TUESDAY 23RD OCTOBER 2012.
SHKODER (Albania) TO ULCINJ (Montenegro).
The receptionist at the Kaduku Hotel in Shkoder had a friend who owned a taxi and he was prepared to take us the 35 kilometres to Ulcinj (Montenegro) for fifteen euros. I offered him twenty if he would stop for photographs along the way. The bus fare for the two of us would have been ten euros so for an extra ten with stops it was worth it.
Because the countryside was not as dramatic as I expected it turned out we didn’t need to stop so the taxi driver made an extra five euros.
In Ulcinj the driver took us to an apartment overlooking the Adriatic Sea. In fact, it was a family home and by the shoe count at the front door there were quite a number of people living there. One of the family, a young mum who spoke good English, welcomed us and an old man (young mum’s father-in-law) kept saying ‘Australie’ over and over when he saw us.
After lunch we walked to a forested headland at the south end of the beach. It was a bit of a let down as there was an abandoned restaurant and swimming pool on the point. The swimming pool was full of thick dark green sludge and the broken slabs of concrete around the pool were sliding into the sea.
Later we took a walk through the main shopping centre. There was shop after shop devoted to personal apparel, cosmetics and mobile phones. I can’t image the locals buying the clothes and shoes for sale. The items for sale must be for the holidaymakers who flock to the area during the summer season. The summer season here is for the months of July and August only which coincides with European annual holidays.
On the way back down to our apartment from the shopping centre we saw the red glow of the sunset over the top of a headland at the north end of the beach. And because we are always on the lookout for the perfect sunset shot we decided to go up and check it out. It was a bit of a slog to the top but it was worth the effort as we witnessed an amazing sunset and discovered old Ulcinj town.
This is the first time I have ever watched the sun set in the east. The reflection is in the back of a polished green granite headstone. If I didn’t have the urge to go into cemeteries I would never have had the chance to witness this dramatic event.
Crosses come in many shapes and forms. The ones shown here are a few of the many. I first researched cross shapes when running tours along the Birdsville Track in remote outback South Australia. The reason was part way up the track there was a cross standing beside the track at a spot where a road worker was killed. As we passed it I told my clients about the cross and the circumstances relating to the fatal accident.
There are a couple of crosses here worthy of comment. The Peter cross is so called because it is believed Peter was crucified upside down. In the Australian outback you sometimes see an upside down cross cutout attached to a gate which is a warning that if you leave the gate open and you are caught you will suffer the same fate as Peter.
The Marian Cross was designed by Pope John Paul 2. It emphasises Catholic devotion to Mary.
The swastika dates from the Neolithic period. It occurs mainly in the modern day culture of India. It remains widely used in eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Though once commonly used all over much of the world without stigma, its usage in Nazi Germany during WW2 has changed people’s attitudes to it in the western world.
It was almost dark by the time we made it through the old city to the other side. The view of Ulcinj night lights was pretty impressive.
Walking back to our apartment tonight we decided we had to stay another day as It would be remiss of us not to go into the old city tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY 24TH OCTOBER 2012.
Breakfast was on the balcony this morning in the sun. Around nine we headed for the walled city at the northern end of the beach. The beach here is not white sand but grey, not the sort of colour you associate with a beach. I think there is probably rutile in the sand or the base sand is derived from basalt. We didn’t go down onto the beach as it didn’t look all that inviting.
The main activity for the day was to get inside the walled town. The photograph of the model below gives you an idea as to its complexity.
There were narrow twisting steep alleyways, passageways and even a couple of paths of virtue. But the way I said I would find for you, the snickleway, was there in various forms.
To refresh your memory, a snickleway is public access under private property.
Research by historians and archaeologists reveal that Illyrians founded Ulcinj well before 162 B.C. Illyrians were people of Indo-European origin who were bound together by a common language. They inhabited an area along the Albanian and Montenegrin coasts. Their kingdom fell when the Romans came and took their last king off to Rome.
Since Roman times Ulcinj has had various invaders come and go. For many centuries it was a pirate nest. As we walked around the walled city today I expected Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series to jump out in front of me. As well as being a pirate town Ulcinj was a black slave trade centre. Apparently up until 1878 there were black people living in the town. Another claim to fame the town has is the setting for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night was a compulsory read for me at school but I have to admit I didn’t understand it at all. I must read it again and see if my comprehension of it is any better.
If you are new to this blog and have missed the section explaining why T Bear appears occasionally he is included for our grandchildren Bella, Hamish, Xavier and Jarrah. From all reports they are following his adventures (well, three of them. Jarrah is a bit young!)
There are still within the city walls quite a few ruined dwellings. However, they are being bought by wealthy foreigners and slowly being restored.
Unfortunately the restorer/builders have no regard for the environment as we witnessed a worker throwing building wastes into the sea. At first I thought maybe the rubbish was being thrown over the wall into a barge below. After witnessing this event I asked again why the people of the Mediterranean are so intent on trashing their country. The answer of course lies in the hands of the governments who have failed in their duty to educate the people. There obviously aren’t any ‘do the right thing’ promotions here.
The rubbish event turned us off exploring any more of the city so we returned to our apartment for lunch.
A popular evening pastime in Ulcinj is walking along the boulevard and, surprise surprise! we met a bloke who was concerned about the environment. He was cleaning chewing gum off the pavement.
For years now I have hesitated to use the word hate, but there are two things that make me think the word, chewing gum on the pavements and discarded cigarette butts in public places. Both are a curse and not only do they reflect the perpetrator’s thoughts with regards to the environment but it is an indication as to what regard they have for the country. These curses are found everywhere, including Australia. Where they are not found is in Singapore. The government there has introduced laws relating to the dropping of chewing gum and cigarette butts. If people are caught they are fined. Whenever I meet a Singaporean in Australia I feel I have to apologise to them for the gum and butts that litter our streets. Modern cities these days are strewn with cigarette butts, chewing gum and graffiti and those three curses added to dog doo, tell us where we are as a race.
I’m not sure if the chewing gum scraper man is a concerned citizen or if he is paid by the local council. Regardless, this is the first time ever, anywhere, I have seen chewing gum being removed from a footpath. Maybe there is hope.
Nearby our apartment is a mosque. The call to prayer goes out every three hours. The call here is a melodious one, which I find soothing, so I decided to see if I could get a copy. At the mosque I met Besim and he was only too happy to oblige. So if you hear the call emanating from our house when I get home don’t think I have been converted, it’s a reminder for me to stay tolerant of other’s beliefs.
If you think this minaret looks new you are right because the mosque was only opened recently. The original ancient mosque was established in the 14th century but demolished in 1931 by Serbian authorities intent on obliterating any Islamic feature in Ulcinj. The minaret here had, as best I could count, fourteen sides (tetradecagon).
The reason women are required to cover themselves in a mosque is a matter of modesty. Being covered means the woman is then accepted for her inner qualities, not for her looks.
The panel was not leaded glass but sandblasted glass and stained. I’m not sure how the colour was applied but it really was a remarkable piece of artwork.
The re-building of the Marinaeve mosque cost in the vicinity of 600 000 euros and I’m sure a large proportion of the costs would have related to the interior decoration. It’s obvious by the number of photographs I have included in the section of the blog that I was pretty impressed with this wonderful building. I have to say it was the most tranquil manmade structure I have ever been in, a far cry from the chapel in the Grand Monastery in Meteora where I felt supressed.
Tomorrow we are heading for Perast, a village on the edge of Kotor Bay. Perast was probably the most memorable village we stayed in during our 1972 journey from Munich to Damascus.