Watching Lisa interact with the baby goats at the OK Corral farm stay was like watching a strange dance of curiosity and uncertainty. Lisa would approach a goat until it noticed her and ran away to its mother. Once Lisa lost interest, the goat would approach her until she noticed it and ran over and hid her face between Dannie’s legs. They traded moments of pursuit and flight for about fifteen minutes while I knelt in the grass with my camera, fighting the harsh light of the late morning sun. It was a beautiful day in Montenegro.
Somewhere in the background I could hear Brit talking with Mia and Drazen, the farmstay hosts who had welcomed us shortly before we got distracted by the goats. Brit is the founder of Farm Stay Adventure site, Meanderbug, a service that connects travelers with authentic village experiences in the Balkans. But today he was doubling as our choufer and tour guide, having lured us away from Kotor, Montenegro with promises of breathtaking views, delicious food, and real cultural experience. The goats were part of the scenery and part of the family at OK Corral farm stay near Virpazar, our first stop of the day.
After playing with the goats (and viewing some of the messier animals from behind a fence) we got word that lunch was ready and we went inside to eat – after washing Lisa’s hands really well. There’s a saying in Montenegro, I’m told, that “meat is the best salad.” But Kozma, the OK Corral’s chef, was more than capable of whipping up a vegetarian meal with fresh, organic ingredients. I’m told his cooking is inspired by Jaime Oliver (Really, it was quite good!). The farmstay bills itself as a camping and glamping (glamorous camping, if you haven’t heard of it) resort, and the description fits. I’ve been camping plenty of times, but seldom was I served a three course meals.
Read about another glamping experience we had near Venice Italy.
Our first course was served with rakija, a potent beverage in a little glass. Even Lisa had a glass in front of her, but once it became apparent that she was a baby, we all agreed that maybe she should just have her sippy cup of water instead (I trust someone gave her rakija a good hood home). It was really nice sitting at a full table with Brit, Marko and Marija (two other locals who run a family estate at Skadar Lake). We couldn’t always understand the conversation, but we didn’t feel left out at all. It helps that everyone loves a baby, and Lisa had a way of drawing attention to our side of the table. Brit told us that in Montenegrin families, one of the aunts, called the tetka plays a special role in caring for and raising the children. Lisa doesn’t have a tetka, but I got the feeling that if we’d stayed for more than a few hours, Marija would have volunteered.
After lunch, we took a little rest in the tent out in front of the main building, then spent some more time exploring the farm. There was a lovely brook that flowed by, and we could see some canoes on a rack for paddling around a nearby lake. It was a little cool out for water sports, but I could just imagine Lisa peering over the edge of a canoe at the ripples in our wake. In the gardens we could see the sprouts of vegetables and spices that they grow and serve seasonally. Lisa has never gardened, but she certainly was eager to “help out” with the yard work. She’s a true slow travel enthusiast.
After cleaning up once more, we piled back into Brit’s car to continue our exploration of Montenegro through the eyes of Meanderbug. The great thing about driving in Montenegro is that there are hardly any patches where the view isn’t amazing. Often times while we were in the States we would drive past a gorgeous scene on our way to one destination or another. But Brit assured us that in Montenegro a laid back attitude is a necessity, and we took a detour to a mountaintop where we got to play around for a minute and enjoy a view of beautiful Lake Skadar on the Montenegro/Albania border.
Our next stop was the mountain village of Zukovica, perched high above the Adriatic Sea and bountiful with small vineyards gardens, pomegranate trees, and flowering bushes. We even saw some beehives along the side of the road. Before we got down to the business of relaxing here we had a little bit of an agenda. Brit asked us to participate in a video for the photography tips section of Meanderbug’s website. (Click here to see the tip. All of us also filmed a outro video with them that Dannie and I thought seemed very strange, but which Brit assured us would be hilarious to anyone familiar with Montenegrin television. Perhaps any Montenegrins reading this could confirm that?)
With our 30 minutes of “work” out of the way, we got down to the business of relaxing. Branko and Lilija invited us to their home where they shared the view with us, along with a (rather large) carafe of home made wine. It went down pretty smooth, and limiting ourselves to one glass was a bit of a challenge. We sipped the wine, nibbled on cheese and watched the sun sink lower in the sky. Lilija even brought out a glass of juice she had made from the pomegranates harvested earlier in the year. Lisa guzzled it!
After refreshments and some conversation, Dannie, Lisa and I went out to explore the mountainside as the sun set. The ruins of some large stone building (we decided to assume it was a castle, since everything in Europe must be a castle), looked decidedly spooky up close. But silhouetted against the crimson sky over the Adriatic Sea, it added to an already magical aura that had set in. The wine probably wasn’t hurting, either.
We felt tired from our busy day, and on the car ride back to Kotor, we chatted quietly as Lisa slept, head on Dannie’s leg. Brit told us about the difference that farmstays were making in the lives of the locals. In a country plagued by low employment, a single booking was enough to make a year changing difference in income for a farm. We thought it seemed like a pretty good deal. This had been the most unique day of our journey so far. There were no monuments and no souvenir stands, just beautiful places, and real people. Oh, and some good wine and some very friendly goats.
Disclamer: During our visit we received free transportation and meals.