Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Zdravo" from Montenegro

Montenegro is a newly independent country. The citizens voted to be independent in June 2007. But people have been living in the area for over 2000 years. Once it was part of a country called Yugoslavia that was divided into several countries and one is Montenegro. Can you break the name of Montenegro into two words and figure out what the name means?

Today the city of Ulcinj is a pretty town on the Adriatic Sea. The mountains of Montenegro become hills that end at the shore so there are a lot of steps to the beach and the walled city. The walled city is high on a cliff surrounded on three sides by water and there are a lot of little coves so the area was a favorite hideaway for pirates. Being a pirate may sound exciting but it was illegal and dangerous. From the 14th century to the 18th century pirates would attack ships on the Adriatic Sea, steal their cargo, and then sail off to their hideaways. Some of the pirates became very famous. There were large rewards for anyone who could catch the leader of more famous pirate groups. Sometimes one pirate would kill another pirate to get the reward. It is easy to see why the walled city of Ulcinj was a popular hideaway as it was possible to see in all directions in case anyone tried to sneak into the area. At one time there were as many as 400 pirates in Ulcinj. It is hard to believe that this peaceful, pretty bay and walled city was once filled with dangerous pirates. A city has grown up outside the walls. Today people enjoy the beach and strolling through the quiet walled city.

We took a bus to another area on the coast where there is another walled city. Why do you think people build a wall around their city? We liked walking around the walled city and try to imagine what it was like to live in a walled city. We visited the walled city of Budva and while we were walking down the narrow streets we heard singing. We followed the sound to a restaurant with a pretty outdoor area. There we saw a group of women in traditional costumes singing traditional Montenegro songs so we stayed and listened. We thought their songs and costumes were beautiful.

There are many lovely beaches along the coast so the area is popular with tourists who love to swim, sun bathe, and fish. In the middle of the summer it is very, very busy. Someone told us, "You can’t even see the sand on the beach – just tanned bodies sunbathing." I think he was exaggerating.

The food in this part of the world is very good because it is so fresh. There is a lot of fresh fish to eat because they are so close to the sea but also lots of vegetables. Chef Jovo Medin invited us into the kitchen so we could watch him cook some traditional foods. Our favorite dish is called muckalica, which is a mixture of meat and vegetables that makes a delicious stew. We noticed on the wall of the kitchen there were colorful pictures of each of the dishes they serve with the recipe below. Not only would everyone cooking know the exact recipe they also know what it should look like when it is served. We thought that was a great idea. When we left we said, "Hvala," which means, "thank you."