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The Junction

Musings from Montenegro

Journal and personal photographs, Day 3

Mountains come out of the sky.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 — Kotor

Today is the first day of spring. At first, the weather wasn’t promising. It was overcast with intimations of fog. We had prepared an ambitious itinerary, filled with alternative fallback options. The first stop was to the town of Budva, approximately 30km from Kotor. We retraced our route that we had taken at night from the airport, and the difference was literally night and day.

The skies opened up out over the sparkling blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. The mountains above Budva were speckled in places with snow. Lots of traffic in town. We parked then walked to a Pekora, the Montenegrin word for bakery, and chose an assortment of sweet and salty pastries. The standout for me was a croissant stuffed with cherry jam filling.

The outer walls of old town, Budva.
Cuties.

Afterwards, we got back in the car to park closer to the old town, which had some impressive seaside battlements. A dramatic scene of waves and sea mist splashing up against the ancient limestone walls. A crinkle of the plastic bag carrying our leftover goodies from the bakery brought out a coterie of cats and a dog, looking for a bite to eat. Once we’d suitably explored the rest of town Budva, we hit the road once more.

Our original plan was to head to Rijeka Crnojevica, where the view of Skadarska Jezero, or Lake Skadar, is said to be nice. But the road proved to be too dangerous to take a risk in a rental, as it was unpaved mountain pass at a 8% grade. Nonetheless, we pressed on, first to an overlook of Sveti Stefan. I don’t know anything about its history but it appears to be some kind of island fortress, now inaccessible, apparently, to non-paying guests at the converted resort. No matter.

Rich people only.

Onward to Petrovac, which is usually a hot vacation spot in the summer months but in the early days of spring it’s akin to a yawning kitten. We stopped at a place for a drink and continued on to another lakeside village. This one was called Virpazar. The lake was serene. I kept thinking of lyrics to the song “Roundabout” by Yes. Mountains come out of the sky and stand there.

As we explored the village, a rambunctious akita kept nipping at our heels until we let him join the party. He clearly had an owner — the collar and leash he dragged around testified to that, but was also very independent-minded. And I don’t know how to speak to dogs in Montenegrin.

He followed and us up a quiet road along the lake, then a long stone driveway that led to a castle undergoing refurbishment, then all the way back down until we crossed the bridge, got in the car and left.

On the way out of town we made the last second decision to follow one of the many signs to a local winery. We travelled along the railroad tracks for a few moments, then pulled into a neighborhood with a lot of junked and rusted cars out front. It reminded me of the area around the Ketchup Bottle in Collinsville, IL, then we arrived at this unassuming house where an old woman lived.

After ringing the buzzer, she came downstairs to greet us and led us to the wine cellar on the ground floor. It was a homely place, with low wooden chairs outfiited with knitted seat covers, oak barrels placed along the wall, and shelves with award-winning wine and rakija on the wall opposite. She didn’t speak English, so we had to make due with our Czech. It was close enough. And besides, wine is a universal language.

I wish I had more pictures of this place but it didn’t feel polite.

There were three main types of wine: Krin, Dionis, and the third I don’t remember. Other than the difference in price, each wine had other varieties of grape. The Krin, which we bought a bottle of for 10€, had the local Montenegrin Vranac grape. The Dionis had three, the other had five. She poured generous glasses and we toasted in Montenegrin. Ževeli!

Back in Kotor, we went for dinner at Galion, the most gastronomic place we’ve visited, with snow white tablecloths, wine stands, and the whole 9 yards of penguin suits and service. Pork fillet, caramelized apples, red onions, panna cotta, and plum rakija hit the spot.

A beet carpaccio with a red fruit reduction.

Catch up on previous entries here and here. Day 4 will be published next Wednesday. Thank you for reading!

A lefty and his craptacular penmanship.

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Stephen M. Tomic

Stephen M. Tomic

Fiction writer, Founder and Editor of The Junction : smtomic@gmail.com

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