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Published: August 11th 2016
Bay of Kotor
View from the castle above Stari Grad, Herceg Novi
This is a story of love, beauty and dedication. Like the sea, the wind and the land, it goes on forever and cannot be changed by the passing of time. The tale must be read to the end, or you cannot understand. The narrative has taken years to write, but will only take minutes to read. It is a timeless drama that many others have experienced and no doubt have shared on these pages before. Hopefully you have, or will, experience a similar tale in your travels and more importantly in your life.
There is a land, far away, where the mountains rise directly from the sea. Somewhat barren and rocky, they tower over the azure sea, majestically rising to granite peaks a thousand feet above. The August sun warms early and angrily blisters the land as it rises. It is hot, too hot, and refuge from the intensity is sought by everyone and everything as the day passes. On good days, cooling breezes flow across the Bay of Kotor and provide some relief from the onslaught. On bad days the air flows from the rocky inland and punishes all who contact it.
A storm over the Savina Monastery in Herceg Novi, Montenegro
sits by this calm sea, no doubt founded by those who found their lives intricately interwoven with the rhythms of the sea. Houses rise from the shore and follow the rocky ridges upwards. Built of cut stone from the surrounding hills, they follow the natural curves of the land. The hills are steep, aggressively steep. Directions are not given by compass coordinates, but rather with a fleeting finger pointing simply upwards or downwards. Down to the cooling seas where white sailed boats ply the harbor, or up to the tiny plazas, simple churches and shady cafes that await strong legged visitors with tasty delicacies from the sea. Two ancient forts anchor the town. One high above the Old Town, and one overlooking the crystal bay, shining beaches and winding oceanfront promenade. The forts stand as evidence of the need to protect this paradise from intruders in bygone days.
A main thoroughfare winds upwards through the town. It follows a serpentine path upwards and is perhaps the only route that was possible for the early residents. How it was carved centuries ago from the rock face is difficult even to imagine. Automobiles have made their way to the
Herceg Novi, Montenegro
road and improvements have been made. It is best to use the mind’s eye to view the scene as it was in the past, and not as it is today. Stories of ancient days are easier to imagine as you traverse the narrow stairways that run aimlessly between the tightly woven houses. Seeing visions of medieval fisherman, merchants, craftsmen and perhaps pirates come effortlessly as you slowly meander the countless winding paths.
Sun kissed children wander the streets unsupervised. Their skin is brown and their hair faded by the summer sun and endless days spent swimming in the ocean. They play soccer energetically on cement fields narrowly cut from the mountainside in the morning and move retiringly slow in the afternoons when swimming and sun have drained their bodies of their near endless reserves of energy.
Older residents are found gathered early in the main square centered on the ancient church. An old woman sells vegetables and flowers from handmade baskets in the shaded corner that catches the early breeze. She leans against the cool marble stone and wears a loose fitting, faded and colorful dress. The lines on her coffee brown face announce
A couple of friends share a sunset in Herceg Novi, Montenegro
a life of soft smiles and warm embraces. Men passing through the square greet each other heartily, all baritone voices and hearty laughs. All stop to drink of the cool water that flows freely from the ornate fountain that anchors the square. Legend says that its waters assure health and vitality to all who drink from it. No one passes without a sample of the magic.
Soon enough, visitors fill the narrow streets, stairways and passages between the stone and pastel colored facades of the city. They dress in brightly colored swim attire; all floppy hats, cover-ups and sandals. A few well-heeled travelers forsake the beach and choose to spend the day shopping in the trendy boutiques that line the central promenade. They of billowing dresses, high heels and exactly arranged hairstyles covered with the perfect hat to complement their purses and pearls. Much less interesting than the residents, the visitors move rapidly and interrupt the tranquility, peace and pace of the gentle morning. It is time for the smart traveler to return to tiny apartments for cool drinks and long lunches.
Evenings are spent on sea view balconies overlooking unkempt gardens. Shiny pomegranates,
peaches, figs and pears ripen in the bright sun. An arbor of purple grapes fills an area of morning sun, its fruit hanging low on the timeworn vine as it matures slowly. Plump, deep red tomatoes of the most amazing color, sit fat with flavor on vines that need to be tightly braced against the weight of the perfectly developed fruit. Olive trees and citrus fill the rest of the garden with full foliage and magic aromas that promise delicacies that will be enjoyed in seasons to come.
Swallows fly crazily in the moments before sunset, working aggressively to remove the insects from the air. Distant boats cross the calm sea below, their wakes forming perfect V’s as they follow their course through the flat bay. Bats arrive magically from their hidden places and fill the air above to remove whatever last remnants of intruding insects were missed by the swallows. Lightning flashes in the far distance from some storm that will never enter this glacier cut bay paradise of sand and sea. An Italian love song plays in the background and provides a melodic melancholy that enchants the night as faint whispers of lovers mix with
the innuendo of the gentle breeze. Wine glasses can be heard, tapping together. Memories of a lifetime are being created everywhere around me.
Alas, that will not be my memory of this enchanted land. You see, for the first time in 5 years, I am travelling alone. These are memories that can only be created together with a loved one. True memories of romantic lands and faraway places can only be captured in hindsight when shared together, long after the moment has passed. I promised you a story of love, beauty and dedication, and thus you will have one. Not this regular story of times in faraway places where dreams came true for others.
My story is of a love that was created 30 years ago, thousands of miles from where I find myself tonight. It is a story of careers, children and hard work. It is a story of celebrations, accomplishments and shared fulfillment. It is a story of a love between two people that transcended difficulties, strife and unpleasantness. The love flowed onward and eventually carried us one day to an impetuous decision to add an extra dimension to our shared memories.
Old Town Square
Herceg Novi, Montenegro
To travel the world to see and experience all that it had to offer.
This is a story of the beauty of world that we found together. Spectacular sunsets over verdant mountains. Endless rivers that flow through thick jungles where men have rarely passed. Astounding skylines of cities so beautiful, it did not seem possible that men could have created them. Astonishing monuments built by kings and queens and common people who only sought to leave the world more beautiful than they found it. We have seen beauty in the people of all colors, religions and ages that populate this tiny earth. The beauty of people who have helped us, despite our inability to communicate, when things seemed hopeless. The magic beauty of a mother who allows us to hold a smiling child at the perfect time when all the world seemed a foreign place.
It is a story of the dedication of a wife who followed her husband’s dreams to see all the exoticness, color, intrigue and fascinations that might be found across a good part of the globe. While we have shared on these pages many glossy photographs and sometimes poetic prose
Herceg Novi, Montenegro
of many of the moments of the last 5 years, let it be known that you saw our world from only one side of a carelessly focused lens or rapidly scribbling pen. You could not have seen the dedication it took to spend countless nights on hilltops fleetingly waiting for a sunset to develop so the “perfect” photo could be taken. You could not have seen the dedication it took to spend hundreds of sweaty nights in uncomfortable beds with unexplained noises filling the night so your husband could spend a few days in some oddly alluring venue. You could not see the dedication it took to spend thousands of hours spent looking for a supposed paradise-rainbow at the end of a distant third world road. You could not have seen the abundant laughter and unfortunate tears that filled the time between our infrequent posts.
Too many days pass without me saying how much I appreciate the company, compassion and comradeship my wife has displayed towards my crazy ambitions, not just in the last 5 years but during our entire 30 years together. Tonight, as I close my eyes under a crescent moon in a land far away, I find myself dreaming of the days ahead, spent with the person who hopefully knows how much she means to me.
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