Every family has their quirky unique sayings that are odd but fitting for them. With our Madame Geneva crew we have travelled and seen a castle on a hill or a distant cove or island and said ” I want to go to that.” I’m thinking this morning about yet another Fourth of July flying flying our American flag abroad. This time in a harbor full of flags with two headed dragons and medieval shields on them. We are surrounded by towering dry mountains and signs written in a language where letters are often backwards, or numbers, or backward numbers, or a space helmet with a line through it or upside down backwards space helmet numbers with a line through or near it. We are in Tivat, Montenegro, former Yugoslavia on American Independence Day. There probably won’t be a parade today unless, coincidentally, today marks the day in 1991 we bravely beat back the Macedonian insurrection. The fireworks for the entire region have been used up back in Malta as they set off rockets at all hours of the day and night, every day and night, cuz….they like exploding stuff in Malta I guess. I genuinely miss the picnics and barbecues, beach parties, potato salad and all American sparklers and babies 4th of July holiday times back home. There aren’t any Shriners over here driving tiny cars with funny hats but there are lots of tiny cars and plenty of funny hats here too now that I think about it.
In Montenegro we have seen tractors loaded with hay holding traffic up and a Rolls Royce driving down the pier at the marine after having rolled out of its super yacht. Yep! We left the east coast of Italy last week needing to leave the EU before our time ran out and we violated our visas. It was always the plan to come to Montenegro. Its the only non EU country around the Adriatic Sea except for Albania but they have pirates so we stayed 50 miles offshore as we transited north. It’s beautiful and safe and, why wouldn’t you want to go to that? The natural scenery here is simply spectacular. It took nearly 2 hours to reach the port from the mouth of the bay and we are only 1/3rd of the way inshore. Huge, hot, modern and ancient with friendly locals and English! We make a point not to be the pushy tourists who demand everyone cater to them and speak English rather thinking ourselves as travelers gently dipping our toes into cultures ever so gratefully and carefully. Nearly everywhere we have been in Europe the past 2 years we have been able to communicate. I can order a beer and ask for the toilet in German, French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and broken English. My Irish is second to none. My Sicilian and Sardinian are suspiciously similar to my Italian, I just wave my arms more spastically as it becomes clear I’m not getting through. Maltese and Montenegrin though..we are all thankful they have had the experience to recognize that if any of us stand a chance of eating meals, buying fuel or purchasing marine hardware and actually paying for it then english is our best bet.
Safely tied to Oscar dock in Porto Montenegro and making acquaintance with marina neighbors from England and charterers from Russia we have gotten quite comfortable this week. We have been traveling hard of late and nobody in our crew seems to mind some real down time. We played and swam at the pool for a whole day. The kids likely swimming several miles each and sleeping hard that night. We acquainted ourselves with the local bus system and explored some of the amazing towns in the bay like Kotor, the ancient walled city and Perast, the beachy town just ashore of the hand built island, with a hand built church on it, “our lady of the rocks”. Seriously cool. The buses travel along the steep shoreline around the bay and are modern and cheap. They fill them up to capacity though no one has a cage with a chicken in it or an open topped bucket of fish like in the Caribbean. The driver smokes and misses the stone walls on one side and the cars, trucks, other buses, bicycles, motor scooters, Russian guys in ill fitting speedos and their mustaches by literally centimeters. We actually hit a taxi cab and kept going. Several times the driver would lean on the horn and wave arms to signal the oncoming traffic to back up and move so we could get by. One car had only 3 wheels on the pavement at one point, it’s right front dangling over the sea! I mean, fun!
In an attempt to stave off the heat and expand our horizons we looked though our Montenegrin options and found that well inland, across the entire country (which is roughly the size of Connecticut) lies the Tara River gorge. It’s the second largest river gorge in the world. Second only to the weee Colorado river gorge. Let’s all say it together now “I want to go to THAT!”
We went to that. We drank the water from the river, donned wetsuits and helmets and rafted the whitewater, ate trout from the river and beef from the valley (the children were oddly smitten with the powered chicken noodle soup “a la Lipton” appetizer and fried donut balls). Some cliffs rose 3,000 meters. The air was cool, the water was cold, the checkpoint bridge in the woods to Bosnia was guarded by soldiers…wait, what?
Yep. We paddled to Bosnia. Apparently that’s a thing you can do. Being the right side river bank of the Tara as the river is the border here when we beached our raft and climbed the waterfall were were in Bosnia. Ok kids, add another country to your list. “Yes, Gherty, Bosnia is a country. Well of course you’ve never heard of it. I never expected we would go to it. We already covered the topic of genocide in Berlin and Amsterdam a few months ago. I mean, how often must we discuss such things.? Hey look, deer prints in the mud! A butterfly!” Ahhhh homeschooling.
So today we’ll celebrate our country’s independence in Montenegro, I will mop the oil from the engine pan and look for the source of the slow leak, hooray. Then tomorrow we will clear customs and head north from Yugoslavia to….wait for it…..Yugoslavia! No, now it’s Croatia and by all accounts another magnificent former Soviet gem on the Adriatic. Happy 4th July. Independence is wonderful.