Song “Down in Montenegro”
I love Montenegro! Volim Crna Gora!
Why Montenegro? I get this question frequently. If the above song and video does not convince you, here are two stories that happened to me within my first 24 hours in this amazing country.
Berlin was getting cold when I browsed AirBnB to find a place where I could get some writing done, somewhere more south, maybe Romania, maybe Greece. I opened Google Maps. What was that? A tiny country below Croatia. Montenegro. Wasn’t that where they shot parts of Casino Royale?
I pulled up the climate diagram. The October temperatures looked promising. It didn’t take long and I had found an idyllic looking Mountain house somewhere on some Mountain next to a city I had never heard of – Danilovgrad. Two weeks later I passed the border of Croatia and entered Montenegro, then my destiny was written. I spent about a decade of my life traveling or living abroad, but I had never seen anything as wild, vast and beautiful as this. And where were all the people? It seemed like a paradise on earth and I was the only one around to witness it.
The Airbnb host only gave me GPS coordinates, “the street is not on google maps”, he said. I drove up a dirt road. Suddenly the road was blocked, an electricity cable was hanging across the street, too low to pass with the land rover. What now? Before I could plan what to do a very old lady got out of a very very old stone house and lifted up the cable. Alright, looks like I need to pass through here to reach the idyllic mountain house. I kept on driving just to get trapped in the very old ladies backyard. An ambush! This road doesn’t go on. What was happening? Why would grandma lead me into her backyard. She appeared at the car window and gesticulated. I rolled down the window. I didn’t understand a word she said. “Jedna minuta! Jedna minuta!”. Ok, one minute then. The old lady reappeared holding a plastic bottle in her hand, pooring a transparent liquid into a shot glass. “Rakija! Rakija”. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I swallowed that stuff without thinking twice. Holy shit, that burned. And another one! Grandma took one too. I’m still trapped in the backyard. No way out. Suddenly I understood the situation. Grandma just wanted to invite me for a drink. “Thank you so much, this was tasty, and strong! I need to find the idyllic mountain house now but I’ll sure come back.”. She lead me out, raised the cable and I went back the way I came from. I met some pretty hospitable people around the world, but this was something else. Look! There’s someone, let’s give him Raki!
The next day after my first night in Montenegro, taking in the amazing scenery from the porch of the idyllic mountain house I wanted to make a camp fire and eat tin foil potatoes. I pulled out Google Maps, swiutched on Sattelite view and browsed for an abandoned field somewhere even deeper in the mountains, with no roads close, where only a 4×4 car could go. After driving for half an hour I reached the spot, it was nearly dark.. Damn! A dead end. Next to a house. Not a good place to light up a fire. I started turning the car. The land rover defender’s turning circle is comparable to an oil tanker, after five turns I am facing the direction I was coming from. Before I have the chance to put my feet on the gas a somewhat wild looking man in his late 50’s steps out of the ancient house. “Ehhh!”, he shouts and waves his hands in the air. What does he want? Is he friendly? He does not come closer, his hand movements suggests he wants me to step out of the car. I lower the window. He shouts something in Serbian, sorry, in Montenegrin. I don’t speak a word of Montenegrin. He smiles, opens the door and points into his house.
He seems friendly and my favourite operating system is trust by default. I step out of the car and get closer to him. We shake hands, for a long time. His face tells stories of hardship. He is incredible welcoming, looking at his wrinkled face is humbling somehow. The place is basically empty, just a wood stove irradiating warmth in all directions and one table, with one chair in the middle of the room, reminding me of an interrogation room. The stranger who led me into his house keeps talking in Montenegrin then points at himself and repeats the word “Petar”, “Petar”, “Petar”. He points at me and I respond. “Fabian”, “Fabian”. “My name is Fabian”. Petar shakes my hand again then pulls the chair back from the table and invites me to sit down. “Rakia, Rakia!”. Before I understood what was going Peter presented an old glass bottle which had “Yugoslavia” engraved on it, poured something out of it into a shot glass and banged the glass on the table in front of my nose. “Rakia, Rakia!”. He points at himself, then at a barrel indicating the Raki was homemade by himself. “Domace, Domace!”. After 3 or 4 more Raki I am slightly drunk. Petar pulls out a strange looking instrument with only one string and starts playing and singing. Amazing! And another Rakija. I say something like “Do you know a place for a camp fire where I can also sleep in the car?”. We speak not a single word in each others language. “Ah! Njemački. Njemački”. He grabs an old cell phone, one of those Nokias from the late 90’s and calls a number, when someone picks up he hands the telephone to me. A lady on the other side speaks German, I explain I want to make a camp fire and sleep in my car somewhere close too it. She says “Ok, give the phone back to Petar”. Aha, aha moze. Petar hands the phone back to me. “Petar will show you, follow him in your car. My new friends gets out of the house and starts running. I get into the car. “You can drive with me!”, I simulate a steering wheel with my hands. Ne, Ne! He runs away. I follow him. After 200 meters he stops. As if he’d knew I would come he points at a field with a bunch of firewood. Moze! We shake hands, he leaves. I make a camp fire, I eat tin foil potatoes, I sleep.
The next morning at 7am I go for a run. When passing Peters house he invites me in again. Rakija! We have two Rakija for breakfast. He shows me his honey bees, and his goats, then hands me a giant glass of money. What? Wow, is this for me? Da! Does he want to sell me honey? Why not? I pull out a 5€ bill. He looks at me irritated. Neeee! He doesn’t want my money. I felt I nearly insulted him with offering the euros. With two hands he hands me the honey glas.
Both of this stories happened in my first 24 hours in Montenegro, you can imagine how it’s like to live here. Montenegros nature and people have given me a lot. This song hopefully gives something back to Montenegro, I hope you enjoy it.
If you like to get in touch:
Thanks to Kenny Stanger for playing guitar and writing the song with me.
Thanks to Nirto Karsten Fischer for the audio production.
Thanks to the two Couchsurfer who arrived morning and spontaneously participated in the video.
Oh, If you want to invite us to play “Down in Montenegro” at your next party or event, feel free to reach out!