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Montenegro & Bosnia

sunny 30 °C


Medieval Montenegrin towns lit up the hillside as we wound our way through the Bay of Kotor towards Prcanj, a seemingly never-ending settlement on the southern Adriatic. Our SUV clattered along the narrow strips of tarmac, pausing frequently to let the more appropriate sized cars inch past. This people carrier was fast becoming an unfortunate 'upgrade' on the diminutive Vauxhall Corsa I had specifically reserved in order to make light of Montenegro’s country lanes.

Unhelpfully, Prcanj (we had still not worked out how to pronounce it) does not have any street names. We soon discovered, however, that if you are on the wrong street, the police will soon pull you over and make sure you try your luck elsewhere.

The following morning we headed into town. Ava was full of beans and I was routinely checking BBC Sport while wondering, as a Brit is entitled to do, whether it was hot enough yet to start whingeing about the heat I had paid to walk under.

As we passed a rental agency, I spotted a clipping in the window advertising a motor boat. Thinking back, the last boat I had been on had been a banana boat. It had crashed a number of times and I had been entirely complicit in its crashing. I would go as far as to say that crashing a banana boat was hilarious. My only other experiences of boating had been as a passenger on the Dover to Calais ferry, and watching Steven Seagal put an entire navy to the sword in Under Siege.

Still, the boat owner did not need to know this. In fact, when asked whether I had any experience with boats, what should have sounded like "absolutely no idea how to drive/ steer/ pilot one mate" actually came out of my mouth as a semi-convincing "yeah, a bit, yeah." One ten second safety talk later we were away, motoring out into the bay to mix it with hulking ferries and fishing boats.

Once we were safely out of site, I took the wheel and we criss-crossed from one inlet to the next, dropping anchor occassionaly to dive overboard. I duly declared myself the ship’s captain. This would turn out to be a fairly premature claim, given that Ava has sailed boats before and I was mostly blagging it. As self-appointed captain, I was to park the thing where we had found it. So we neared the jetty and, with slight of hand, I accidentally turned the throttle the wrong way and we sped towards a neighbouring boat. Thinking quickly, Ava pushed off a nearby rope and redirected the boat away from danger, to the approval of a nearby Montenegrin pensioner. I mostly sat there looking thick.

We left Montenegro the following morning and dragged the thoroughly reluctant car over a sheer mountain pass in the (general) direction of Mostar, Bosnia. The city of Mostar dates back to the medieval period, but its pockmarked walls and vast reconstruction projects point to a more recent history. The Mostar of today remembers its fractured past but also looks forward, wide-eyed, towards a united Europe. A photo exhibition details the horrors of life as a child refugee in the region, while street sellers push minion toys and Ronaldo shirts like the rest of us, as clear Russian and Turkish influences make for a colourful, yet reserved atmosphere. All this while locals leap off the Mostar bridge in return for money; the reconstruction of the city's iconic bridge a symbol for hope in a region on the move.

Our day in Mostar ended in a local restaurant, as many of the best days tend to end in a foreign country. Rather cheekily, I ordered off menu. As we were next to the river, I asked whether there were any fish available, given that the menu mostly listed lamb. I received a nod of the head and the waiter rushed off, to return ten minutes later with a fish. He looked pretty pleased with himself, and so I asked what it was. He replied by pointing at the river and barking "river". I asked again but got the same response. It was a river fish. Happily, he trudged off, and left me with my river fish, and a favourable impression of an old city born again.

Posted by Peter.Moules 13:13 Archived in Montenegro Tagged montenegro bosnia

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