December 2010

After exchanging with Dušan drafts of a suitable letter to the Mayor, we meet Mrs Catović again on the 1st. Once more, she is very helpful, with her Secretary for Urbanism in attendance. She tells us that the DUP is nearly through its final stages and that she expects it to be passed by the Municipal Council (the Škupstina) by the end of January (2011). This of course cheers us immensely.
The rest of the month is spent largely in preparations for the multiple Christmases – ie Catholic (25 Dec), and Orthodox (07 Jan). Apart from the usual Christmas cards for friends, we send out a lot of calendars for the project. This is the third year we have done this and it has proved to be a very effective form of marketing. Anke shoulders the bulk of the burden as ‘keeper of the distribution list’. and we get them all away before the 25th.
Of course, as anticipated, we are not back in our original apartment by the end of the year! We recognise a pointer to some of the challenges facing us when we do finally get to build our house. Our landlord had ordered new doors for the apartments with the new balconies. These were being made by a Bosnian firm (no Bosnian jokes, please!), and eventually arrive just before the end of the year – about 10 weeks compared to the promised 3.
A side note is the alcohol consumed by builders. The two working on the balcony consumed at least half a crate of beer a day. One (British) friend recounted how he had been discussing with his builders that once Montenegro is in the EU all alcohol will be banned on construction sites. One of them asked, apparently in all seriousness ‘but how does anything get built?’!!
The oranges come out during the month, and we lead an extremely healthy life-style with copious amounts of fresh juice a daily part of our diet. The kiwis are not so good this year though – they were not pruned at all after last winter’s harvest and it has shown. Anke surpasses herself in jam production. We help the British Embassy effort at a Christmas Bazaar in the Delta City shopping centre in Podgorica, our contribution being jam and biscuits.
We find it both interesting and satisfying to look back on the year and realise that we have become more and more attuned to the local community with an increasing amount of acquaintances. All that is lacking is our knowledge of the language so that we can chat to people. We make enquiries and are put in touch with a secondary school teacher of Serbian/ Montenegrin, Vesna, and agree to start regular classes on the 13th. She has also found a course book from the Serbian Institute of Foreign languages in Belgrade, which is an essential tool.

On Christmas Eve we accompany the mother of our landlord to a delightful little Catholic church in Kotor for Mass. It is a Franciscan church with the associated ‘house’ where we are invited afterwards for traditional ‘priganice‘ (small doughnut-like cakes) and ‘medenjaci‘ (honey cakes). She is one of the few remaining members of the Catholic community in the Bay which was the predominant religion up to the time of World War 2. In the classification of the Former Yugoslavia, Catholics were considered Croats, and suffered accordingly during the wars which tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.

01 December: James outside the main Gate of Kotor Old Town – note the height of the water – welly boots essential!