‘Am I in paradise or on the moon?’ George Bernard Shaw famously quipped from the top of Mount Lovćen in Montenegro. Adriatic sea stretches to the horizon to its west and on a clear day you can see Italy; to the south is Skadar Lake, beyond it – the dark, mysterious hills of Albania; in the north is Bay of Kotor, Europe’s southernmost fjord…
To get to Kotor Fjord from the historical capital, Cetinje, once the only way lead through the mountains, up the steep, narrow and oddly curved road… When you look at it from the top of the mountain – a capital letter M is clearly seen, it seems to be engraved into the landscape by the road… The legend is that French architect commissioned to oversee the construction in this way declared his love for beautiful Montenegrin Queen Milena – and had ran away from the country for his life! Whether the story is true we can not know, but Montenegrin women are known for their beauty – King Nikola and Queen Milena’s daughters had married into the most influential European dynasties and our King will be nick-named “the father in law of Europe”!
Elena of Montenegro (born Princess Jelena Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro) was wife of Victor Emmanuel III and Queen of Italy from 1900 until 1946; by Italians she was named “La Bella Elena” – beautiful Elena.
Two of our other princesses, with keen interest in the occult, Milica and Anastasia, had married into Romanov dynasty and it was them who later on introduced mysterious Rasputin to the Russian Court.
If you read serious historical sources – you’ll learn of False Tsar Stephen the Little; for my thesis i studied carefully archives of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic correspondence exchanged between two courts – Montenegrins were fully aware that their ruler had a false identity; but did they care? Not the least – he was a great ruler and that was the only thing that mattered; where he came from and who he was in reality – nobody knows until today.
The longest war in history , Montenegrin – Japanese war, lasted from 1905 – 2006; when Russia declared war to Japan, the teeny kingdom sided with its ally and also proclaimed war to the Country of the Raising Sun! Albeit the answer was never received – Montenegrin gesture was not merely symbolical – the best warriors chosen from the most reputable of the tribes, along with Russians went to war, fought bravely, won victories and received medals! Again, all of it is documented in the archives of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the names of these people who fought against Samurai and the awards they received are meticulously listed!
Then super powers got busy with their own business and it’s only in 2006, when high representative of Japanese Government traveled to Montenegro to recognize our regained independence – that the truce was signed!
Montenegro is one of the oldest countries in Europe – Principality Doclea, the great-grand mother of Montenegro, was formed in 9th century; it shall have a turbulent personal history, like many outstandingly beautiful and rebellious princesses did … In 1042 it shall run away from what once was considered her home – the mighty Byzantine empire, in 1421, it shall get kidnapped by a Serbian Despotate; princess by birthright would renounce its nobility by joining the working class family of Yugoslav people and shall remain quite happy in its new home, as long as her inborn sense of human dignity was not jeopardized and her honorable name brought down to dirt. That’s when the princess decided it was the high time she hit the road and became a sovereign queen. (In 2006. Montenegro has regained its independence.)
In an earlier essay, Death by chocolate, i’ve written on Montenegrin cuisine.
Favorite entrée is Njegushi cheese stored in oil – let alone that goats and cows are fed freely on the nearest valley on herbs and grass typical of this region, the cheese is later smoked at home and the village of Njegushi is unique for its blend of sea-air with the air from the mountains; two climates intersecting in that very spot give the food a taste that’s impossible to second.
After the cheese is imbued with this unique aroma – it’s stored in olive oil and that’s a story unto itself, because the oil is hand made by monks in the monasteries on the coast; at the end you get a a small piece of cheese that’s threaded with history of this magical kingdom of Black Mountains. The cheese, it seems, is served mostly to go along with the story of our rulers, Petrovic Njegos dynasty, and their tribe of Njegusi; the monks, while making the oil – read prayers and these prayers give you the strength of a tiny rebellious nation, which resisted its numerous oppressors for centuries and never in its history was enslaved.
As you would be snacking on the cheese, you would get served Montenegrin brandy – Prvijenac, which is made by unique technologies and in limited quantities; it comes in numbered bottles, like a part of a collection – which basically it is.
There is that joke – the proverbial Russian, American and Montenegrin argued whose beverage is the best and , as expected, without having agreed – they decided to conduct an experiment; a group of mice got treated to Whiskey, Vodka and Prvijenac respectively and the effects were observed and recorded.
The mouse who had Whiskey started walking around nonchalantly, with a seductive aura of a western-movie actor, he demanded his own Colt to protect the mice maidens and after a while rode into the sunset.
The mouse who had Vodka started quoting Russian Classics and despairing over the current state of the world’s affairs, lady mice were admiring him while silently wiping off tears with tiny handkerchiefs and praying that this hero wins the duel against the usual bad guy.
The mouse who drank of Prvijenac just stood there.
After some time, he stood on his back paws and yelled out in a human voice, carrying the menace of vengeance high and low: Ladies, back to the hole, you have no business here! Where is the bloody cat?! I’ll do it away with my bare hands! ‘Nuff of this oppression! Come out, you villain, fight as a man!
You get an idea…
an airplane window shot of the Black Mountains
Vintage Cover of a French Magazine, public domain
Montenegrin coast, a pic my mother took back in early 70ies
Here you can see the gallery of pictures from Kotor Fjord, Scadar lake and other shots of the amazing Black Mountains.
P.S. Just in case you are wondering what’s gotten into me to write on my country once again – it’s that after bitching about FP in how NOT to get freshly pressed, EVER, i do think the guys behind Daily Prompt deserve cudos for coming up with today’s “Local Flavor‘. 😉