Experiencing Montenegro

We passed by some extremely green and dense countryside today. We drove from Trebinje to Rejica Crnojevica crossing over from Bosnia into Montenegro territory. The heat we faced at Trebinje made it nearly impossible to step out. During the day Anu and I lazed, researched, laundered and sat out the hot hours. Evening we visited the little town of Trebinje which was, literally just a few blocks. We walked by the river, had a fancy dinner at a hilltop restaurant and rejuvenated ourselves.

Anu and me discussed that evening: this trip has as if condensed and compacted the experience of several lifetimes into a short 100 day period. Every moment for us is a new experience- fresh, unprecedented and with its own zing to it- a zing that in common daily life may be experienced once in many months sometimes years. But it has also not been easy and being within a few inches of each other 24×7 for 100 days is indeed an experience. Patience, care- and to beware of fatigue were the key elements, we realized.

The next day we set out for Montenegro. The border control was manned by very efficient and helpful officers and before we realized, we were breezing through the highways in Montenegro. The country is beautiful with thick forests of pines and fir, green mountains and gurgling streams. The people- oh the people were extremely friendly. Curious about Indians, welcoming towards strangers and helpful (if they do understand English). The traffic was fast- nobody cared about speed limits- and drivers were whimsical. But even then, this is a pale shadow compared to the Indian traffic- and so we relaxed and rode on through the route M6. At some point we veered off into a small lane that led into the forests and mountains. The branches closed in on top to make a thick canopy of green as we rode the forest path. You could see that Montenegro recently experienced scarcity of water- as there were several kilometres of brown and gold bushes interspersing the green. We rode carefully along that narrow road because around bends, oncoming vehicle seemed very startled at the sight of us heading towards them- in short they did not expect others on the road. This ride was through the foothills of the mountains and we followed the road as it snaked up and down the slopes. Rijeca Crnojevica, when it finally came upon us was a village of just a few houses along the river by the same name. We stayed at the village inn Perjanik run by Lludmile and her husband Ivan. Our window opened onto the main street of the village while the porch overlooked the gently flowing river and the old stone bridge.

That evening we chatted with Ivan- and over several beers he narrated his childhood when this village was used to bustle with activity and people and and trade- but how over the years the young ones migrated and many of the old timers died. “Now there are only a few of us- but I belong here… this is the land of my ancestors… we are the Perjaniks (the Inn is named after the same) who were the sworn protectors of the king. And here I shall stay.” he said misty eyed. It was evening, the light was low and on the walls were the trophies of various wild animals and antique articles. Then there was Ivan himself- long white hair, snow white beard and reliving his past in his low, rhythmic monologue. This could well be the inn set two hundred years back, it was like being transported into another era. And the lady Lludmille brought in our dish of fish and potatoes just like it must have been in the bygone years.

The next morning we broke fast and walked by the riverside. There were 2-3 restaurants lined up along the river plaza. A couple of other local shops and vendors selling memorabilia and trinkets and as you walk past, the boatmen call out offering a boat ride along the river and a promising dive into the adjoining lake. We had however heard of the watering hold of the locals: a spot about 300 meters away where the water forms a moderately deep pool. We headed there and stepped into the icy cold waters. A minute of two later, we stepped out: despite the heat of the day, I felt as if I will get hypothermia if I stayed any longer- so cold was the water. Teeth chattering, we dried ourselves and hastily headed home to warm dinner and a spot or two of rum. We walked past the same café dwellers, the same snack and beer drinkers, the rows of restaurants and shops selling trinkets. We spoke little; just held hands and walked, taking in the ambience, lost in our own reflections. Isn’t it incredible… I thought to myself… all the way from India into this tiny corner of the planet… walking the plaza, wet- and cold- and happy!

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