In Yugoslavia, there are certain prejudices about each of the republics, most, if not all of which are now independent countries: Slovenes, they say, are so snobbish that they don’t even consider themselves part of the Balkans. Serbs always see themselves as victims of some global conspiracy, even when they trip over their own shoelaces. Croats are a bit ustasha. Bosnians would never eat burek with cheese. And so on.
But the most persistent prejudices are held about Montenegrins. Allegedly, they are the laziest people in the world.
Having lived in beautiful Montenegro, I can disclose that there is nothing to this prejudice. Absolutely nothing. Quite the contrary. Often, I could observe with my own eyes how the Montenegrin boss personally came to the construction site at 10:30 a.m. and laboriously gave instructions to the Albanian, Macedonian, Bosnian and Ukrainian workers. Sometimes even before going to a café for second breakfast. And he did that up to three or four days a week!
Granted, there are Montenegrins who earn their money practically in their sleep, either renting holiday homes or “working” as translators. And you can get into museums for free, because tearing off the ticket is too much effort. But things like that make the country likable, don’t they?
After all, with more laziness, there would have been fewer Balkan wars. It’s surely no coincidence that the supposedly hard-working Germans are the ones responsible for all world wars so far. And it would be better for the environment if we spent less time toiling and consuming. In a nutshell: With more laziness, the world would be better off, people would be happier, society would be fairer.
But back to Montenegro:
As if to satirize the stereotype, the country holds an annual competition in lying down. Sadly, it hasn’t been adopted by the Olympic Games yet, because the IOC has been unable to sell the TV broadcasting rights. (Although I personally think that a lot of Olympic disciplines are far more boring to watch.)
The competition was held for the 12th time this summer, in the small village of Brezna, far from the nearest town. Ideal conditions for the athletes to relax and focus on their sport without too many distractions.
If lying down made you think of a cozy bed, you need to think again. As the event is also about showing the world how relaxing Montenegrin nature is, the athletes lie under a tree. All of them under the same tree, in a circle of camaraderie. This way, they can lend each other moral support, exchange training and nutrition tips, and arrange to meet for a beer after the Olympics.
This year it was more exciting than ever, I heard from people who were following the event closely. Of the initial nine brave contestants, two remained, and after several days the competition climaxed in a gripping duel. Like Fischer against Spassky. Or Ali against Frazier. Only less brutal, with no fists flying and no pieces being kicked off the board. Here, everything takes place in the head. And in the back muscles.
Because lying down for days on end is not that easy. Try for yourself and see how long you can hold out!
The champion, Žarko Pejanović, limped off the pitch after 60 hours, aching with pain, but proud. He had won 350 euros, a pizza and a seat in parliament (sports committee).
Although one would think that a lying-down champion is a pretty relaxed guy, Mr. Pejanović gets mighty angry when he has to read that people call him “the laziest man in Montenegro”. A mistake committed by the newspaper Dan. With all the pent-up energy of a master relaxer, Mr. Pejanović stormed the editorial offices, beat up the journalists and trashed some desks.
Now, Mr. Pejanović can try to beat his own record of lying down while in prison.