If I’m quiet for a bit, sorry. Well, I’m not sorry. I’m going on holiday.
We’ll fly from London to Dubrovnik, in Croatia, head along the coast to the Bay of Kotor, travel through Montenegro to Kosovo, then take the train to Serbia, before flying home from Belgrade.
I’ve been to this part of the world once before, and all too briefly. It was a day-trip from Croatia, across the border into Montenegro. Since that once short visit, about five years ago, I’ve been determined to go back. I knew nothing at all then about Montenegro, and I was stunned and silenced by its beauty. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t read or heard much about it; that it wasn’t lauded left right and centre as one of the most beautiful spots in Europe. But I was glad that it wasn’t, because so many of the little towns along the shore were quiet, peaceful, relatively unvisited. It felt like a discovery.
But I just haven’t got around to going back – until now.
I remember a land with inflections of Venice (the coast here was once under Venetian rule), from Turkey (the Ottoman Empire’s tentacles stretched up through the Balkans) and Austro-Hungary (the last empire to colonise the Adriatic coast), all laid over its own indigenous culture.
That comes through on your plate, too – there’s few better ways to understand a country’s history than by eating your way through it. And we’ll be doing plenty of that.
It’s a part of the world that holds eternal fascination for me and, armed with my battered copy of Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (hands down my favourite book of all time), I can’t wait to see what it reveals this time around.