This weekend was one of renewal. I needed it.
Saturday morning my fellow Fulbrighter, Joanie, and I decided we needed to get out of Podgorica and into nature. We found a cheap cab to Cetinje, the old capital of Montenegro, and, from there, took another taxi to Bukavica, a small village farther up in the mountains. From Bukovica, we planned to take a 3.5 hour hike through Lovćen, a mountain and national park, up to its most famous peak, Jezerski, then catch a cab down and head back home to Podgorica for the night. We ended up doing so more.
Our hike was beautiful. The landscape varied greatly- from rocky hills, to meadows, to forest, and everything in between. The gorgeous views of valleys and villages below, and great conversation along the way, exhilarated and motivated us to press on.
The Mausoleum of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš sits atop the summit of Jezerski. The views from this spot are truly spectacular- neither words nor pictures can capture the beauty… or the feeling of accomplishment in reaching it.
It felt great to reach our destination- and to be rewarded at the top with epic scenery and a delicious meal at Nacionalni Restoran Vidikovac, the café that sits 1,560 meters up the mountain. Over lunch, Joanie and I decided that we were having such a wonderful hike that we wanted to continue on to Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the coast, for the night rather than riding down to the start and heading back to Podgorica as originally planned.
This decision added hours onto our hike, but it was worth it. The weather was beautiful but there were some rough areas on our way down to Kotor. Large trees had fallen onto the trail in some places and we had to navigate our way through them. The terrain on the way down was steep in some areas and, I confess, there were moments when I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. However, there was no stopping- and promise of Kotor’s beauty and rich history was a nice motivator. When we were finally able to see the town and the sea below, I was so glad we had decided to make the trek.
We reached Kotor just as it was getting dark and headed straight for Stari Grad, Kotor’s Old Town. We were able to find lodging right in its heart, at Hotel Rendez Vous. By the end of the day, my FitBit said that we had walked 17.01 miles through the mountains- a total of 38,949 steps! High on endorphins and proud of our feat, we celebrated with a delicious feast and some red wine. As we ate, I was surprised to notice that there was an American Football game on the TV… and I was shocked to realize that it was the Michigan State/Youngstown game! It was a collision of my worlds in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Joanie and I woke up this morning and explored Kotor. An old fortress of stone built into the mountain and filled with modern cafés and shops; Stari Grad is one of the coolest places imaginable. Old juxtaposed with new. Absolutely beautiful.
Making it through such an intense hike and overcoming the obstacles along the way is one of the most empowering things I have done in quite awhile. It made me feel more in touch with nature and with myself than I have in a long time. Walking from Bukovica to Kotor was a great reminder that am stronger than I give myself credit for- both physically and mentally.
I had been in a sort of haze since arriving in Montenegro and, after getting out of the city for a bit, I have a new sense of clarity and remembered why I came in the first place: the history and beauty of this country and the growth and knowledge that will come from overcoming challenges while exploring it.
Here’s to the adventures and empowerment to come!