I’ve just come back from a week in the mountains of Montenegro, in a little village called Zlijebi. Montenegro is one of the countries that used to make up Yugoslavia, on the Adriatic coast across from Italy. It’s an old and relatively undeveloped country in places, even though it is so close to western Europe, and it also happens to be where most of my family originate. Montengrians are a very stubborn and proud people from a part of the world that has been at the centre of many wars. They are also apparently joint tallest of all European people, along with the Dutch. But what is most amazing is some of the large moustaches you see out there – really bold ‘Borat’ style!

I know I’ve spent a year travelling the world making Last Man Standing, but I still strongly feel the difference everytime i go somewhere into nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the working life. The quietness, the simplicity, the early nights, the fresh air. It definitely makes you wonder what you’re rushing about for in everyday life. And like every trip we made with Last Man Standing, it helps me clear my head and appreciate the things I value and the things I want to strive for.

Zlijebi is a tiny village consisting of about 6people – all of whom are over 50years of age. In fact the average age is probably more like 65! The reason I was in this village is that my family owns some land there, right on the cliff edge about 700metres up, and we’re in the process of creating a fitness retreat there. I think the word ‘retreat’ makes it sound a little more hippy-ish than it is, but really its just a place where you step out of busy city life and enter ‘mountain village life’ with some fitness training thrown in. It’s a slow development because there isn’t the money to make it happen fast, but there is something special about having to get down and dig your own septic tank for 4days and break your back pulling huge rocks out of the ground. It’s the kind of struggle and challenge that is enjoyable because its working towards something. Of course it also made me think of how many prisoners of war might have been made to work like that in labour camps, with no real reward and no real sense of purpose…but that thought just made me appreciate that my challenge was a good one, not a horrible one. But as much as I like a challenge, I’m also looking forward to this summer where we’ll have a it partly completed and have people visiting the retreat for a few days or weeks, exercising and eating healthy food during the day and playing music with local musicians during the evenings, maybe hiking up into the mountains and jumping into the sea afterwards, drinking from fresh springs and eating traditional food. A proper holiday! For me that’s more like living than staying in nice hotel and eating too much and watching TV, and so that’s what I’m working towards.

One of the highlights of the week was definitely one of the old lady’s of the village who I called Gospi. 70 years old and a little frail, she’s lived on her own at the top of the hill for the last 20 years since her husband died. Such a solitary life. But since my father’s been there on and off the past year, she’s become his adopted mother, always making him bread and worrying about his health and generally telling him off! But somehow everything she does is so funny and enjoyable, even when she’s telling you off, because she has such a happy heart and such a sense of humour. She’s the real character of the village. I guess another thing that adds to her cuteness is that she has no teeth anymore and so when she speaks her face moves so much and she uses more facial expressions than I think I’ve ever seen before. And of course, going to drink from what I thought was a cup of tea (but was actually a cup with false teeth in it) is just one of the funny memories of what was a brilliant week in fitness retreat Montenegro

Posted in Rajko's Blog | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Montenegro

  1. sujinie says:

    great idea…thanks for sharing, rajko. how beautiful…the simplest acts and experiences can be so meaningful. the idea of playing music with local musicians – i love that aspect – as well as bringing wholeness to individuals and communities by nurturing the soul physically and spiritually. how does one go about signing up for one of these retreats?

  2. whoknowsU says:

    Fabulous story, and thanks for taking us along on your trip… So vivid, and I Iaughed at the thought of you drinking the cup of false teeth! Looking forward to hearing more about the progress of your family retreat.

    Your village experience reminded me of a trip I made back to my village in the Philippines (when I was 18 — I left when I was 4). I had travel back to Bayangbang with my father to attend to my ailing grandmother. My father, being diabetic, needed to have his insulin refrigerated, and had ordered a refirgerator to be delivered. The village had finally gotten electricity by then. There was a great commotion the day the delivery arrived, and all the villagers came running to see this “thing” called a refrigerator. Mind you…it was nothing more than a 3-foot (approximately a meter) high party fridge…BUT…all the power blew out the moment we plugged in the fridge! There was a loud, collective groan…because the town only had enough power to light up 10 homes at the same time. It took nearly 4 hour to restore the power afterwards…
    Also — They still didn’t have any running water to the homes, and we had to get our water from the village pump. What they did to rig up a shower..of sorts…is a whole other story!!!

    Please keep us posted on this wonderfully exciting new venture in your life… It’s great to see how you simply do vs. talk about the different directions you could/should follow. Whether you know it or not — you are a motivational/creative/and spritiual muse to many.

    I would be so bold as to tell you that you need never wonder what your purpose is…because you live each day so purposefully!

    Be well…always,

  3. Stef says:

    Hi there,
    As always, thanks for sharing. You have such an intriguing way of writing. I laughed out loud a few times, especially at the Borat reference! I must agree with you that a proper holiday is definitely NOT sitting in a hotel. Why travel if you’re not getting out and actually seeing the place you decided to travel too (however this is from someone who is terrified to fly haha). I have friends who go down south twice a year to simply sit around a pool, and they wonder why I wont make the trip, it makes no sense to me!

    I think its really important for people to step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to enjoy what nature has to offer. Since I work in an emergency shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence, I take every chance I can get (which isn’t often) to take a hike, or watch the stars, even if it is just to be reminded that there is simple beauty out there and a greater presence. The retreat sounds like a great idea, and something I think a lot of people would be interested in! It especially seems like a good way to meet like minded people and truly enjoy yourself and the elements. It must be so rewarding to work on it, and to see the progress ~even if it is just a hole for the septic tank. The vision is there, and it sounds pretty amazing.
    Please Keep us updated on the progress.

    Take Care,

  4. Kel says:

    I too, always feel like I can breathe again when I immerse myself in the natural rhythm and harmony of nature………like i have been holding my breath in normal everyday life, fighting the native instincts of my primitive soul and the tribal dance of my ancestors. To bathe in abundant beauty and creative perfection awakens my senses and ripples through my entire being, merging with the moment, the essence of existance, alive with inspiration…………

    Love and Light
    Nature Spirit

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