Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Handy Discovery

We had invited some friends over for breakfast, and Steve's plan was to make a breakfast casserole. The first obstacle came when we discovered that the tube of meat we purchased (which looked like the packaging of sausage back home) was in fact bologna rather than sausage. Steve then very cleverly bought sausage links and ground them in our little food chopper. The second problem was that we really didn't have a proper dish to prepare the casserole in. We went to our local supermarket-with-home-store and browsed until we discovered a suitable sized dish for a reasonable price. The third and final issue was when we realized that we were two eggs short. We had already covered a good bit of ground that day, walking to a museum and then around the town, so we were not feeling like walking to the supermarkets. So Steve went down to the little grocery in our building. There he made a handy discovery: you can buy the exact amount of eggs you need (in this case, two). You don't need to get 10 eggs (the standard size here rather than a dozen), but can just take two up to the register and pay :) The casserole turned out great, and our friends here really enjoyed it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our Budget Diet

While in many respects the food here is less expensive than in America (particularly fresh produce and wonderful loaves of bread), it is still costly enough that we, living on a necessarily fixed income, have looked for ways to cut cost, at least on several meals a week. This was really not hard at all. In fact, it was something of a tradition to have this exact same meal on weekend evenings when we lived in America. It even evolved from a long standing tradition in Laura's family. Basically, we have popcorn and "kool aid" on Saturday and Sunday evenings (and occassionally on other days as well) instead of a larger dinner. The fruity drink mix we buy here isn't quite like the packets in America. The sweetener is already added (they are actually sugar free) but there are some awesome flavors that we haven't seen in the States. Also, our popcorn "popper" is a bit different, a large kettle that we heat oil in and then stir the kernels around (we had a "Stir Crazy" popper at home). But it makes yummy popcorn and we enjoy it. We buy the popcorn in bulk (about a kilo at a time) for anywhere from 1 to 1.40 Euro a kg and we get the drink mix for about .13 Euro a packet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Delightful Surprise

We've been told repeatedly that Podgorica didn't really get much snow ever. Maybe a little every few years. In December there was rain, and plenty of it, but not a flake to be seen in the city (although the surrounding mountain peaks were white). In January we saw snow on some of the outlying roads as we visited other areas of Montengro, but we only saw one brief flurry here.

We had pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that snow wasn't going to be part of our winter life in Podgorica. So, imagine our surprise when yesterday, we saw a few flakes during our walk to the post office. Okay, well the temps were around 0˚ C or 32˚ F, and there had been a forecast of precip, but we expected rain. So we just enjoyed the flurries and figured that was it.

Until this morning. When I (Laura) woke up Steve told me to look out the window. And there was snow! Not just a mild flurry, but a real snowfall with accumulation on the ground, cars, trees and rooftops. It is very beautiful, and we feel quite blessed to be treated to this apparently rare occurance. Maybe I can make another snowman :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Powerless on Friday 13th

Neither of us is superstitious, and it was really "unlucky" or scary, but we did have an unusual occurrence here on Friday the 13th. At around 6 pm the power went out. This isn't an entirely unheard of happening here, but it isn't frequent and hasn't really lasted longer than half an hour in our experience. We hadn't had supper yet, but since we had seconds at lunch, we weren't overly hungry. The problem was it was dark, and getting colder in other rooms of the house (the living room electric heater stays hot for a long time even when it's turned off). We decided that to amuse ourselves we would play games. At our home in America, we have many very fun board games, but here we only had a deck of Rook cards and a deck of regular playing cards. Since you can't really play Rook with only two people we decided on the standard deck. It had been a long while since I, Laura, had played with real cards (computer games are so much handier) and I didn't really know many two person games anyway, so Steve taught me several versions of poker, Blackjack and gin. We played by candle light and had a great time. The power flickered at about quarter to 8, but didn't actually come back on until 9:30. We decided to make popcorn and watch a short video to wrap up our night. It was actually nice to spend time focused on each other without the distraction of TV and computer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Drowning in Culture

We decided to go to the former Royal Capitol of Montenegro, Cetinje, because that is where the majority of museums depicting the history and culture are located. Cetinje is about an hour away by bus. We went to the bus station, bought our tickets, and headed out. When we arrived, we managed to navigate the area until we found the Centar (centar of town, every Balkan town seems to have one). This statue is of the founder of Cetinje. We had a lovely little book detailing all of the museums in Montenegro which we had been given when we visited the art musuem here in Podgorica, and it had a map to the museums in Cetinje.
Turns out that there are five major museums, all within a short distance of each other. There is even a sign that gives the distance to other major musuems, including the Pergamon, the Vatican and the Louvre. We were able to buy a pass that gave us access to all five museums, and so we visited the Ethnography (or culture) museum first. Here on display were tools used in the production of wool, linen and hemp garmets, bags and other cloth goods (from shearing or hacking to spinning, weaving, and knitting) and an array of the produced articles themselves.
The next two museums detailed the lives of two important rulers of Montenegro, King Nikola, the last Monarch of Montenegro who was exiled just before World War I, and Peter II Petrović Njegoš, the last Prince Bishop (religous and government leader) of Montengro. He is the one who is burried at Lovćen. In King Nikola's home there were many lavish rooms full of beautiful furniture, rugs and valuable vases and other artistic items. Some very intricately carved weapons, as well as stamps, money and costumes of the time period were on display at both museums. There were also some custom made objects for Peter who was 6'8", including his vestments. Our final two museums were in the same building, and we were beginning to run out of steam, but still went through the history museum and the art museum. The monastery was not included on our ticket, and it was pretty much closing time for the day, so we just took this picture from the outside. Neither one of us was really longing to see the preserved hand of a dead saint anyway.
As we waited at the busstop for the next bus to Podgorica, it started to rain. It had been a lovely, sunny day until then, so we felt particularly lucky that it held off so we could enjoy our day in Cetinje.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


If you couldn't guess from the title, novac (pronounced no-vats) is the Serbian word for money
As we travel through the Balkans, we have collected various currencies. The Euro is the currency in Montenegro, even though it has not yet joined the European Union. Since this is fairly common throughout Europe, we didn't photograph it.

However, we thought you might like to see Macedonian Denar, Serbian Dinar (just a slight difference in spelling and pronunciation) and Bosnian Marks.

Notice the Madonna and Child on the Macedonian 1000 Denar. There is an Orthodox Priest on the Serbian 20 Dinar. And the Bosnian 50 Mark has some sort of Orthodox Icon on it. I can just imagine what sort of hissy fit the atheists in America would throw if we started putting pictures of Saints and church leaders on the money. They already balk at "In God we trust."

In the States, we have a Nutella jar full of coins and paper money collected in our various travels, and also generously donated by friends and family who have journied abroad. I am planning to add some of the money we gather here to that collection, but we may also spend some of it. We did spend most of our Macedonian money, and exchanged our Albanian Lek (not pictured here). But we might also give some currency to friends who also like to collect foreign coins.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's All Their Fault!

For the most part here in Montenegro, signs, books, etc are printed (in Serbian) using Latin letters. However, in other Balkan countries (with the exception of Albania) Cyrillic letters are more common. I admit that I (Laura) was resistant to learning a whole new alphabet in addition to a new language. I conveniently forgot that I was willing to learn two different sets of runes so I could read the front pages of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I am finally coming around and am trying to learn the Cyrillic as well. It's tricky to have to translate the letters and then the word.
The brothers Kiril and Metodij, immortalized here in bronze were the inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet. Here are our names in Cyrillic: Лаура and Стефан. Can you guess which one is which? The really tricky thing is that several Latin letters such as B, C, H and P represent a totally different letter in Cyrillic, such as V, S, N and R.