Love & Light and everything bright...

23 Jan 2011

May 2008 - Los Angeles-London-Paris-Belgrade-Montenegro

Montenegro Diaries: Out of This World...

Passing through a piece of heaven on earth on the way to Djurdjevic Mtn in northern Montenegro; and returning to the coast...

FROM MONTENEGRO

(click on images to enlarge)

Montenegro Diaries: Out of This World

MONTENEGRO, May 11, 2008 - Today was another absolutely amazing day.  Nothing went as planned.  And I loved it!  I'll always remember this Sunday May 11 in Montenegro as a day out of this world.  Literally, in some respects.

Ever since about eight months ago, I have been learning to live a life of surrender.  A life of surrender?  Yes, surrender to the higher power, the Great Spirit.  I've trying to read Her signs as a compass and follow them using His spirit as tailwind.  Ever tried doing it?  It's pretty scary, actually.  At first.  For, it means trying to subdue your own Will; not try to "run things;" let someone else take over your life.  It's kind of like bungee-jumping or paragliding.  You pray and put your faith in the Spirit and then you let go.

After a while, it starts to get exhilarating.  Today was one of those days.  Exhilarating.  Unexpected.  Full of twists and turns.  Long...

I did see another world this afternoon.  Briefly.  For maybe 20 minutes.  And when I came back to this one, I was taken to a spiritual session with the Acting Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, back high up in the Montenegrin Mountains.  But not before I had to overcome some unexpected hardships.  I finished the day in the clouds and snow, on top of a mountain summit that provides a 360 view of the world, a summit I last stood on 52 years ago as a little kid. 

As for the night that followed, what I night it was... descending from the sky down a twisted one-lay highway with lights of the Kotor Bay postcard views and the starry sky as the only navigators.

Back at Praskvica Monastery

I had intended this to be a day or R&R (rest and relaxation) after a long and, at times, arduous mountain trip.  Stay home, work on the stories about my mountain adventures, enjoy the ocean breezes, maybe go for a walk later on - "my favorite mile."  The morning was just that.  Pretty uneventful (see "Life's a Beach in a Fishing Village").  Relaxing.  Feeding the fish, savoring the beauty around me, watching the daily life's routing in fishing village from my high perch above the sea.

It was a beautiful Sunday, as you can see from the left photo.  As I was walking around the beach in early afternoon, taking pictures of other kinds of Montenegrin treasures - its beautiful women, I felt an urge to go back up to Praskvica Monastery where my mountain pilgrimage started a few days ago (see "Answering a Mountain Call: Preparation...").  I felt I needed to close the loop where I started it.  And so up the hill I trekked again.  There was no dog barking at me this time.

Smell of frankincense and myrrh was in the air after the Sunday service when I walked in.  I love natural scents like that, just as I love the smell of the sea, sage or any natural, earthy fragrances. As I looked more closely at the alter this time (left), I noticed a dove hovering between Jesus and the image of God in a center piece painting (middle right).  And perhaps you remember me and doves?  It was just another reaffirmation that doves are and have been considered symbols of the Holy Spirit from way back.

And speaking of doves in my life, here they were again yesterday, just outside my balcony, watching me from the roof of that old ruin next door (right).

I did not stay long this time.  A man was hovering around me trying to tell me in pigeon English not to take pictures.  I pretended I did not speak Serbian.  It was easier to be a sinner in English.

Out of This World

I walked up to the old cemetery above the monastery.  After strolling around for a bit, I decided to go up to its highest point, intending to take in some more gorgeous vistas from up there.  I got a lot more than just earthly views.  As I sat down on a stone ledge, something moved me to start meditating.

To read the rest of what happened, you will have to be a close friend of a family member with appropriate User ID and Password to access this text.  Just click on the title to proceed...

"Out of This World" (a personal & confidential account of my mediation;  write to me and ask for access information if you want to read it)

Finally, I got up from the ledge, took those two pictures so you could have a visual context of where and how it all happened, and then headed back down the hill.  Altogether, my meditation session at the cemetery lasted probably about half an hour, the longest yet.

As I was walking down, I had this feeling of bliss again.  I have suspected it before, but this time I KNEW that was the presence of the Great Spirit inside of me.  Some call it God.  My eyes started to moisten again.  They always do when I am moved by delightful musical piece, for example, or a poignant movie scene, or a beautiful painting, or an awesome natural beauty, like the other day on "my mountain."  Or on those rare moments in life when you gaze into your beloved's eyes, and you see and feel the depth of her soul in tof her soul in them, as she does in yours.  That's the Spirit speaking to your soul.  Or as Beethoven put it, "music is a way God speaks to our souls."

And that's what happened yesterday afternoon at Praskvica monastery.  I was wondering if my communing with the mountain spirits the day before had something to do with it.  I suspected it did. 

More Surprises...

Back at my seaside apartment, I was still reliving the experience at the monastery while downloading my mail.  To my great surprise, one of them from Metropolitan (Archbishop) Amfilohije's office, suggesting a meeting in Cetinje at 5PM.  The archbishop is currently also the Acting Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as Patriarch Pavle is indigent and hospitalized due to his advanced age (93).  The reason this message was a surprise to me is that the Act. Patriarch's assistant Fr. Igor and I have been communicating all week trying to synchronize our respective schedules, but given my and Amfilohije's constant movement, we just could not find the venue and the time that would work.  And now he evidently did.

The fact that this happened immediately after my visit to Praskvica monastery and that out of this world experience there had to have been another confirmation of A-K and the Spirit at work on my behalf.  So I e-mailed a friend in Belgrade to whom I promised to write something, "change of plans.  Have just been invited to a meeting with Met. Amfilohije in Cetinje.  You'll have to be patient till I get back later this evening."

I was all sweaty and grubby from climbing the hills on a warm day.  I had not even showered and shaved as yet, having planned to do that after my hike.  And now I'll have to go into overdrive if I am to make the 5PM meeting.

I looked at my watch.  It was a little after 2PM.  "Wonder how long a drive that is?" I said to myself.  I called Fr. Igor to confirm the meeting.  He said it would be about an hour's drive to Cetinje from where I was.  "Not bad," I thought.

I have been to Cetinje twice before, the last time I visited Montenegro in 2004 and in 1990, with my family.  It is a charming mountain town, the former royal capital of Montenegro.  I had actually planned to go there again yesterday on my way down the mountains, but the drive to Podgorica took too long so I went straight home to Przno instead.  So "God is also seeing to it that I get to see Cetinje after all," I thought.

An hour or so later, I was ready, dressed in a suit presentable enough to meet the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  Met. Amfilohije and I have met a few times before at the Patriarchate in Belgrade, but that was a long time ago during my wartime visits to the Balkans.  I was looking forward to catching up with him again. I unlocked the driver's door of my car.  I wanted to put my jacket on the back seat.  But the back door was still locked.  "Strange," I thought.  Whenever I had unlocked the driver's door before, all four doors were automatically unlocked, too.  I opened the back door manually and put the jacket there.  Then I sat down and turned the key.  Nothing happened.  Not even a sound.  The battery was evidently completely dead.

When the car rental agent told me about the new Montenegrin law that the lights must be turned on all the time, and yet this care did not have automatic lights, I thought I may forget to do it at some point, as I am not in a habit of worrying about the car lights. So what do I do now.  I looked at my watch.  It was 3:30PM.  I had half an hour to solve this problem or else I would be late for a meeting that was so hard to arrange in the first place. 

I sensed that it was also a test of sorts by the Spirit.  Perhaps a test of faith?  Or of patience?  Or of staying cool under pressure?  I walked over to my landlord's house and explained the situation to him.  He immediately mobilized practically the entire male population of the village of Przno.  I've heard from the Balkans say that the Montenegrins are often selfish and arrogant.  I can't say that I have ever seen that side of them.  What I have seen, and was experiencing again right now, is that if you talk to them in a way that touches their soul, they are the kinds of people who will take the shirt off their back and give it to you.

At first, we thought we could jump-start the car by pushing it.  So six men, including yours truly in his business suit and all, pushed the car up a hill while my landlord tried to start it.  No go.  The batter was so completely out of juice that it seemed it would take a strike of lightening to wake it up. 

Meanwhile, all this fuss about my car became a focal point of entertainment for the whole village.  People were watching the proceedings from there windows.  Everybody had an opinion on what to do next.  Cell phones started buzzing trying to find someone who had jumper cables.  I also called my car rental agency to ask the same.  They could not find anyone to help as it was Sunday.  But they said they would try to find someone at home.  Everybody was so willing to help.

The clock kept ticking.  The chance of my meeting taking place at 5PM were getting slimmer by the moment.  I stopped looking at my watch and looked toward the sky instead.  "I get it," I said and smiled. "You'll get me there anyway somehow, won't you?  You just want me to sweat a little first, to see how riled up I can get."

After about 10 mins, I saw my landlord walking toward my car with jumper cables.  Then he brought his car around and we attached them.  A crowd of people that gathered around watched anxiously to see what will happen when I turn the key.  Nothing happened.  Still as dead as a door nail.

"Let it charge for about five minutes, and then try again," somebody said.  This time, I did look at my watch.  it was 3:50PM.  Only 20 minutes had elapsed since I realized I had a problem, yet it seemed like an eternity. 

I tried turning the key again.  This time, the engine made a sound as if waking from a deep slumber, but then it went back to sleep.  "Give it some more time," somebody said.  "Let it charge."  Alas, time was something I did not have much of.

My landlord said he would try turning the key.  Same thing.  Just a little noise and then nothing. "Well, each time you turn the key, the engine turns a little more.  Give it some more time."

We waited a bit longer.  I looked at my watch.  It was 4PM.  If I did not leave now. I would not be able to make the meeting on time.  I looked toward the heavens, smiled and said, "Okay, Al-Khadir/St. George... it's up to you now."

At that moment, I heard the engine of my car behind me jump to a happy roar.  My landlord had a triumphant look on his face.  "Voila!" he said.  I thanked everyone profusely and drove off.  "Don't turn the engine off for at least half an hour," somebody shouted.  The only chance of that happening would be when I shifted gears on steep slopes, of which there are plenty around here in Montenegro. But I was determined not to let that happen.

Arriving in Cetinje

Worrying about the engine stalling did not prevent me from enjoying the magnificent views (left)...

...as I drove up that big mountain that can be seen from my balcony shots toward Cetinje (middle left). I drove fast, at times overtaking recklessly, figuring the powers that took me on this trip had better get me there in one piece and on time. I know, this may sound crazy to some of you.  But that's what faith is.  Yo manifest things that you want to happen and they do happen. 

Luckily, nothing untoward happened.  Just before entering Cetinje (middle right), I took a picture of Mt Lovcen (middle right), a magnificent mountain that towers over the Kotor Bay, southern Europe's only fjord. It is the final rest place of Montenegro's most famous son - Petar Petrovic Njegos - an early 19th century king, bishop and a poet whose "Mountain Wreath" collection of poems surely would have won the Nobel Prize for literature had such honor existed back then.

The last time I was on Mt. Lovcen was in 1956, as a little boy.  I was camping with a group of school kids in the Kotor Bay area.  We made an overnight trek from Kotor to the top of Mt. Lovcen.  Now that I could see the size of these mountains as an adult, I was flabbergasted that someone would take a group of little kids on a 28 km (14 mile) overnight hike like that, straight up the mountain.  But that's what happened 42 years ago.  "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger" was the philosophy of child rearing back then.

I looked at my watch.  It was only 4:30PM.  Either Fr. Igor had grossly underestimated the time, or I must have set some sort of a record driving up the mountain.  I decided to stop and get some gas.

Once in town, I took a leisurely stroll through the center of Cetinje.  As you can see, it is really a lovely mountain town.  The tall trees that line its streets are mostly linden trees, my favorite in the Balkans.  In about a month, there will be a heavenly fragrance around here, I thought.  (Linden trees bloom in June, well, they do in Belgrade, anyway).  I walked past the old royal palace (middle left), toward the Cetinje Monastery where my meeting was supposed to take place.  The little church next to the royal palace (middle right) is not the monastery.  I think it had been used a royal chapel.  The plaque above its entrance confounded me as to its real age. Looked like the year was 7394?  Wonder what calendar that was by?  It was evidently rebuilt in 1886.

The fields between that little chapel and the Cetinje monastery (left nad middle left) looked absolutely magnificent, lush with tall green grass and millions of little yellow flowers.  I walked right through them as I took the above shots.  You can see again (just as in my tour of Belgrade on May 5), huge chestnut trees that frame the middle right shot, with the royal palace and the little church in the middle, reminded me of those in Paris.  I took a close up of their blooming candelabra-like flowers (right).  And then it was time to go to the monastery for my meeting.

Meeting with Acting Patriarch

I spent over an hour with His Holiness in a warm and intimate chat.  As Fr. Matej, his local assistant and driver served us refreshments, Met. Amfilohije said that the pomegranate juice (pink) I was having was made by monks at a monastery on Lake Skadar (see "Getting There...").  One of the beautiful things about Montenegro and Montenegrins is that everything comes with a story.  And, of course, I was about to learn the story about that monastery.

It was originally founded in the 15th century by Dutchess Jelena. She was a beautiful Serb noble woman who was married to Djuradj Balsic, one of the knights who took part in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.  Both the Turkish sultan and the Serbian king (Prince Lazar) were killed in the battle, as was Dutchess Jelena's husband.  The new sultan Bajazit and the widowed Serbian Queen Milica, who escaped along with my Djurdjevic ancestors to Montenegro, then negotiated some sort of a deal.  The upshot of which was that beautiful Dutchess Jelena was sent to Istanbul by Queen Milica to become a part of the sultan's harem.  She born Bajazit some children, too, according to Met. Amfilohije.  But when Bajazit was killed, so were her children.  Anyway, she eventually returned to Montenegro where she founded this monastery on Lake Skadar.  So that's the story that was served with my pomegranate juice.

Our meeting was very animated, with His Holiness and I each swapping stories on a myriad of subjects.  But none was as exciting as the one I had heard from him once before, in Belgrade, but had forgotten the details.  I asked him to tell me again the story of how St. John the Baptist's right hand got to be in Cetinje.  He happily obliged.

When the Turks expanded after the Crusades, and the Ottoman Empire took over the Holy Land, many relics were taken by Christian monks and knights for safe keeping elsewhere.  Among them was the right hand of St. John, three pieces of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, the original icon of St. Luke and St. Peter's bible.  All four were on the Greek island or Rhodes circa 1534.  When the Turks occupied Rhodes, too, they were taken by the Knights of Malta to their island. They remained there until Napoleon occupied Malta.  As the knights fled the island and sought refuge in Russia, they took the relics with them to St. Petersburg. 

They remained in St. Petersburg and the Peter and Paul Cathedral, across the river Neva from the imperial Winter Palace (see the right photo I took of it during my visit there in 2006), until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.  That's when they were transferred to Brussels, as some of the Russian royal relatives were Belgian.  They remained there until 1928, when the Russian nobility in exile gave them to the Serbian king Alexander I (the one who was assassinated in Marseilles in 1934), in gratitude for opening Serbia's doors to a flood of Russian refugees.

"He took in one million Russians during the 1920s," His Holiness said of Alexander I. "That was economically very hard on Serbia at the time, but also a very good thing.  For, all these Russians were the crème de la crème of the Russian society.  They eventually enriched Serbia's culturally and spiritually."

The relics remained in Belgrade until the Nazi occupation in 1941.  Then as King Peter II fled to London, when the plane touched down in Montenegro, they unloaded and left the relics here for safe-keeping.  They remained hidden under a wooden floor of the Ostrog monastery all through World War II.  But the priest who had hidden them made a mistake.  He confided in one of his assistants, who turned out to be a communist spy.  So after the war, the communists took them from the monastery and put them in a Podgorica museum, where they remained for decades.

Eventually, the Archbishop of Montenegro found out about them in the 1970s, and requested them to be transferred to the Cetinje monastery.  "The communists didn't really appreciate the value of them, so they agreed," Met. Amfilohije said.  St. John's right hand, the pieces of the cross and St. Peter's bible have been at the Cetinje monastery since 1978.  The St. Luke icon was moved to the Cetinje Museum, which is right next door to the monastery (right photo).  "And after we are finished our meeting, I will have them open the church for you so you can see and kiss these relics," His Holiness said.

I felt very honored and lucky.  I kept thinking about my Praskvica monastery meditation experience this afternoon and how many doors it was opening for me.  What Met. Amfilohije said next made it an even greater privilege.  He said that a couple of years ago, at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church, he took St. John's hand to Moscow.  Both he and the Russian Patriarch performed a service at the huge Christ the Savior Cathedral there (the left picture of it was taken during my visit to Moscow in Mar 2007).  After that, the hand was taken on a tour across Russia.  "Three million Russians lined up for hours to see it and to kiss it," His Holiness said.

"And to these relics have some miracle-making powers, as I have heard that some do?" I asked.

"Yes, they do.  Afterward, I've had reports from the Russian clergy of dozens of cases of miraculous healing," he said.

His Holiness then told me another story that I had not heard before.  St. John's left hand was apparently once also kept at the Serbian king's (Nemanjic) court.  He said that when he was in Siena, Italy to deliver a St. Sava medal to the Italian army for protecting the Serbian monasteries in their Kosovo district from destruction by Albanians (after NATO's occupation of Kosovo in 1999), he was taken to a cathedral there where St. John's other hand is kept.  And as he looked at the relic, he saw an engraving in its silver casing that read in old Serbian, "Oh Lord, please remember St. Sava" (St. Sava was the son of a Serbian king who traveled to Holy Land during the Byzantine times, and then returned to spend the rest of his life as an educator and healer in Serbia).

Met. Amfilohije figured that the relics must have been taken to Italy in the early 15th century after the fall of Serbia under the Ottoman rule, following the Battle of Kosovo.

His Holiness then turned to me for some stories on the New World Order, and the geopolitical and political issues, both in America and elsewhere, including Serbia.  And he was also interested in some of the spiritual work I have been doing, including researching ancient mystery schools, shamanism and my upcoming trip to Peru. 

Showing his understanding of the subjects, His Holiness talked about NIkola Tesla, for example, as the first man in the modern era to have talked about the "bliss of light."  "Which, of course, means pure love," Met. Amfilohije added.  And "Love & Light" has been my motto and sign-off message ever since those words came to me during a nightly meditation in mid-April.

Stories, stories... 80 minutes went by as if they were 8.  We both looked at the clock.  It was 6:20PM.  it was time to say our goodbyes.  At the end, Met. Amfilohije and I kissed three times on the cheeks, as is the Serbian and Montenegrin custom among friends (normal protocol is for people to kiss His hand).

And then, Fr. Mateja led me to the church where I saw and kissed (through the glass) both St. John's right hand and the three pieces of Jesus' crucifixion cross, assembled in the jeweled display case in the shape of the cross.  I felt truly blessed to have had the opportunity to see and part-take of something so special. 

Of course, I did not take any pictures of the relics.  But I did take two shots of the beautiful frescoes above the monastery's main gate (above).

Tour of Cetinje

The sun was already hiding behind Mt. Lovcen by the time I decided to take another walking tour of Cetinje.

The pretty little church basking in the setting sun was built in 1450 (two left photos).  Since Cetinje was the capital of Montenegro until the end of WW I, it still has many beautiful buildings that were once foreign embassies.  The building in the middle right picture, for example, was the French embassy, and the one next to it, was the British embassy. 

As I was walking by the British embassy before realizing what it was, I heard sounds of someone practicing piano.  Check out the next two video clips to see what happened...

   Piano practice at Cetinje Music Academy, Part 1

   Piano practice at Cetinje Music Academy, Part 2

And above you can see a few more stately buildings that are scattered throughout in Cetinje. 

Mt. Lovcen: On "Top of the World"

Even though it was getting late, I felt the urge to go climb Mt. Lovcen again.  Not on foot this time, of course.  I stopped and asked a pretty blonde in Cetinje how long a drive this would be.  She got a little flustered but did tell me eventually that it would probably take 45 minutes. That meant I would likely miss the sunset but might still catch some daylight at dusk.  Besides, the way I drive up these mountains when I am in a hurry is evidently a little different than the average person, at least based on what happened with Fr. Igor's estimate of my drive to Cetinje.

So I gunned my little Getz and pointed it toward Mt. Lovcen.  As I was driving, I was thinking again, just like yesterday on my return trip from Mt. Djurdjevic, that there are some definite advantages to traveling alone.  Had I had a woman with me, she'd probably go nuts over my "race car driving" around the mountain switchbacks.  And I'd either have to slow down and end up doing less, or else risk WW III. 

I am not speculating here.  I know.  I've heard it all before.  "Happily, now I only have one person to frighten or to please," I said to myself with a smirk.  "And he is easy to please and doesn't frighten easily, especially when on a trip that's evidently sanctioned by higher powers."

 

Along the way, I stopped to take a picture of Cetinje from Mt. Lovcen before the sun went down (left).  At that stage, I was maybe one-third of the way up.  I also stopped a few times to take shots of Mt. Lovcen outlined by the setting sun (two middle shots).  Well, the higher powers could not protect me from making wrong turns.  As I did once not far from the top, I found myself in a 15th century village (right).  It was quite creepy.  The place looked as if time had stopped 500 years ago.  I realized this was probably a wrong road to the top, so I turned around and came back.

By the time I made it to the top of Mt. Lovcen it was getting quite dark.  What I did not expect it to me so cold, not to find that much snow on the road to the summit (two leftmost shots).  I was the only car there, as you can see from the far right photo.  As I walking up that the hundreds of stairs that lead to the portal (right), I found myself actually running, taking two steps at a time, just to warm up and get my blood circulation going in such frigid weather.  I had not planned on this, so I had on were the clothes I wore at seaside - a light suite and a shirt (left).  As I was approaching the portal, a man emerged from a house on the right.

"The mausoleum is now closed," he said.  I must have looked disappointed when he added, "where are you from?"

"Arizona."

"Well, in that case, I'll just have to open it for you."  He went back into the house.

I couldn't believe my luck.  Then I realized it wasn't luck at all.  Doors were opening for me everywhere I went on this trip, literally and figuratively.  "Thank you Al-Khadir/St. George," I said.

I took some more pictures while waiting for him.  Views were spectacular, even in this diminished light.    When did return, the man wore a thick red parka.  We started climbing up the stairs through that portal, chatting all the way.  It turned out his name was Radovic, a common Montenegrin surname. He was from the village of Njegusi.  "I come from a line of original Montenegrins," he said proudly.  Then he asked me where my roots were.  I told him.  He was impressed that I came back to water them. 

By the time we made it to the top of the tunnel where the Njegos mausoleum plateau is (left), which seemed like a thousand steps later, we were old friends.  He offered to take some pictures of me.  "Move over a bit to the left," he said as he took the middle left shot.  "I want people to see a part of the Kotor Bay behind you." 

He then unlocked the mausoleum and took some more photos inside. I was impressed by those two huge granite sculptures of two beautiful women in Montenegrin national costumes, and I asked him what the meaning of that was.  She said that the women are keeping a watch over Njegos (symbolically over Montenegro).  One is an unmarried girl the other a mother. 

"How can you tell which is which?" I asked.

"The one on the right is a mother," he said.  "She is holding her hand over her belly, tucked behind a "cumberbun" that used to be given to a woman when she got married.  The one on the left is an unmarried girl.  She is holding her hand over her breast."

It was not until 24 hours later that correspondence with a female friend in Arizona and a mother dawned on me another significance of this moment.  This was Sunday, Mother's Day in America.  Over here, in Europe, they don't have such Hallmark holidays, so it had completely slipped my mind.  And here I was, standing on top of this magnificent mountain in the middle of a traditionally very patriarchal society that has nevertheless honored its women for ages as none that I know of in the West.  It's just that the Montenegrins celebrate the woman's femininity, where her real power lies, not feminism.

I was evidently getting more than I had hoped for when I aimed my little Getz for the summit of Mt. Lovcen.

Inside the mausoleum, we saw a huge, 28-ton sculpture of Njegos with an eagle hovering over him (two left shots).  It was a very powerful image, especially considering where it sat - on top of a mighty mountain.  Above the sculpture, as my host and guide Radovic pointed out, the ceiling was made of pure gold, made by Venetian artists (middle right).  I thought we were done, and headed toward the way we come.

"Come, I'll show you something special, something normal visitors don't have access to," Radovic said.  I followed him, not know what to expect.  We descended down narrow stone stairs to a place deep down under the mausoleum.  "This is the crypt," Radovic said, as he clicked off the electronic security alarm, and turned on the lights.  "Njegos designed it himself" (right pictures).

"Wow," I thought.  "This is incredible.  More and more doors opening up for me that I never even knew existed."

When we climbed out of the crypt, we walked along a narrow stone path to a circular overlook, the outermost point of the whole mausoleum structure.  I took some more shots from there of the 360-degree views that one can enjoy from there. 

"This feels like being on top of the world," I said.  "And I've been on much higher mountains than this (like Mauna Kea, 14,000 ft, on the Big Island of Hawaii) which did not seem as high." 

"The air is very rarefied here, not much oxygen," Radovic explained.  "This is where the marine and mountain climates met and clash."  Then he took a picture of a small lake right underneath our feet, in the direction of his native village of Njegusi (far right).

After about 45 minutes on the mountaintop, we parted as old friends.  I thanked him profusely for opening u the mausoleum for me.  "Bet there aren't many people who can say they have seen it at this hour and in this light," I said.  "Like none," Radovic replied, smiling.  "You're the only visitor that I know of who did."

Trip to Kotor

Another beautiful coastal city that I had meant to visit but ran out of time for it is Kotor, at the end of that deep fjord, Kotor Bay.  "Is there a way I can go back to Przno via Kotor?" I asked. 

"Sure," my host and guide replied.  "And you can enjoy some unbelievable views of the Bay as you go down."  Then he told me what to do.

Well, by the time I got under way, it was too dark to see much except for the lights.  They were spectacular but a camera cannot do the scenery justice.  So I've added above some daytime shots to the nighttime pictures I took.  After about 45 minutes of pretty treacherous one lane road down Mt. Lovcen, I did make it to Kotor after all.

What I did not expect to see is all that wealth docked in the Kotor harbor that I passed on my way to the old town.  These big luxury yachts were from all over, Sochi (Russia), Panama, England, France...  The old walled city, however, was as beautiful as ever, only quieter than I had previously seen during high tourist seasons.

You can easily imagine yourself here to be in Venice.  Except that the signs are in Cyrillic and the churches are Serbian Orthodox.  Nevertheless, I was always struck by similarities in Adriatic marine architectures.

And that finally WAS the end of what was supposed to me my "quiet day" of rest and relaxation.  Do you see now why I love it when almost nothing goes according to plan?  :-)

By the time I made it back to my apartment in Przno, it was close to 11PM.

CLICK HERE to Montenegro Day 6/Belgrade Day 3...

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