A Home for the Winter
At the beginning of October, it was time to bring Awildian into the marina for the winter. Eric steered him into two adjacent berths, a lovely spot at the marina's landside seawall, near the long Customs quay. I particularly liked being in this spot, as it was near some grassy areas and shady parks, and it allowed me to easily feed the many homeless dogs and cats - and pigeons - who came by.
For the next seven months, we enjoyed being temporary residents of Montenegro, and the Porto Montenegro Marina and Resort in Tivat. While the resort is the glitzy sort of place where you could drop a grand or two on a pair of shoes or a shirt in one of the high-end designer shops,
Springtime in the resort
the town of Tivat is unpretentious, with reasonably-priced shops, grocery stores, produce stands, and hardware stores within easy walking distance of the marina. All of which stay open year-round.
Some scenes from around Tivat
One of the many waterfront restaurants
A New Cruising Community!
One of the most delightful benefits of spending the winter at Porto Montenegro was meeting all the other cruisers who were doing the same. After many months of being mostly on our own, Eric and I finally had a cruising community again!
Many of the other cruisers at Porto Montenegro were new to cruising, and had never experienced a cruising community before, so Eric and I and some of the other more "seasoned" cruisers helped to introduce them to some of the nicer aspects of a cruising community. For my part, I instigated the Ladies' Lunch, based on the one that I'd been a part of in New Zealand. It was a big hit! Every Thursday, women who were interested in meeting for lunch would meet at the Porto Montenegro sign at 11:45. Those who turned up would decide where to go for lunch. We even have our own WhatsApp group - where we can vent or discuss things.
A couple of the cruisers had set up a WhatsApp group, which more than a hundred of us overwintering cruisers participated in. On Wednesday nights, we gathered to enjoy drinks, curry, and conversation at The Blue Room restaurant, near the marina. Thursdays were Ladies' Lunch. On any other day or night, there might be parties; gatherings to share information about anchorages, immigration, customs, equipment, repairs, weather, or other topics of interest to the cruiser; or small private get-togethers. It was so nice to be a part of this community. Now that we've all gone our separate ways, we still keep in touch through the old WhatsApp group, and we meet up when we find ourselves in the same anchorage.
One day, our friends, Tim and Korina, invited a group of us to come on their boat, Matilda, to visit and explore the Blue Cave and one of the submarine hangars, near the marina. We brought our dinghy and tied it behind the big boat, using it to shuttle groups into the cave and hangar while Matilda was anchored nearby. Both were really cool: the cave in a sparkly, colorful way, and the hangar in a James Bond villain kind of way.
On our way to the Blue Cave. Rosie is looking bored.
Our dinghy coming along to help out
The outside of the Blue Cave,
Next, we visited one of the submarine hangars.
An attempt at camouflage
Check out this website for a fascinating description and photos of the secret tunnels and hangars in the Bay of Kotor. Secret sub tunnels
Eric and I also got to know some of the local Montenegrins, our favorite being Zoran, one of the three guards who was posted at the Customs dock near Awildian's berth. I had many interesting conversations with Zoran, in which we shared aspects of our respective cultures. Zoran loved America, especially Houston, Texas, where he'd visited many years earlier during his time as a navigator on a cargo ship. Zoran liked to teach me Montenegrin words, and tried tirelessly to teach me how to pronounce them correctly, which often ended up with both of us laughing. One particularly hilarious lesson was how to pronounce the different sounds of the letter "c". If it's just written as "c" it's pronounced like "ts" (the ending sound of "bats"). But then things got murky for me. If it has an accent (ć) it's pronounced like "ch". If it has what I call a "cowlick" (č) it's pronounced (to my ears) like "ch" too, but to Montenegrins like Zoran, it's different.
Me: "ch" (it sounded the same to me)
Zoran (shaking his head): "No. č"
Zoran (shaking his head again): "No. č"
This went on until he gave up or we were laughing too much for me to talk. I never did figure out how to pronounce the different sounds, but we had a good time.
Merry Christmas! And again!
A large proportion of Montenegrins practice the Eastern Orthodox religion, which adheres to the Julian - rather than the Gregorian - calendar. Because the two calendars have different lengths, their dates have diverged over the years, so that they now differ by 13 days. This means that Eastern Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7, thirteen days after Christian Christmas. Both Christmases are celebrated in Montenegro, though only the January 7 Christmas is considered a public holiday. There are also two two New Years and two Easters. Just to keep things interesting.
Lit up for New Years(es)
The Porto Montenegro crane decorated for the holidays
Doing Good Deeds
During the time that we were in Montenegro, I did what I could to help some of the many stray dogs and cats who lived there. I put food on the seawall for them, and I petted them when they wanted some love. Strays are prevalent in Montenegro; sadly many of the locals don't care for their animals or value them, in the way that some other cultures do. I'm not someone who can look away from an animal in need. It feeds my soul to help them, and I like having them around. But it saddens me that I have to.
Sometimes the need goes beyond a meal of pet food and a pat. One friendly young dog in particular, who was roaming the marina when we arrived, became the focus of my life for a few months.
Rolo, as we cruisers called him, was happy sleeping on the docks during the warm summer and fall. When the weather turned cold and rainy, he had figured out how to let himself into the heated shower/bathroom building using the automatic door. At night or in bad weather, we'd often find him curled up in a little ball in an out-of-the-way corner. One day I gave him a towel to lie on. The next day, someone brought a thick blanket to use under the towel. Next, a big, fluffy pillow appeared, which Rolo loved to sleep on.
Waiting for a belly scratch
Most people at the marina liked him, but apparently someone didn't. This someone conspired to have him quietly removed from the marina and taken to the local shelter, an awful place, where many dogs die of disease, injuries, or starvation, and most dogs never leave. When we learned that Rolo been taken to the shelter, some other cruisers and I began trying to find him a home. About ten days later, we went to the shelter to visit him, and found him dirty, shivering, and starving. We knew that if we left him there, he would die. So, even though we didn't know exactly how it would work, we took him back to the marina. He couldn't run free anymore, so he lived on Awildian with us for about three weeks, while we continued trying to find him a home, somewhere outside of Montenegro.
Living on Awildian
In the end, our efforts paid off: we found him a loving home in Germany, and, with the help of volunteers from the local dog welfare group, Friends of Dogs Montenegro, we were able to get him there.
Here's a short video that tells Rolo's story. Coming Home:Rolo's Story
In April we had a fundraiser for Friends of Dogs, which included a presentation by Fiona, one of the founders of the group, after which we played "Playing Card Bingo." Participants - all eager to donate to Friends of Dogs - ponied up 2 euro each per game. The pot was supposed to be split between the winner and FOD, but everyone donated their half to the cause, and it was common for the coin cups to turn up stuffed with euro notes as well. We raised a good amount for the dogs that night, and everyone had a good time.
Driving in Montenegro
While in Montenegro, we had occasion to rent a car from time to time. The first time, we chose to rent from the local SixT office, which was located at the Tivat airport (a fifteen minute drive away). They also offered to bring a car to Porto Montenegro, and pick it up there when we were done. So we did that. A friendly Montenegrin lad named Mirko brought our car to the parking lot near Awildian (so near that we could see him from the boat). He gave us his phone number, and from then on, every time we wanted to rent a car, we'd just text Mirko, who would set us up, bring the car to the lot, and wave at us.
Trying to do us a favor, Mirko began giving us a larger car each time we rented from him. The third one was a small SUV, which though quite comfortable, was really too big to navigate anything but the widest roads. We took it on one of the scenic mountain roads near Kotor, but after having difficulty negotiating a couple of tight turns and having to pull to the very edge of some steep drop-offs when a car approached from the opposite direction, we thanked Mirko but asked if he'd please stick to smaller cars unless we asked him for a larger one.
During the off-season (October through early April), renting a car cost between 9 and 17 euro a day, less if we rented for a longer time, including full insurance coverage and unlimited miles. After Easter, the price rose to more than 60 euro a day.
Montenegrin drivers are an odd mix of terrifying, annoying, and polite.
Terrifying: (1) On any two lane road (which most are, in Montenegro), cars will come right up behind you at high speed and zip around, cutting back in front of you just before the oncoming car smashes into them. This includes blind curves on twisty, two-lane mountain roads. (2) On mountain roads, where a third lane has been added as a passing lane for the use of traffic in one direction, Montenegrin drivers coming in the other direction will also sometimes use this lane. Once, while I was using the passing lane (for traffic in my direction) a sports car came around the blind curve from the other direction - also in my passing lane! Instead of pulling back into his lane, he kept coming, playing chicken with me. I ducked back into the regular lane. We both knew he was in the wrong, but I don't want my headstone to say, "She had the right of way."
Annoying: In town, where the roads are usually two lanes, or less, if a Montenegrin driver decides that they want to get something from a shop, they'll just stop their car in front of the store, right there in their lane, and go inside. Now, everyone in both directions has to maneuver around their car until they get back. This is considered normal practice.
And yet, they can also be very polite drivers: Montenegrins will almost always let you into the line of traffic in front of them, if you're waiting to enter a road, or slow down so you can turn across their lane.