Have I caught your attention yet?
How about now?
After the morning coffee ritual in Kotor, we headed up Mount Lovcen. I was completely unprepared. This is a mountain road. It wound up one side of the mountain on lower-lip width roads from sharp curve to sharp curve. If a car was coming from the opposite direction, God help you. ThereÂ is room at each curve to accommodate an oncoming car, but nowhere else. The view was as breathtakingÂ from the cliff the car was hanging off of as we edged up the mountain. My sweet chauffeur was kind enough to stop quite regularly for me to photograph the view because I couldn’t see it with my eyes closed shut hanging onto the car door for dear life, my knuckles white with sweat!
We were able to find the old town of Kotor and our hotel. Look at the view a few curves later”¦.
“¦ and again, a few curves later”¦.
Then we turned away from the Adriatic and through tunnels into the mountain region.
And we spied the entrance to the Petar Petrovic Njegos monument. Do you see what looks like a tunnel in the photo below? Follow the straight line from its mouth down to the red roof. That is the parking lot and restaurant entrance to the monument 464 stairs up. Fortunately, most were inside the cool tunnel. Now, look to the right of the peak. Do you see a square structure? That is where the thirty ton monument is located. One can see across the lake, East to Albania, almost the entire land of Montenegro, and on a clear day, across the sea to Italy.
Petar Petrovic Njegos (1813-1851) was a poet and a kind and benevolent ruler of Montenegro in the . He was famous because he kept Montenegro protected and isolated from harm through developing positive relationships with other European powerhouse countries. The golden roof aboe the monument is 18 kilos of gold made up of 210 thousand mosaic pieces.
After the view we came to retrieve Pava and Petar from the mountain restaurant actually inside of the mountain. What did I spy? So many domestic products. I was not even aware of the reputation of the cured meat in this region, but I could clearly see the quality of the product in the packages of the sliced meat. Njegoski prsut is famous, but I didn’t know that. I had to buy some to take home to Canada, and one package to share with all of us in the car. A hind quarter was 8 Euros a kilo. The sliced portion we bought was three Euros per 100 grams. The unsliced chunk was the same price. Our package was four Euros and had about ten generous thin slices in it.
Pava and Petar had been in search of some domestic wine and sljiva, so Petar asked for a taste to ensure its quality. The proprietor said of course he could open it and taste. He opened one bottle that was for sal, took a swig and was pleased, so he bought it. I asked what would have happened if he didn’t like it. He said he would haveÂ putÂ it back.Â When he saw my shock, heÂ went on to explain to me through Vanja how it is such strong and pure alcohol that it would kill any germs. I don’t think so! I asked him if a gypsy put his lips to the bottle, would he want to buy it? I think he got the point, and hopefully was not insulted as I would be horrified if I hurt his feelings.
The cheese in oil pictured above is also a standard in the area, and must be tasted. This one was superb,Â but at fifteen Euro for one jar, not that superb.
We got in the car, and all of the meat eaters with me could hardly contain themselves until I opened the package. I have truly never seen such exquisite butter-silky translucentÂ cured meat of such pink-freshness. And the complexity of the aroma that lifted through the air when I opened the sealed package was inebriating. I found myself instantly salivating. There is something about the meat here that really draws out the carnivore within.
Look at it. Gorgeous. The Njegoski prsut is apparently cured with salt, then pressed with very heavy weights and vices to drain the juices from it, briefly smoked and finally, hung to dry in the open air. Though Dalmatian regionsÂ also press their meat, again it is about what the animal grazes that makes this mountain meat so uniquely spectacular that it is famous and sought after throughout the Balkans. And would be sought after world-wide, if the world knew about it.
So, after one taste of that meat, I was serious about turning back to buy more, and thanking God I had a huge chunk in my bag for Canada. However, we all agreed to stop at the stands we had passed by on the way up the mountain to buy more. It seemed logical at the time that all Njegoski prsut would taste the same as the process was the same. It must have been the mountain air that affected our logic as the person making whatever it is makes all of the difference. Why did we forget that? It is the same everywhere. Taste first!
So, Petar bought 4 litres of domestic wine, Vanja, some rakija, me, some homemade olive oil (and I did taste first), then three more packages of the Njegoski prsut. YUM. One for my father from Pava and Petar; one for little Vanja’s father, and one more for all of us.
See the gorgeous varieties of honey and the homemade juices and preserves on the left? On the right is the olive oil I bought in the smaller jar on the top. It was so green, yet the flavour is not strong, but very delicate and lovely. What a thrill to buy it from the person who made it! The cheeses in oil here are also lovely. They are strong, full bodied cheeses with a softer centre and can be kept longer in oil. Above are the velvety full rounds made just over the hill onÂ a farm.
Of course, there are little cha-chas sold here, and many more kinds of the domestic meats. But, we all dove back to the car as no one could wait for the second savouring of the Njegoski prsut. Vanja said it would be drier as he could tell by the look of the meat through the packaging. It was sliced much thicker which was disappointing, and was drier and waxy. It was very tasty, and would have beenÂ unexpectedly delicious if we hadn’t just sampled the most luscious prsut on the planet. So, it was disappointing, but still relishing. WeÂ were so pleased with ourselves that we had purchased the first meat where we had. And doubly pleased that the big chunk to take home was from that same place. Food certainly has the ability to link one to a place. What a wonderful experience.
Can you see the difference?
Now onto the Moraca Monastery smelling smoky, salty, fat and happy to see the famous only blue eyed fresco of Christ.
Ovo je zivot! This is the life!