By now, I have really been staying in Ammerthal, the small village in Bavaria where I grew up, longer than I should have. Rent-free living and a cozy room full of books should actually provide agreeable conditions for a student life, but there are almost no social, intellectual and cultural contacts and possibilities. Each time I want to go to the library, the cinema, a café or to the train station, I have to walk through the forest for an hour and a half before I reach the nearest small town.
That was less of a problem in summer, but since November, it has become uncomfortable and depressing. The intellectual wasteland has been joined by the grey drizzly joylessness of provincial Upper Palatinate. The locals try to fight it by putting up the same kitschy twinkling Christmas falderal every year, not achieving more than to signal the endless monotony of their lives, in which they do exactly the same things every year. They could already tell you today what they will cook for Christmas in 2018.
I need to leave here urgently. Definitely before the yearly festivities of horror at the end of December.
I’ve been missing city life a bit. It doesn’t even need to be a big city. Only a town large enough for me not to run into the same people every day, where people have heated discussions while leaning over newspapers in a café, and where writers read their latest manuscripts to each other in smoke-filled basements.
This only exists in Eastern Europe.
The most exciting region of Eastern Europe – and thus of Europe as a whole – are the Balkans. A plethora of small states, of which hardly any European can name all, many of them so small that you can visit three countries, speak three different languages and visit the most distinct churches and mosques in one day. I love this diversity.
Each of these countries is interesting and alluring, but on a previous visit, I already decided that Montenegro is the most beautiful country in Europe. The combination of the Adriatic Sea and mountains, of mountain villages and royal castles, everything in a relatively small country, makes it worth visiting.
Montenegro is also one of the youngest countries in Europe. It only became independent in 2006. In Eastern Europe, I often observed with fascination that there is more social and political dynamic in such countries, that people still argue about the path the country should take. (Just recently, Montenegro became our youngest NATO colleague.)
In Kotor, with its inner city that bans cars but is home to thousands of cats, where the sea and the mountains meet, and where there was an exhibition about Jan Karksi when I last visited, I found a cozy apartment. I can stay there for an affordable price until the end of February 2018, because the time is outside the tourist season. I hope this doesn’t mean that it will be as cold as it was in Malta or in Sicily, where I had the same idea in previous winters. (If it does, I might as well spend the next winter in Siberia.)
In March 2018, I already have to return to Germany for the first exams of my studies in history. And after that – no, let me tell you about that another time.
Talking about history: My grandfather lived in Yugoslavia until November 1948, albeit not quite voluntarily. Maybe I can use this longer stay in ex-Yugoslavia to finally find out where exactly he was imprisoned during and after World War II and to visit the place.
If anyone can help with that, I would highly appreciate it. I only know that he was working in a salt mine, if that helps to narrow the search.
Oh, and I should clarify that my move to Montenegro has nothing to do with a high-stakes poker tournament at the Casino Royale.
An hour and a half walk could be a twenty minute cycle. Just saying…
I am so old-fashioned, I don’t even have a bicycle. But good point for next summer!
this was a great story. I enjoyed it. good luck In your new home and your quest. Cheers
Thank you! I’ll keep everyone posted.
Wish you good trip Andreas , I hope y will lime it
Thank you very much!
If I like it as much as I did last time, when I visited for 10 days, then I will be happy.
As far as I know the only salt mine in ex Yugoslavia is in the vicinity of the city of Tuzla, Bosnia, and it is still operating. Good luck with your search.
Thank you very much! That’s a very useful information and narrows the search considerably.
I hope to find some archives or databases where I can also search for the name. I am trying to piece together the story of my grandparents from these documents and then want to travel to all the relevant places. Part of it is an exercise in historical research, part of it might turn into a journalistic project to combine writing about the history with contemporary observations.
You’ll love it. Friendly people. Don’t get offended if you get addressed in German on the street by complete strangers, though.
Oh, that wouldn’t offend me at all. I will try to learn some Montenegrinan (or Serbo-Croatian for the older folks), but I find it extremely hard, so I will actually be thankful for anyone speaking German, English or Spanish.
Hi,I am imresed with your story,and happy that we have solution too meet if you want.I live in Budva,neiborhod:)),so we can change much experience here.Greeting!
Hi,I am imresed with your story,and happy that we have solution too meet if you want.I live in Budva,neiborhod:)),so we can change much experience here.First I can be usefuul with language,than with contact about your searching.Greeting!:)
Thank you very much for your warm welcome!
On my last visit to Montenegro, I did not even visit Budva, so I definitely want to come to that part of the coast this time!
Muy bonita la ciudad de Kotor y por tus reseñas, también muy ordenada. Suerte en la búsqueda Andreas!
Muchas gracias, senorita!
A good choice, Andreas. I adore to visit Budva (near Kotor), and now, I learn the Montenegrin language. Yes, the language is hard, but not harder than Italian one.
Be prepare, girls are beautiful in Montenegro.
Wow, respect for learning the language!
It would be my first Slavic language, so the grammar, the vocabulary and the pronunciation are scary. Whenever I memorize a word, I will have forgotten it after an hour. And some of them I can’t even pronounce, let alone understand in the midst of a monologue.
I personally found Italian much easier, but let’s see how it goes… If it will be too frustrating of an experience, I will have to move to a Romance-speaking country again. Luckily, there is Romanian which combines a Romance language with everything I like about Eastern Europe.
I understand you. My advice is one phrase in a day (or two) and constant practice on a street, and you will be speaking and understanding (at least something) in one year. Sretno (it is “Good luck” in Serbian).
I hope you have a great time! How much is a reasonable rent?
The rent is 250 EUR/month including utilities for this studio apartment in old-town Kotor: https://www.airbnb.de/rooms/18175204
By the way, if anyone wants to use AirBnB, you can sign up via this link: http://www.airbnb.de/c/amoser104 and you will receive a deposit of 30 EUR which you can spend on your first booking.
Let’s hope you are able to study and not get distracted by those landscapes around.
I will try to limit myself to one hike per week.
See that you do that, young man.
I was actually waiting to see where you will travel next :). Cool choice
In the coming years, there will probably be more shorter trips – a few months here, a few months there, and mostly in Europe – because I will always have to return to Germany for university.
Save travels, Andreas.
Thanks, but safety is overrated. Adventure is more important.
Ahhh, Montenegro! Probably my favourite country thus far.
I wish you a delightful stay in our country, Andreas.
Concerning your grandfather (maternal, I presume), the certificate you posted says the following in Serbo-Croatian “The Command of the Third Prisoner’s Camp, Belgrade. This is to certify the identity of the prisoner of war Otto Stiegelmann (father’s name Jakob), born in Amberg, county of Amberg, in the American occupation zone, Germany”. It was signed by the deputy commander. But I suppose you already knew that. There are no salt mines anywhere near Belgrade, though, as far as I know. He was probably transferred somewhere else after this was issued. Best of luck and I hope you’ll find everything you’re looking for in Montenegro.
Thank you very much!!
Yes, I knew that the paper was issued in Belgrade, but I assumed that this might have been for his release (I only have the papers he got when he was released in 1948, but he must have been in Yugoslavia for 3 years at least). I hope that there are some archives or a database where I can look for the name. – But thank you very much for your help and for your welcome!
You forgot an important part of the document to translate: On the lower part (above the signatures) it reads “Smert Fascismu! Svoboda Narodu !” Death to Fascism, Freedom to the People.
I actually like that part. And it couldn’t have done any harm to remind the German POWs that they had fought on the wrong side.
I live in Montenegro, Herceg Novi. It’s one hour away from Kotor. But I go to college in Kotor every day and absolutely love the city. I find it the most beautiful in the whole country.
I am glad to read that!
But I am also looking forward to visit Herceg Novi and all the other places around the bay of Kotor.
There are two former salt works in Montenegro, but I don’t know if they were working inthe 40’s. Ulcinjska Salinas was in Ulcinj and Solila is near Tivat. Both are now wetlands.
Wish you all the luck with your research regarding your father. We’d love to know what happens.
Just one thing : Montenegro was independent country since Berlin congress 1878…
Oh yes! I should have said that it was “reborn” in 2006.
My boyfriend and I stayed in Kotor for three weeks in late October – early November. What a beautiful place. It was so hard to leave the cats that have learned to come to the door for food. Have a wonderful stay there. I’m very jealous.
I was wondering who was feeding all the cats on my last visit. Well, I will gladly take over that job from you!
Haha! Don’t tease us! We stayed right inside the South Gate (Gurdic) and have gotten so attached to the little gang that hangs out along the stairs leading up to the apartments. With fewer tourists, restaurants closed, and lots of rain, they need all the help they can get.
I will post photos and videos of the cats. Maybe you will recognize your favorite ones!
You have chosen a great part of Montenegro to spend some time there and I am sure it will be great! However, if you want to go into further research about your grandfather’s life in this region, Kotor is not the place to be – archives wise.
Luckily, there is a beautiful train from Bar to Belgrade.
Don’t expect too much of that train, it is pretty bad. The scenery along the route – Scadar lake and all the way to Kolasin, though, is breathtaking!
And be prepared to spend much longer on the train than what is advertised in the regular timetable- sometimea as many as 12-13 hours. I would consider taking the bus from Kotor, if the plane is not an option. If yes, there is an airport in nearby Tivat, but I am sure you know that
I took the train from Podgorica to Kolasin once and I absolutely loved it! https://andreasmoser.blog/2015/01/12/montenegro-by-train/ I would like to spend a whole day on the train, just going back and forth. :-) With enough books, I don’t mind spending more time on the train, I find it the most romantic way to travel. -And I also took a plane from Tivat to Beograd once, that’s really convenient indeed.
Ok then, I see you are a pro :) Enjoy your stay in Montenegro
I had some eventful train rides with DB 😉 – I’ll never forget how I once missed my flight because a train broke down near Tübingen, 10 minutes after it left the station – but the state of our Montenegrin railroads is appalling. I hope the landscape alone is enough to keep your mind off of that fact 🙂.
Welcome to Montenegro Andreas and to Kotor
Regarding the train ride – I agree with you it is an adventure even for me … good book … some snacks … and wonderful scenery… you will enjoy it I am sure… it takes between 11-12 hours … earlier it was shorter ride but because of safety they prolonged the time … regarding your grandfather if it was salt mine it could be south of Montengrin coast – Ulcinj… I am really not sure … i wish you luck
I looked up pictures, it looks simple beautiful! If my grandfather were still alive I could ask him about the camp but sadly he is not. I did send you an email via your request from the Germany blog…I look forward to hearing back from you in regards to that when you get settled! :-)
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How interesting Andreas, I really enjoyed reading your blog, and what a beautiful photo. I look forward to seeing many more, hopefully one day I’ll be taking those photos myself!
Good luck with your search!