Named for the stunning mountains that encircle this striking country, we were expecting black or brown mountains, but we were not disappointed to be greeted instead by a blanket of green velvet, tree covered crag. After a 50 hour passage we had completely relaxing and uneventful conditions and arrived to put another pin in the map.
The coastline of Montenegro, the southernmost country in the region of Dalmatian, is 300 kilometers of winding bays, or Boka’s, which lead to what was once the center of Montenegro, Kotor. If you arrive by cruise ship, you will likely be treated to a gorgeous ride through the Boka Bay before arriving at your port. The Boka Bay is comprised of 3 distinct basins of water each surrounded by mountains and comprising 1/3 of the coastal land. Alternatively, arrival by plane into Tivat or the current capital of the country Podgorica.
While we have only been here for 3 weeks on this visit, we will be returning in September to spend the entire winter so look for future posts about all that there is to see here. Initially planned for a 1 week stay, readers and friends will appreciate that it is not at all uncommon for us to fall in love – then get stuck- in an area longer than we had planned. We had logistic issues at home which needed to be dealt with as well as personal stuff, so all of this conspired to keep us here longer than planned. Also, we have just finished up another year of glorious boat school and we needed to get all the paperwork sent off. To say that we had some serious lazy days in the past 3 weeks would be an utter minimization.
The first few days were spent reading, lazing around, and EATING OUT!! The entire winter in Ragusa was lovely but mostly under either Red or Orange Covid restrictions which not only limited our movement around the county, it also had restaurants and cafes closed. Before I write anymore, I want you, the reader to know that I fully “get” that we are living an incredibly privileged life and I don’t take for granted the blessings we are given by enjoying this -even without restaurants. All of this is to say that never in my life have I been more grateful for someone bringing me a beautifully and lovingly prepared meal and then cleaning up again afterward. We have eaten out A LOT since we have arrived. Not entirely sure if it is the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or if these restaurants are really this good but food has never tasted better!!
We had the terrific opportunity to travel with a lovely guide called Sasa. She is an avid traveler herself and extensively trained and educated in Italy but born here. Sasa has a multi-layered and faceted view of her world and her country’s place in it. I have noticed that individually and as a family, our world view and our view of our own country has changed drastically due to our time away. I think knowledge of and love for one’s country becomes more “real” when one has had time away. So, I particularly connected with Sasa from the moment we met. We share several senses and viewpoints of an esoteric nature which made our conversations so easy to have.
We first visited Kotor and she walked us along the cobblestoned streets and shared with us stories from some of the oldest Eastern Orthodox and Serbian churches. Even visiting in the middle of the day we were able to pray along with other faithful people, at once sharing, without words, a joint connection to our God. According to Wikipedia, Montenegro, A religious country, 72% claim Eastern Orthodoxy as their faith. Second is Islam at 19.11% Catholic at 3.44 and another .43 as other Christian. It would not be hard to “find” God here though. Churches and the stories which accompany then abound. Our favorite story is from Our Lady of the Rocks.
In the mid 15th century, some fishermen found a painting of the virgin Mary with baby Jesus floating in the water. A very superstitious bunch (even to this day) the custom followed that a church must be built in this place. As I said, the painting was floating in the water… The Boka Bay is deep – several hundred feet deep. This makes it a boater’s paradise. But if one is building a church on the site of a floating painting, that is another story. So, the story goes, year after year, and small boat by boat, rocks were added bit by bit to the site. Things progressed faster as boats which were invading and then capsized near the narrow (see photos below) were dragged to the site and filled with rocks and sunk to the bottom. Now standing on this island formed in the shape of a boat, is the beautiful church, Our Lady of the Rocks. Even today in July small boats honor this site by throwing rocks on the island. Inside, the chapel is filled with paintings and silver etchings depicting battle scenes and storms, donated by the sailors who were saved by their prayers and the benefactor they honor. Also, a lovely tribute: brides leave behind their bouquet to the virgin rather than tossing them to the “next in line”.
Small churches floating in the Bay seems to be their “thing”. We found several such churches which makes us giggle as we recall our rector standing before his congregation trying to get more people to come to worship. Imagine putting a church on an island – and there is nothing more to it nor any way to get the faithful there?
The nearest town is Preast. The cutest town with again, a bunch of churches. The funny story here is that the church is completely out of scale with it’s gorgeous belltower. The story is that the original builders wanted any “would be” invaders to catch one glimpse of the tower and be scared away.
We loved our time so much with Sasa, we booked her for a second day. But we are out of time and room so that will have to wait. Coming next, Budva and Sveti Stefan, and our own explores aboard Takk.
Incidentally, Alec and I got our first Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday. THANK YOU MONETENEGRO!!! We felt a little under the weather but are making a good rebound today. Also of note, we are leaving tomorrow for Croatia and we will return by car to get the second vaccine dose later in June.
Also, all year long Jack must learn a lot of stuff that he maybe would not choose. When summer comes, he gets to choose – he can learn anything at all that he would like to learn but he MUST learn something. So, he has taken on guitar lessons and computer coding. Jack has never been permitted video games, but we decided to make an allowance and permit him to play only a game if he made it. Thanks to Uncle Tim for the guitar and the inspiration! He is really enjoying it.