Christmas break 
Thursday, December 17, 2009, 11:11 am
Posted by Administrator
Just eight days away from Christmas (by the Gregorian calendar) and the semester enters its interesting phase - i.e. no more classes, just the humdrum of marking written exams and conducting the oral exams, the students' tears and panic when results are posted. Unfortunately I won't be going home for Christmas, only the second time I have been absent from the family celebrations, because of the exam schedule lasting till the 29th. However, I will be celebrating Christmas with some students who will get to sample boiled brussels sprouts, Niksicko pivo Christmas pudding, cranberry jelly, etc a la Montenegrin. Just gotta get a Christmas tree and lights. Btw, it's snowing in Niksic - chance of a white Christmas after all these years.
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Cooking on bare rock 
Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 1:00 am
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My only visit to the Montenegrin seaside of the late summer lasted only two days and involved only a short period of swimming. I somehow got bitten by a hiking bug, and decided (against sound advice) to go on a day-hike from Kotor to Sv.Stasije via Krstac and the villages(!) of Zalazi, on one of the hottest days of the year, it turns out. Danijel and I set out at 7am and after 4 hours arrived at the top of a relentless climb from the sea to about 1000m, with only occasional shelter. The path was a pony trail zigzagging up a steep mountainside. The second part of the hike involved walking along the ridge parallel to the coastline along an Austro-Hungarian military road, which for a while was wide enough for a car to make the trip. The walk was pleasant for me until we reached the abandoned village of Veliki Zalazi, and we steeply descended into a bowl-shaped valley and picked our way through ruined buildings. The temperature increased in the shelter of the surrounding mountains. I threw up several times before continuing out of the valley up to the next pass. After the village of Mali Zalazi, which was abandoned apart from one homestead, we then started on a two-hour descent to Sveti Stasije, without any water left. It's a recommended walk in general but not at the height of summer, and will need around 10 or 11 hours to complete. There are stunning views over the Bay of Kotor and there are refreshments at Krstac. Perhaps it would be better to try it in the opposite direction.

One of the impressive things about this hike is when you stand by the sea looking up at those mountains and wonder how there could possibly be any path that takes you up to the top, as the sides are so steep and apparently featureless. I omitted to take some pictures from below looking up at the route we came down, but at some point in the past people took it upon themselves to carve a zig-zag trail to supply villages from the seaward side of the mountains rather than from the bare-rock interior of Montenegro.
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Return to the west 
Saturday, August 8, 2009, 1:00 am
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Having not really done much of what we wanted to in the north, we turned back for Niksic, stopping at Lake Biograd on the way. The question inevitably about 'what is primeval forest exactly' came up, as often a country makes exaggerated or incorrect claims about its tourist attractions (re: the Tara Canyon being the second largest canyon in the world behind the Grand Canyon). Primeval forest seems to be defined as forest where humans have not cleared the forest at any point or planted trees. Certainly there are trees here that are over a hundred years old, and one would guess that in this inaccessible country, no one would have tried to clear forest at this height when there were much more suitable places elsewhere. But it's actually quite a magical place because of its unique trees and greenness. My camera completely failed to capture the size and ambience of the environment.

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Hiking in Plav 
Friday, August 7, 2009, 1:00 am
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Apart from the hotel, most of what I planned here didn't turn out the way I wanted, and my parents and I ended up traipsing around up mountains but never getting exactly where we wanted to be. The blueberry festival in Plav was non-existent and the only sign of the fruit was at the marketplace. The first walk was to Lake Hrid, and we started off confident enough with signposts showing us the way, but soon we had to navigate using a compass, and then my biggest mistake was following a notice saying "Hridsko jezero" which turned out to be a winding dirt road for jeeps which doubled the length of the road. By 2pm we could see the lake from a distance but decided in view of the potential of not finding the car before dark to head back to Plav. It was a similar story the next day, trying to find Lake Visitor, when the path just ended without anywhere to go. When we tried to find our way by car to a viewpoint, the signposts availed us nothing, and we headed back triply disappointed. The Plav region is not yet ready for all but the hardiest and most persistent of foreign tourists!
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Tour of the North 
Wednesday, August 5, 2009, 1:00 am
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Most people I have met in Niksic who are not from the north have rarely ventured to the north-eastern corner of this country. My parents' coming to Montenegro was the impetus I needed to foray into this region, to the see the famous Prokletije mountains, Lake Plav and see how well this region has developed its tourist potential. Having picked up my parents at Golubovci International Airport, we headed on the single-carriageway 'motorway' in the direction of Belgrade. There had been a pile-up just a couple of days before in the Moraca Canyon, so I drove sensibly. The road from Bijelo polje to Berane was actually good quality and I found Plav without much fuss, however, due to an accident the main road along the eastern side of Lake Plav was closed, so I decided to go around the other side, via Gusinje. Gusinje has plenty of directions for hikers, but very few signposts for drivers (it's a tiny place) and I must be one of the few people in the town's history to have got lost looking for the exit from Gusinje. Eventually we arrived at the Kula Damjanova Hotel in Komnenovo ethno-village. It's highly recommended especially at the special promotional rate, but it must be said that the place is not yet geared up for English-speaking guests, as no-one there seemed to understand the language. My impression of the hotel is one of a massive investment which is slowly being allowed to decay, as things are not replaced or fixed. Fortunately, because the hotel is relatively new, this wasn't so bad. The hotel has a stone exterior, and a dark stained wooden interior, giving an old traditional feel to the environment. It overlooks Lake Plav which is quite pleasant, but just a normal lake.

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