Monday, December 15, 2014

The Incident with the Montenegrin Honey Wine




There's so much to see in Montenegro that we felt compelled to take home something special as a souvenir. We bought a bottle of local wine and this is what happened.

Montenegro is a very small country marked by stunning nature. Our travels took us through the Durmitor, a national park with majestic mountains, beautiful lakes, and a deep canyon - the Tara - which we couldn't stop staring at in wonder. We made our way south to stop at the Skadar Lake nature reserve and continued to the coast.

The walled city of Kotor is located along a secluded section of the fjord-like Gulf of Kotor. Many tourists arrive in Kotor by cruise ship, but we came by land. We enjoyed our stroll within the well-preserved medieval old town, seeing the so-called "column of shame" where citizens threw vegetables and eggs at petty criminals; the 17th century clock tower; the Maritime Museum; and the twin-steepled Cathedral of Saint Tryphon.

Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, Kotor, Montenegro

Heading inland, we drove up a steep ascent with 25 serpentine turns. The views overlooking Kotor and the gulf are astounding, but it is important to keep one's attention on the road.

Overlooking Kotor

The capital and largest city of Montenegro is Podgorica, known during the Yugoslavia era as Titograd. Much more picturesque is the old capital city of Cetinje. This historical royal center is home to the Blue Palace, where the President of Montenegro resides. Another impressive building is the Cetinje Monastery, where tradition says remains of the right hand of John the Baptist are housed.

The Blue Palace, residence of the President of Montenegro

It was in a mountain village near Cetinje that we sat down for lunch and some refreshing Montenegrin beer. At the small restaurant, which is known for its homemade cheese and ham, we decided to purchase souvenirs to take home.

We stocked up on blocks of hard yellow cheese and a bottle of locally produced Medovina, which they told us was a traditional wine made with honey.

Medovina, traditional wine made with honey

Upon our return to our hotel, we packed our suitcases as we were about to depart for the airport in Croatia. To make sure the bottle of Medovina wouldn't break, we wrapped it in a pair of my blue jeans, which we placed carefully among our other clothes.

Just before we left, I realized I needed to open my suitcase to pack my toiletry kit. I was confronted by a strong, sweet smell. My jeans were soaking wet - the bottle of honey wine had spilled, and my jeans were soaked with the wine.

We quickly wrapped up my jeans in a plastic bag, but the bottle of Medovina was nearly empty. On the bus to the airport, we shared the last of this unique Montengrin wine with the other passengers. We lifted our plastic cups and toasted each other, marking the end of a fascinating visit to Montenegro and our stupidity for having tried to pack a bottle of homemade wine, a bottle which didn't close properly.

Sharing the Medovina

Adapted from a story originally published in Bulgarian in the weekend edition of the Sega daily newspaper and previously published in The Huffington Post.

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