Random Montenegrin (and no friend of the Boat Milica team): Do you speak English?

Cedric Conboy: Not a word.

It is fair to say that Montenegrins have many admirable attributes, but one of them does not appear to be an appreciation for the finer points of English wit. This exchange, together with others, helped Cedric earn the epithet “Pičko” (or perhaps pička, I may have misheard) amongst the vultures who congregate by the banks of Lake Skadar selling boat tours. I will leave it to the discretion of Cedric’s audience to decide whether they wish to research what “Pičko” means in the local dialect, but needless to say it isn’t the sort of thing one ought to start calling one’s grandma.

Luckily we already had a tour booked, with Boat Milica Tours, run by a local family. Jelena the wife does the talking in English, her husband Andrija (born in Virpazar on the banks of the lake) steers the boat and provides comment in Montenegrin, and their children help out when they can. One cannot but heap praises upon this family team. Jelena is an excellent tour guide, her knowledge of the area is superb, she is friendly and honest, and knows just when to provide information and when to leave her guests to sit back, relax and enjoy the lake. I was particularly touched at the effort the family made to supply us with coffee.

Both husband and wife, clearly have a great love for nature. Andrija, for example, was keen to point out the different kinds of birds that live on the lake, which Jelena translated for us. As Jelena explained the lake has been kept free of the development, which has to some extent crowded the bay of Kotor, meaning it remains a tranquil spot, perfect for lovers of nature.

One of the highlights of the tour was our visit to the Monastery at Kom, built between 1415 and 1427. An orthodox monk, who we met, lives on the island Monastery (in the periods of drought it is actually connected to the land). I was blown away by his warm hospitality. He provided us with food and homemade “Rakia” (rakia or rakija, the word meaning spirits, is synonymous with the Balkans, comes in many varieties and is typically distilled at home). I was moved beyond words by this welcoming, as I felt at last a real part of the Balkans.

This tour was an incredible find by Cedric and I recommend it to anyone. It was my favourite part of an epic trip which I will never forget. By the end of the holiday, my only regret was that we could not continue travelling on. One is reminded of the lines from Tennyson’s poem Ulysses, in which the Homeric hero becomes the perfect archetype for the yearning wanderer:

“I am part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades 

For ever and for ever when I move. 

How dull is it to pause, to make an end, 

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!”