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.