Ancient Olive Trees, Fishing Nets on the River, Bojana Island, Ulcinj and the Southern Beaches of Montenegro
From the capitol city of Podgorica we drove to the southern coast of Montenegro, almost by the Albanian border.
Outside of the town of Bar, we saw a grove of the oldest known olive trees in existence.
The oldest among them is by the old town of Bar and it is well over 2000 years old.
On a side road, we saw a small grove of similar ancient olive trees, and like the oldest tree, they all still produce olives every year.
To an artist and a nature lover like myself, it was very moving to see these giant olive trees.
As the centuries pass, the bark of the olive tree doesn’t just thicken in girth, it also changes from a smooth surface to one almost completely perforated with holes.
Years ago, while traveling in Israel, Greece and Italy, I photographed many olive groves in all seasons and at different times of the day, and later painted a series of paintings of olive groves.
At that time, I did not find an olive grove that was more than 1500 years old, and thus did not paint these amazing perforated tree barks.
Now after seeing them, I feel inspired to paint a new series of olive groves.
A few days later when we passed through Bar again, we stopped to see the other sights, which include the king’s palace and the Serbian Orthodox Church. In a lovely garden cafe we tried Bar Olives, which were green, firm and a little bitter, which is how I like my olives.
As we neared the coast near the Albanian border, we started to see more minarets and small mosques, and the villages had some shops selling Islamic clothing.
In the fields, large woolly sheep, with bells attached to their heads, were grazing.
Every time they dipped their heads to eat or nodded their heads, the bells filled the air with beautiful sounds resembling wind chimes.
There were many roadside fruit stalls selling yellow melons and large watermelons, as well as clementines and yellow, green and red peppers.
Almost at the end of the road, very close to the border with Albania, we visited Bojana island, which is accessible by a small bridge over a river that opens to the sea.
The island now houses a large nudist beach resort.
I found it charming that in one region, you can find both a thriving Islamic community with women covered in black, a progressive town full of boutiques selling mini skirts and revealing evening dresses, and at the end of the road, a nude beach full of Russians and Europeans on their vacations.
Both sides of the Bojana river are lined with wooden restaurants and rental cabins on stilts. The restaurants’ dining tables are set right at the river’s edge.
The owners of the restaurants compete for customers, and welcome you with greetings in all languages.
The restaurants have large dining halls and equally large covered patios overlooking the river, which is full of small fish and ducks.
The kitchens of these restaurants are tiny, with only a grill and two gas burners.
Still, the experienced cooks are able to make dozens of fresh meals during a typical lunch service.
In nearby Port Milena, we saw the wooden makeshift structures that the local fishermen use for fishing.
These structures allow them to lower their nets into the river, which opens to a wetland full of flamingos and fishing birds.
The fishermen’s huts are a site to behold for all art lovers.
They look like a creative and wild art installation.
I have seen fishermen’s huts in Asia, but the local authorities often close them down, saying that the Huts were unsafe and offered unhygienic living conditions.
My only wish is that this rapidly modernizing world will NOT eliminate this method of fishing, and the municipalities will allow these old ways of life to go on.
Near the river, there are stalls selling hats, bags, towels, toys and fast food.
Most of them were already closed in early October, as the busy tourist season has already ended.
If you turn from the river towards the sea, you will find wide sandy beaches full of campsites and beach restaurants that rent day beds and umbrellas.
The names of the restaurants that occupy the beach are “Miami Beach,” “Coco Beach,” “Florida Beach,” “Cabo Beach,” etc.
Feeling sentimental for our past, we decided to head for Miami Beach.
They had comfortable day beds and a restaurant, and the majority of the customers appeared to be German and Russian families who were swimming and sunbathing.
We had good coffees, and if we had had more time, I would have wanted to walk on the long stretch of beach all the way to the Albanian border, about 2.5 hours each way along the sandy beach.
But as it was nearly sunset, we headed towards our hotel in Ulcinj.
The town of Ulcinj is divided between the new (“Novi”), where all the shops and eateries are, and the old (“Stari”) town, which is now a historic museum.
The Old Town in Ulcinj is one of the oldest urban architectural complexes along the Adriatic Sea.
It was built over 2500 years ago by the early Greeks and the Illyrians, who once inhabited the western Balkans.
The Old town has picturesque narrow stone streets typical of the Middle Ages, with thick walls from which we could see the sun set over the sea.
The streets are lined with two or three-story stone houses decorated with elements from the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Ottoman periods.
The oldest remnants of the walls date back to the Illyrian period.
We stayed in an apartment hotel by the sea.
The road leading to the hotel was very narrow and very steep.
It was very scary making our way down, and then the next day up this very narrow one lane road, fearing that other cars might come from the opposite direction.
Our apartment was large and beautiful with great elevated sea views.
In the evening, we walked up the steep road and down to the newer part of the city.
The town has five mosques, and we enjoyed hearing the evening call to prayer.
There were a few bakeries, a few cafes, many restaurants, a night market selling clothes and lots of shops and supermarkets, which were open late.
From Montenegro, sending you lots of warm wishes,