.

   Then Albert drove us to Ulcinj and introduced us to Bessi, manager of a pizzeria. That time he was very busy but made us sure he’d be waiting for us the following morning.

   In the evening our hosts had new guests; Kenneth and I walked to the beach equipped with beer. Planning, telling each other stories and staring at the stars we sat there until midnight.



Day 18.



   We devoted this day to finding work. Arne couldn’t give us good news as with his guests they had a glass too many the evening before. So, for now, without a job but definitely cheerfully we said goodbye to the Dutch colony. One of their acquaintances drove us to the city.

   We visited Bessi who said by helping him we could get a close view at the Montenegran tourism but even if volunteering he should formally report us and pay the government 150Euros. He directed us to the owner of a supermarket who had plenty of properties in the mountains. From there we were told to go talk to another shop manager but we didn’t succeed there, either. Kenneth got to know a group making Turkish delicacies. We could have helped them but they were packing and heading for Kosovo right that day in order to demand their salary of 40 days.

   We visited shops, one after another until we met a Serbian-born man living now in Germany who told us to meet him in two hours at the post office 5 kilometres from there and he’ll help us find work on the melon fields. After walking 10kilometres we still didn’t get there. In the meantime we knocked on the door of a smith who promised to initiate us into the mysteries of the wrought-iron gates in detail, the day following. With highspirits we walked and hitch-hiked onwards, but only in the last minute came a car that took us to the place we agreed on.

   In a half hour we were next to a melon and vegetable field, struggling with a watermelon – we ate it. The owner named two reasons why we couldn’t work there: first is the official permission, the second is snakes. Being unexperienced in this area, he wouldn’t want us to risk getting bit by a snake and we didn’t want to cause any trouble to him in case of a workcontrol.

   We said goodbye to our helper, the owner and based on the instructions of the former one, we were heading towards the sandy beach allegedly half kilometre from there. The estimated distance fooled us again. Nevertheless, that day we were raging in the water, with the sinking Sun’s rays on us; then, digging holes for our backpacks under the two deck-chairs we went tobed.



Day 19.



   Until early afternoon we’re enjoying the sandy beach and the waves. After long enquiring about, I finally managed to trade my Serbain ash-tray in exchange for a glass decorated with the logo of a Montenegran beer brand, and a small bracelet. Short hitch-hiking, and we got to the smith’s place but he wasn’t home. We waited an hour but he didn’t show up, so we’re heading for the Albanian border with no work experience.

   A car with American number plate stopped. Albert, making slight changes in his original itinerary, took us as far as the border station. He showed us his home village and the mountains where he goes hunting. Now he lives in New York, managing –quite succesfully- a small construction company. As he told us, many people left this place and went to the U.S. and though most of them spend only 1-2 months per year here, it’s still worth bringing and having a car permanently because thus they only have to pay insurance after the days spent here.

   Thanking for the ride and his kindness, we prepared our passports and entered the ’territory’ of the Albanian border guards.



   Approaching the beach through the Montenegran mountains, bushes take over the place of forests until you can finally have a glimpse at the see, with all its monumentalism and freshness. This lasts until you enter the city. Tourism has conquered this ’new’ country, too. In the water there are more people than fish, on the beach bars follow one another, new apartment-complexes are being built. The prices are still lower then in Croatia, but for how long?



   Though we couldn’t find work, the impressions we got by a whole chain of helpful and supportive people, are unforgettable.

   It would be interesting to travel around the globe counting merely on acquaintances. For instance, setting out from Hungary, to look up an acquaintance in Serbia, who knows someone in Montenegro, who’s got a friend in Albania and so on. If planning 2-3 countries ahead and thinking through the chain of friends, it’s my conviction that one could travel around the planet without ever getting cornered somewhere.



   Getting closer to Albania, you can still see smaller beaches that are mainly visited by locals. A few hundred metres up, the porous, winding oil trees dominating the mountain sides, are syncronised with the shore’s sharp rocks. Nature’s sounds are remarkable. Crickets and bugs communicate and play music at a surprising volume; on the paths turtles are fleeing slowly from the meadows that, due to the donkies now without grass provide less shelter. The melon fields bring their fruit now for the tourists, making more and more profit for the owner.



   From our Dutch friends, we heard twostories about the isolated Albania.

   …When the president of the United States visited their country, a series of photos were taken as the president was shaking hands with the people gathered around. After a while, there’s no watch on the president’s hand...

   The other one is a slogan from the Albanian tourism: ’Visit Albania – your car is already here!’I nstead of putting negative prejudices in my head, to me these stories made the Albanians look kinder – in advance.

translated by Ágoston Galambos

Categories: English, Montenegro, by Peter

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