Visiting Prcanj, Montenegro
The first year that my husband Tony and I lived in Montenegro, our house was situated in Prcanj, which could be considered a "suburb" of the city of Kotor. To get to Prcanj from the Kotor Old Town, you just follow the main narrow road along the water until you are on the other side of the bay (be careful because this is actually a two-way road and you will have to pull over to the side if a car is coming the opposite way). Prcanj is one of the oldest parts of the city and many of its buildings date back to the Medieval times. It used to be one of the most important maritime centers on the southern Adriatic. Besides the grand old stone houses that line the main road, other houses have sprung up sporadically in the mountains behind them, giving the whole area a kind of haphazard feeling.
To get to our house, we had to make a sharp left onto a dirt path in front of a modern hotel structure that had apparently been abandoned mid-building process. Then we had to rev the car up a perilously steep incline and turn left to navigate a narrow, muddy path in front of another small house. The owners of our house were in a big family feud with the owners of this house (they were cousins), so we were technically not allowed to drive in front of their house, except there was no other way to get to ours. We would later hear stories from both sides telling of betrayal, lawsuits and even gun fights.
The view from our balcony was spectacular: by day you could see the shimmering blue water of the bay and by night the lights of the Old Town that form a heart shape when reflected in the water. We didn't actually have an address but instead received our mail at the local market whenever we happened to stop by.
One of the best parts about our apartment was that it came with a beautiful rottweiller named Amos and a fluffy white cat, Yvonka. Because there is very limited awareness in Montenegro about animal welfare, almost no pets are spayed or neutered, resulting in a huge amount of wild and homeless animals. I still recall how one morning we heard a little meowing in our kitchen, and after a thorough search, discovered a newborn kitten in the flower pot. We followed Yvonka outside to and she led us to the other three brothers and sisters. (More posts to follow on animal welfare in Montenegro).
I used to take Amos for long walks through Prcanj, and often all the way into Stoliv (another suburb that literally means "100 olives", for all the olive trees growing there). Along the way I would stop to say hi to the local fisherman and maybe let Amos do a little swimming. Many of the old stone buildings are crumbling and overgrown with untamed foliage, and during the winter the air hangs with a feeling of wild abandonment.
First we would pass by the famous historic landmark of the Tre Sorelle house ("Three Sister's House"). Legend has it the sisters used to wait in their three respective windows, starting out at the sea and waiting for their sailor husbands to return home. When one of the husbands was presumed dead, the window would be sealed up with stones.
A few steps past Tre Sorelle is the first restaurant we ever ate at in Montenegro, Konoba Lanterna. The owner Esther and her husband are the warmest, cutest grandparent-like couple you will ever meet, and their delicious food and hospitality kept bringing us back even after we eventually moved across the bay. Tony would always order the karageorgevil snitzel (I have no idea about the correct spelling), a famous dish of meat stuffed with cheese, rolled into a tube and deep fried, named after the Serbian prince Karageorgevich. I would get the punjene pilece, a chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese. On Saturday nights they have lived music, which consists of a jovial old man playing the electric keyboard and singing old folk songs.
We used to joke about going to "downtown Prcanj" which consists mainly of the grand "Birth of Our Lady Church", a Pekara (bakery), a small market and two cafe bar/restaurants. When it's sunny out, we would take Amos and sit at the cafe right on the water and order a couple of kafas sa miljekom (coffees with milk).
One day, we decided to explore a little further and set out with our friends Abby and Jake (and Amos of course) to find a path that led to an old church we could see up in the mountains. Amos led the way and we were able to forge through thick foliage to reach our destination. After we climbed through a hole in the outer wall, we were all awed into silence by the abandoned structure. A quiet spookiness hung in the air as we observed the crumbling stones and opened graves.
When we later asked about what had happened at the church we were told that it had most likely been ravaged and robbed during the war.
A day in Prcanj is about as close as it gets to taking a step back in time, and it's definitely worth a visit.