June 08 2009:
Syldavia, a land of barren hills hard by the adriatic – stark and beautiful and sometimes known as Montenegro (although I suspect that Herge might have had Albania in mind) is the scene of my latest wanderings. I arrived here on Monday the 8th and will depart three days later having barely scraped the surface of this harsh country. In Herge’s imagination, Montenegro, Albania, in fact anywhere in the Balkans was fantastically ‘other’ in a here there be dragons sort of way. I don’t blame him. It is a country that demands your attention – blistering hot in the summer, rocky, stubble covered hills and breath taking beaches and seascapes. The women are all six feet tall, gorgeous and serious. The men, short, fat and attached to the end of a cigarette. Go figure.
Word to the wise: Montenegro Airlines is where old airliners go to die. I flew in from Vienna on a Fokker 100 – about 1000 years old yet piloted by young lads desparate to impress the stunning stewardesses (“shining like a newly minted penny” to quote the corgi). Mind you it is a bit of toss up whether one might want a new and well maintained aircraft adorned with ancient battleaxes schlepping gruel onto your tray (see Air Canada), or the crap shoot of an ancient aircraft populated with amazons – providing that frisson of interest as one simultaneously contemplates the idea of breaking apart at 25000 feet yet accompanied by some of the best looking women one will ever meet whilst flying.
To add even more excitement; the pilots got in on the act as apparently, even a jet liner held together with duct tape can be made to simulate a fighter jet – our hard spine compressing landing was embellished with a couple of good hard tarmac bounces thrown in for good measure, no doubt leaving a few rivets on the runway. So there I was in in Podgorica (bet you never thought I would wind up there!) happily confronted with the decison to immediately board the motor coach or settle in for a few pints while waiting for the attendees from later flights. Points to those who guess how many beer I had.