Bay of Kotor

18. Juni 2013 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

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Dubrovnik revisited: I make short shrift of this beautiful town, where my 2011 foray ended. The time between 7 am, the ferry’s landing, and 10 is just enough to get an unimpeded glimpse of the proud Ragusa before the Koreans and the French from the cruises crowd in. I get 200 Kuna from an ATM which pays for my capuccino – still redolent of the Italian influence – a good German map of Crna Gora (Montenegro) and a ticket on a small boat to Cavtat. The point is to circumvent the hassle of the road southeast of Dubrovnik, on which I came in two years ago, nearly being shot off by trucks and caravans.
The boat ride is thoroughly enjoyable in the company of Swedes, Germans and a Finn with a silent Chinese wife. The stretch of road behind the lovely tourist spot is characterised by its peripheral location with respect to the aspiring EU member Croatia: politically it’s the pits, bordering on the enemy of once-upon-a-time-ago (the Montenegrins pointed their artillery at the city in support of their Serbian brothers only 20 years ago), but it’s also beautiful and hardly touched as with so many peripheries. Mediterranean flora, birds chirping merrily, some villas which seem to belong to families having been here forever, those are the beatiful things to contemplate as I ride along. The problem is the rising heat, which is acutely felt on the upsurges of the country road that I take instead of the Magistrala. After a lunch of Swiss muesli with Croatian yoghurt, I have a crisis and am about to vomit, when I decide to be careful and take it more slowly. Already walking for a bit, resting in the shade and setting my sights for the day’s destination a bit lower helps.
I’ll treat this as a warm-up ride and enjoy every flower and cricket along the side of the road. Flower for blossoming flower, is my slogan, blade of grass for bloody blade of grass. And the vistas are unforgettable. There’s a car only every ten minutes. I mention this to the young Croatian border officer and ask if he’s happy at this apparently unbeatable crossing high above the Adriatic. But alone, he says. Yes, I’m tempted to reply, but now you’ve got a change! Ask me about my whence and thence! Search me for my troubles and joys, young man! I have stories to tell, and I’ll stay on for a quarter of an hour… I never understand why customs officers in such countries don’t speak languages. And why they always put on these stern faces, such as do the Montenegrin counterparts when I praise their homeland in advance of my visit. Look around you, I nearly say, the mountains, the sea, the azure skies, what more do you want?
I find myself a lovely little place above the beach boardwalk, a room with a garden for 20 euros. The scenery in the evening is peaceful: elderly locals or holiday guests soaking in the shallow water, children throwing pebbles and not wanting to go home as yet, a pair of six-year olds getting ice cream from a stall, water pistol casually held low at the side.
I pass by the fish at Konaba Feral that is shown in its raw stage to my neighbours, an architect who is trying to impress his clients with designs on a notepad (and with the fish) and choose risot with seafood instead. I need the calories for the mountains later in this eponymous country.
The next day, I ride all around the many-armed bay of Kotor, and the scenes to my right resemble each other. On narrow strips of land – concreted over or covered in pebbles – people are soaking up the sun and burning their already tanned skins. They often make up three-generation groups, with Grandma doing much of the education of children so Ma can read her trash novel and Grandpa can talk to his chums who keep sitting in their cars. There’s a lot more rubbish everywhere compared to Croatia, and I get a sense that there won’t be much of a clean-up after all the palaces and hotels for Russian magnates and Serbian mafiosi have been completed. Montenegro is very much under construction, but the good folks here forget about the need for attractive communal spaces. The little parks and pitiful public beaches look like mini-reservations in neglect.
Even if I have to concentrate very hard and always keep an eye on my rear-view mirror for freak drivers, it’s important to let my gaze wander around the larger scenery. This bay is probably unique in Europe, it being not a sequence of fjords, but submerged river valleys. They somewhat resemble Lago Maggiore and the Ticino with its steep slopes and the calm water, only it’s salty here, as I can ascertain on the occasion of a midday swim at Morinj. I’m addressed by a young German father who, on his parental leave of five weeks, has taken his wife and two babies to Greece and is now on his slow camping way home.
It strikes me that my outfit and bike and my obvious far-travelledness are never a talking point with the locals while this German picked it up and went out of his way to talk to me. I suppose it’s just way out of their horizon and comfort zone. Why would anyone do this to himself, cycling in this heat, when the day is best spent indoors and the evening in the water? Why must you correct God’s well-intended plan for the summer and venture out of the shade and from under the bar awnings with their cool vapour dispensers? Why indeed should it be allowed for stupid cyclists to block the path of right-thinking tax-paying car drivers who need to get from A to B as fast as possible? This is totally incomprehensible beyond crazy even, plus we don’t speak your language and you don’t speak ours – if you had a story to tell in Croatian or Montenegrin, we’d be inclined to listen.
So it happens I only have this blog to talk to, and I’m not going to complain any further. Today’s leisurely ride along the shore to Kotor was level and I wasn’t shunted off by any one of the dozens of icecream supply trucks. That’s what I call an auspicious start.

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