Thursday, May 31, 2012

The pretty one, the badass one, and the one with the accident

One of my new(er) quests is to visit all former Yugoslav Republics while we are here.  Except I guess for Kosovo, mostly because we are not allowed, and also because a lot of Serbs consider Kosovo to still be a part of Serbia.  This political stance is something that I know very little about and stay away from discussing.  For those in need of a quick refresher course, the countries that used to form the Republic of Yugoslavia were Serbia (check), Montenegro (check), Slovenia (check), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Kosovo (depends on who you ask).

I went to Montenegro three weeks ago via a really short flight to Tivat and then an easy cab ride to Kotor Bay.  The old town of Kotor is designated a UNESCO heritage site and I am a sucker for all things UNESCO.  It definitely did not disappoint.  Even though I was there for barely 48 hours, it was plenty.  My friend L and I climbed up the citadel to see the church and the amazing views of the bay.  We hung out by the shore and had really good and cheap mussles (6 Euro for a big bowl of them!--Amazing!).  The next day we rented a scooter and went riding around the bay into another little town called Perast.  It was soo fun, the breeze in our hair, the sun shining, the beautiful bay next to us, all peaceful and quiet with almost no other tourists.  We parked the bikes and took a little boat to an island, then we had another awesome mussles lunch.

L and I in Kotor Bay

The mussles

Then of course, when everything is too perfect, lightning strikes, and I took a bad curve and we fell off the bike.  It's really weird how people react to things, my first instinct was to immediately get up and act like nothing happened.  "I'm fine, it's fine, let's go" and my friend was more in the "over my dead body will I ever get back on that bike", plus she took one look at my poor knee, which basically had a hole in it the size of a melon baller/small ice cream scoop and said "you need a hospital".  So we flagged down a nice man who took us to the most rural, trusting, hospital I've ever been in; no receptionist, no gloves, 23 Euro for an X-ray and the patching up was pure alcohol being poured inside the wound for cleaning and disinfecting. About 45 minutes later, we are out and when we walked out to the parking lot, of course! our good samaritan was still there, waiting for us!!  So I was adamant that we had to go get the bike to return it and my friend was just as determined not to get on it ever again, so we decided I would drive the bike back to Kotor while she rode in the car with the nice man.  We got back to the place, where they charged me 100 Euro for the damage (and they never realized that there was a small part missing that fell down and then my friend abandoned in the car).  When I come out from the rental place to the parking lot, I find out that the guy was totally hitting on my friend, "have coffee with me, let's go to dinner".  She was like, no thanks, HERE IS SOME MONEY.  He didn't want to take the money, but he did ask us to tell everyone how nice people from Montenegro are.  So here it is.  The story of the accident and the testament that thinking of both the doctor and the good samaritan, my experience with Montenegrians has been excellent.  Also, my knee is doing much better now, thank you.

The bay

Last weekend, my mom was visiting, so we went to Slovenia, also known as "the pretty one" of the former republics.  It really was, at least naturally, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.  We spent one day in Ljubljana, the capital, one day in Bled, which is right out of a fairy tale with an unnaturaly blue lake and a small island on the lake, and the last day we did a day trip/tour to the Prodjama Castle and the Postonja Caves.  Definitely recommend it and definitely can be done in 3 days.  The caves were so cool that the pictures don't really do them justice.  They are enormous and it's really really cold in there.  Plus, you get to ride this little train in for more than 2 kilometers, and unlike the US where you would need a seat belt and there would be a waiver to sign, etc. Here, it was like ride at your own risk. So the train flew by these rocks and you could really lose a limb or worse, your head, if you stood up or put your arm out..but there were no signs or rules, just a wild ride into a wild cave.  Also, even though there was a fake tour, you could basically just go at your own pace and if we had wanted to chill in the cave all day, we totally could have done so.  No questions asked, no pushing, no rush. 

The church and the lake--Bled

The Prodjama castle

The Prodjama castle was a large castle built on a hill, upon a cave, and the cave was used to store food and water in case of an attack, so it had a secret entrance on the top for people to climb in and out and then it was also connected to the castle.  Really neat stuff.  I booked the tour through a company I found on the Lonely Planet website and it worked out great, except we were the only ones on the tour and our guide sort of smelled and had no concept of personal space.  He spoke so close to me at one point that I was afraid he was going to try to kiss me.  Or maybe I'm just too American, but I need at least a foot to be comfortable. He picked us up on a BMW and drove us through the back roads of Slovenia, which are unbelievably cute and just pristine.  Not a speck of dirt, dust or trash. Just pine trees, blue skies, windy roads, houses with the old school roof tops and the ocassional car or tractor. 

Then it was back to Serbia, which I nicknamed "the badass one" by the definition I found on Urban 

Badass:  Infinitely cool, über awesome, hardcore to the extreme.

Say what you will about Bruce Lee or Chuck Noris, Tsutomu Yamaguchi is, hands down, the most badass example of a badass ever to walk the earth: Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the only known survivor of BOTH atomic blasts. He died at age 93 on January 6, 2010.

This to me is the epitomy of Belgrade, after all that the country has been through, they are still going strong and the peoples' spirit is very much alive.  Seldom have I seen  a place where its citizens are so patriotic and love their country with such passion.  Well, maybe in Puerto Rico.  Now that the weather is warm people have started to party and be outside at all times of the day into the night. You can feel the energy in the streets.  Also, the strawberries are out by the crates.  First they would sell you a tiny little basket for 300 dinars, then, a week later, the same basket for 250, then 200, and now they just give you a whole kilo for 200.  My mom just loves strawberries so every day she's been going to the market to buy us a kilo.  Last night, I made homemade strawberry ice cream, but I got greedy and I guess I put way too many strawberries so the whole thing started spilling out of the machine and created a big mess.  But it was wonderful.  I want to make ice cream sandwiches for dessert and I'll probably use the Plazmas for it. I think it'll be a great combination and could potentially become a new Serbian tradition.


Ellen said...

I can't wait to visit the badass one!! See you in about 3 weeks!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of the nice things that you said about Serbia. It's great to know that, despite seeing the natual beauty and experiencing the hospitality of our neighbors, you see what makes our country and people so wonderful. Looking forward to more of your posts and adventures!

Anonymous said...

I love the title of this entry...LOVE IT!

Lana and Chris McCoy said...

Your poor knee!! I hope it heals quickly! I want to get to all the former nations as well . . . but I am not moving quite as quickly as you are!