On Good Friday we ventured south in Montenegro for a multi-stop excursion with our friend, Milan Djurisic. Milan proved a friendly and thoughtful guide. And in the Montenegrin tradition he was proud to take us to his family village in Parsi on the way to the former Capitol, Cetinje.
After following the narrow winding road through rocky terrain for a few minutes we stopped at a fenced property which housed the village cemetery, chapel and the old schoolhouse “Biblioteka”. Milan said he actually went to school there, the rusty sign said it was built in 1893. The school is now closed, there are no children living in the village any longer. The cemetery was still in use. It was a lovely place with tall trees and lush grass,with both very old graves and some very new polished granite tombs. He told us the story of some of his relatives who are buried there.
We wound around the road a bit further, passing stone fences that must have been there for more than a century, outlining terraced gardens and sheepfolds. Sometimes I think they build a fence just to stack the rock out of the way. Milan’s house stands close to the road on a steep angle. It has a wide concrete patio that looks out over the valley and the remains of a previous generation’s roofless stone quarters. It’s a simple house, no running water or w.c. So we crossed the road and hiked up the short hill to the well. My clumsy claim to fame for the day was slipping in the mud and falling into the berry bushes. You don’t get out of berry bushed bloodless. Milan wouldn’t let me walk on ledges after that.
A short walk up the road, past a neighbor’s house brought us to Milan’s Aunt Anka’s house. We dropped in on her unannounced, and bless her heart she unhesitatingly welcomed us in and bustled around her living room/dining room putting on a fresh tablecloth, taking some homemade coffee cake out of the freezer, pouring us shots of homemade grape brandy and even cutting some fresh narcissus from her garden for me and for the table. There was a conversation between her and Milan about whether we would mind eating in a house where the dogs are allowed to come in. We felt at home.
She doesn’t speak “engleski” and we don’t speak “crnagorski”, but I understood her joy and delight in having company. She really liked Michael, said he was a gift of love from God. And I understood as she declared her faith in God, the Strong God, with gusto. She sent us home with coffee cake and hot, freshly dyed Easter eggs.
Her neighbor from further up the lane walked by with a little herd of beloved goats, you could tell by the happy way she carried the smallest ones. Milan says everyone in the village is related to him. They may be 5th cousins twice removed but they are “bratas” and “sestras” just the same. Though most families own land in the villages, most live in the cities in order to work. It is a very strenuous life to live off the land in these stony hills, but they are excellent gardeners and very creative “domacica” making cheese, jam, pickled vegetables, smoked meats and cordials.
Aunt Anka’s home has a million dollar view of the surrounding countryside with Lake Skadar in the distance, which is the largest lake in Europe. I hope that future generations will find a way to return to their villages and the enjoy the pleasantness of the rural life.