Continuing from our debut post in Montenegro, let me tell you a bit about our second day. We will not be publishing daily reports, but I think it’s important that we talk about getting settled in this ridiculously interesting country, and all the ups and downs that go along with it.
So, Day Two. We still didn’t have our bearings, and didn’t really understand how the town functions as a whole. You know: Where the town center is, where people shop, where they congregate, etc. One of the first things I like to do when I land in a new place is to find my bearings. I don’t need to know everything, but I want to know how the town is set up and how to get around.
It was becoming quickly apparent that the town is laid out in a series of strips along the coast, instead of one main central area that spreads outward in every direction. While there is indeed a Stari Grad (Old Town), Herceg Novi lies on a coastal mountainside. This means that everything is sloping downward to the sea. Some places are more densely populated with businesses and the like than others are. I’d be lying if I said there was no central area at all, but there’s a bit more distance to everything since you can’t traverse a central part of town to get from one place to another. You must go down the coast, no matter what you’re doing, on several roads that run parallel to the sea.
Our first mission was to go to the bus station to get a map and timetable. Our second was to find the central old town and hopefully learn more about the area and where all of the important businesses and such are located. We stopped by to say good morning to our landlord, and found out that he was going to the Stari Grad as well. He offered us a lift, and generously walked with us into the town center, pointing out banks, markets, and galleries. He then showed us where the bus station was, and we parted ways.
Frankly, I hadn’t been at a bus station this run down in quite some time. There were vague timetables that only showed where buses go, and not when or how often. I’d read online that this is not something easily obtainable, but figured we could get the necessary information at the bus station of all places. Boy, was I wrong. After some haranguing in broken Mother Tongue and English, the girl at the info center told us there were no timetables or route maps, and promptly answered her mobile to engage in a more pleasing conversation with a friend. Well, all right then.
Dissatisfied, we went to the town square and sucked down a pair of iced coffees in record time. We walked around the old town, running into colorful street art, shops carrying everything from Armani to cheap Chinese imports (hello, €7 swimsuit and €2.50 tank tops), and some grocery stores that are a bit more well-stocked than the ones by our place. They also had air conditioning on full blast, and we took our time browsing the aisles while we cooled off.
Hot and tired, we didn’t venture as far as we should have. We’d later find that there is a lot more to this town. In the meantime, though, we did some grocery shopping and headed back to our place. No dice on the buses, but we had seen them go by every 15 minutes or so, and knew there had to be a better way to get to know the system. We spoke with our landlady, and she informed us of how at least two of the bus lines work. We simply had to get over the anxiety of jumping on a bus in a place we don’t know, using a language we don’t know. We would make that happen the next day on a visit to the neighboring town of Igalo.
More pressing matters were at hand. On our way to the beach and then dinner, we ran into our landlord. Plans scrapped, time for more of the conversation that we love. He invited us for a drink, and we spent hours talking about his family, his work, the history of the country, and the surrounding area. It was peach schnapps this time, and it was going to be another long evening of good times. I don’t want to get into who our landlord is, but he’s lived here for decades and is very well known by all people in the former Yugoslavia. A jolly fellow who loves a good drink and a good laugh, he clearly knows and cares about the value and quality of one’s life, and has an intense interest in the history and development of this small nation.
His neighbors popped around the corner, and we were all invited to join them on their patio. This particular couple lives in Belgrade, Serbia, and owns a vacation apartment next to our building. They certainly love life as well, with their dark tans (a stark contrast to my white-to-red color-changing ability), the most boisterous laughs I’ve ever heard, and amazing hospitality. More schnapps and some iced coffees and another late night. On empty stomachs, we stumbled away late and went in search of some sustenance.
My favorite part of traveling and living in new places is getting to meet and talk to locals. And our landlord and his neighbors have been more than accommodating to what we value most. During this conversation, he even noted my email from four months prior (to the date, no less), in which I had talked about those values and what we like to achieve in a new land: Learning the culture, learning the language, meeting locals, and understanding the history, present, and future of how a country or city operates.
He then went on to say we would to go to a mountain village with him and help make loza (grape schnapps). “When work is finished, they give bottle. You do work, I get bottle.” Followed by a very long, very loud laugh all around the table. I have a feeling he might be serious – good thing he likes to share.
Want to see more pictures from our life in Montenegro? Check out the photo sets on our Facebook page.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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