Montenegro, not so far from the Netherlands, yet I had no clue what this country would be. It is much like the other countries in the former Yugoslavia; men wear track suits and a little handbag slung across their chest with a hinge. Women are outfitted over the top and those two combinations match together. A wonderful view.
The scenery is what really mesmerize me. Finally I am stopped in my tracks. An uphill have me fixed on the road, not to catch my breath –since I learned to cycle in the lowest gear- but to watch around me. In this country the Earth is misused sparingly, maybe because it are all hills.
Quiet. All is silent as soon as we cross the border. The view is immediately beautiful and promising. We cycle until a first little shop, eat, cycle on and buy groceries for the night to come. Then we decide to return to that very special spot we’d passed and where we surely won’t be seen. It’s about 5 kilometer back. On our way we try another stealth spot, we turn out to be at somebody’s grazing ground, and passed by 6 cows, a dog and two humans.
Nature has brought us plenty of woods again. Mountains too. Montenegro on this side of the country is dotted with fairy tale peaks, soft flowing and a lot of abundance. It is like the hills are dancing in a jumpy move, there is no flat ground to be seen.
Autumn start to make its appearance, days become shorter. And since I love slow mornings with masala chai and a sumptuous breakfast, we never start before 11.00. That’s fine, we are not in a hurry. Not rarely we cover only 30 kilometer a day.
We slowly come closer to Europe, prices in supermarkets are higher, selection too. People are remarkable tall. And do I feel I am watched again, for my dirty fingernails and scruffy style of dressing? Which I rather describe nowadays as functional sporty and colorful hip.
Montenegro has rather narrow roads with no shoulder and cars love to tail-gate. Not strange; sticking to another one’s bumper is a safe feeling. Driving in a peloton makes people feel they are wolves in a pack, safely hurdled together. Drivers who tail-gate don’t see us, cyclists, and that makes us vulnerable. But maybe not. Maybe it is saver to have 6 cars passing us at once than now and then each by its own. Driving in a peloton makes the driver behind another car extremely cautious; if the one in front swift, so does he. They might not actual see us, they do swerve around us.
The narrow road to the capital, Podgorica, is one of those roads where you cannot do more than hoping cars won’t smash into you. There is no shoulder and no side track near. But it is never as bad as cycling in Nigeria though.
It rains a lot. Nature is covered in a haze of tiny raindrops. A curtain of mist and clouds and fog. I can still see the countless advertisements of ‘auto sleps’ on rocks, walls and curbstone. We like to think that in the past car brands such as Yugo and Tamtam needed regular help on the tough uphill’s of this part of former Yugoslavia, thus a strong truck needed to come and help them. And still, we see quite a few tow trucks. Those are always Mercedes. Just like the cars in Albania and Mauritania.
Mountains are dotted like an abundant child would scatter cream on her own birthday cake; a chaos of tops and dips. There are very few houses, and in great contrast, many cars. They drive past us as if they are not allowed to cross the white line dividing the road. I imagine they get electrocuted at once, as soon as they cross the white line. This makes it easier for me to accept they are lousy drivers. I can honestly say drivers from former Yugoslavian countries are in general bad drivers. Perhaps because roads are meant for cars, and for nothing else. No horse carts, no donkeys, no open sewer puts, no pedestrians, no sales pits. And certainly no lycra-clad fools!
The waiter in an empty restaurant, wearing a T-shirt with the letters ‘Gangster Panda’ welcomes us warmly. I am drenched but not too cold since we are climbing all day. Mind you, our days are short, the surroundings need to be marveled at and the climbs are long. Gangster Panda brings us a dry jacket, lays our wet clothes to dry, positions the chairs around an open fire, which he just lit when he saw one of us turning into the parking lot. Then he brings out roast lamb (?), salad, boiled potatoes, and cheese with bread. All ‘tradicional’. Even the black tea, in a bag with a tiny staple at the label, accompanied by a piece of lemon is ‘tradicional’. I doubt it. With the additional food Gangster Panda provided us we have another delicious meal in the tent that evening.
Climbing goes fast, only a few kilometer up a hill let you make huge height when you look down the lands below you. Although we have climbed only 850 meter, the downhill brings my hands to a painful clasp around the handlebars, I need to brake constantly. Would I not, I would make a nice free fall in Budva. Watching this elaborate town from a high distance we could not know that it is a tourist trap. An open museum where window frames are all replaced for PVC. Fake leather jackets with hopefully fake fur collars, bright shining fake jewelry together with touristy crap is stalled out in mini storefronts. The harbor in front of the old walled town of Budva has an unappropriated showcase of richness in the form of yachts, and perhaps the fat bellied men in track suits may be a sign of wealth too.
Come to think of it, in Albania I haven’t seen a fat person at all.
I see women all dressed up, to the level of ridicule. Yeah, we are back in Europe… and I have to get used to it. I feel I don’t belong in dressed up Europe anymore. Not that I have become a cave woman but I don’t see any use in finding a matching outfit in your closet, styling your hair, using perfume, having to walk on high heel shoes. What if you suddenly need to rely on your basic strength and elementary knowledge? I often think, when I am among dressed-up people: what if we are thrown back into the past, let’s say 500 years back. Who would be able to deal with it? Who would start crying? Who would start making a fire? Who would be miserable about having no shower? Who would start sulking their high-heel came loose? Their hair would mat together? Their armpit would give off an odor? Who would smear the bright red lipstick off their lips and start shoving up their sleeves? Who would sit back, and watch the scene?
Standing in a supermarket I imagine who would be able to deal if we were all thrown back into a feudal state where we would live in caves. Or if we were hijacked. It’s a nice way to view people…