Refreshed from a swim in the idyllic Boka waters, I headed off the opposite direction of Kotor town to discover the beautiful fishing villages of Muo and Prčanj which lie across from Kotor and Dobrota in the bay. Barely after passing a few homes near the home we are living in, the architecture changes and it becomes obvious that these are (were) fishing villages, instead of just the sprawl of Kotor town. Beautiful whitewashed stucco exteriors with doors and windows that are impossibly close to the road. Soon instead of just holiday-makers enjoying a swim in the bay it’s possible to see families pulling up nets with Mussels and cleaning them while enjoying a drink and a smoke and time together as the sun sets over the majestic peaks.
It almost seems like the front line of the old and the new. I watch mystified as the doors to what I thought to be an abandoned home swing open and a perfectly dressed elderly gentleman rides out on his bicycle. His wife, holding a tray of fruit in one hand sends him off for his nightly ride with a smile and a wave. It’s mind-boggling to think of all the change these two have seen in Montenegro in their lifetimes. 80 years ago or so they were born into an impoverished shell of the former Montenegrin kingdom – one left without allied support even after being on the “right” side in WW1. Soon their lives would change yet again as Mussolini’s fascists took control and annexed the lands into the Italian empire as a “puppet” state. The years that followed would be some of the most stable for the region under Josip Broz Tito’s dream of a united Yugoslavia. Tourism eventually flourished in the region as celebrities of the day such as Sophia Loren, Kirk Douglas and others vacationed on the beautiful shores of Kotor and the Montenegrin coast. Finally, the painful death of Yugoslavia came years after the death of Tito, as the rising nationalism stoked by dreams of a “Greater Serbia” led to years of worldwide isolation. Imagine if Hawaiian islands, or another familiar place dependent on tourism suddenly became isolate and the tourists no longer came. This was a hard time. International sanctions meant that foreign trade was at a minimum and visitors were few.
This couple saw all these changes, and today, as they live out their final years, the man bikes down the road, on a journey he has likely taken for many decades towards town, yet this time behind him a hulking Royal Carribean Cruise ship signals it’s farewell and sails towards to the Adriatic…..