Photo: virginia


The colours of the Balkans

In 10 days the Balkans gave me back the colours I used to have before moving to the UK, well even more new colours. And I’m not only talking about my skin. I just needed some blue sky, some green mountains, a clear sea, red cherries and smiling, friendly, simple people around me. Simplicity and nature.  

Dagmar is from Dubrovnik, he lives in Switzerland and he is very proud of Croatia. I met him the first day I was in Dubrovnik when I was trying to escape the too touristy old town and looking for a quiet beach. He was carrying only a towel and I thought he must be a local. He showed me the beautiful and peaceful Dace beach where locals know each other and go there every year. They are proud of that little piece of paradise; they play cards (Italian games) in the shadow, drink local beer and grill lamb.

Anne Maria is German and I met her at the bus station in Dubrovnik we were both heading to Kotor, the bus was 45 minutes late and we started talking. In Kotor we stayed at the same hostel and very naturally we hanged around for two days. We agreed about everything and we got surprised and amazed of the same things. It was five o clock in the afternoon and it was quite hot, we looked each other for a second and said, let’s go to the beach!  We decided for the beautiful Perast on the bay and fell in love with this place. We found a cosy and nice restaurant where we had dinner under a vineyard. It was so peaceful and beautiful we couldn’t stop smiling and saying how beautiful and perfect everything was. She left the day after for Skopje, Macedonia.

Jeff is an American man who was staying at the Old Town Hostel in Kotor, it turned out he was Egyptian but he moved to US when he was very young. Jeff and Roxana (an always active and smiling Ukrainian girl who teaches English in Washington DC) were my mates in exploring the Durmitor National Park and the Tara canyon and part of the wild and beautiful north of Montenegro (and believe me that was a real adventure). As a child Jeff used to see the world through the gifts his relatives and friends got him when back from their travelling and he promised to himself one day he would start travelling and stop only when he had seen all the continents. He is halfway through.

Jacqueline is Swiss, from Lucern. She is studying for her master degree and in the meanwhile she travels when she can. She has studied in Tel Aviv and has travelled through South Africa. She has been in Australia and in so many other countries, and she is only 23 years old. I met her on the bus from the so kitsch and touristy Budva to the most wonderful Sveti Stefan. We got off the bus and headed together to the beach and made a loud WOW when we saw the beauty of the place. We enjoyed the peacefulness of Sveti Stefan, the freshness and clearness of the sea. Before she left we treated ourselves at the bar of the resort that surrounds the peninsula of Sveti Stefan, under the olives trees. I met her again in Kotor for a fresh Montenegrin beer and a relaxed dinner.

Miko works at the Old Town Hostel in Kotor with Alex. He doesn’t speak English except for some basic, but important, words like “coffee”. At the Hostel you happen to deal most of times with the volcanic and helpful Alex but for some mysterious reason that I cannot explain I found Miko’s presence very fascinating and reassuring, in the sense that he transmitted to me the essence of Montenegro, in some way. He was always very kind, very slow in his movements, even though he didn’t speak English he tried to communicate and he managed to do it well (and I found this a lot with the local people who didn’t speak English). He was always a very gentleman, in the pure and ancient sense of the term. He offered me a coffee a couple of times but either I had already had it or I was about to do something else. The last day I met him on the stairs and asked him if he could keep my baggage in the storage, he was doing something else, I think he felt my – stupid – rush (leave the rush somewhere else when you are in Montenegro!) he said “just a second” and he finished what he was doing and with his enviable slowness he came to me and took me to the storage. After this he offered me a coffee. I knew I had to meet Jacqueline at the coffee bar but I didn’t want to miss this. I accepted the coffee, and he gave me the coffee he had just made for himself. We sat at the table and didn’t say anything just enjoyed each other company and the coffee. I think that was the best coffee I have ever had during my travelling through the Balkans. It was a kind of Turkish coffee and I regret I didn’t have enough time to ask him to teach me how to make it. Thanks Miko.

The last day in Kotor I got up quite early and I decided to have a stroll, the last one, through the deserted old town. Kotor in the morning from 7 to 9 is just amazing, the sun starts softly lighting bits of the little narrow streets. Locals have their coffee at the bar, some of them go to work and tourists are still sleeping. While wandering around, stopping at every corner I met Sasha. Sasha is from Kotor, he manages a building company and was about to have breakfast before going to Perast to work. We talked for a few minutes and I asked him if he could drive me and a friend to Perast and of course he did. In our way to Perast he told us he was born in Germany, he lived in France for two years and still travels to France for work quite often. I met by chance Sasha again while I was waiting for my taxi to go to the airport. He gave me a drive to the airport on his Ape! On the way to the airport he stopped to get me some handmade Rajika.

I met Boro on the plane from Belgrade to London. He is Serbian but lives in London. His plan is to reconvert the cottage on the mountains next to the waterfalls, where he used to live as a child, in a place where to invite friends, artists and writers and just enjoy the beauty and the peace of the place. I saw the pictures. It really exists, a house by the waterfalls on a Montenegrin mountain.

Colours of the Balkans

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