Ghosts from Montenegro

After a year travelling with my partner Eva I was on the way by myself for the first time. My idea was to walk alone with a tent around the mountains of Durmitor, Montenegro, and visit the exhibition of performance artist Marina Abramović in Belgrade, Serbia.

There are no people on the photos, only ghosts I met on the way. We laughed a lot. I love their Balkans humour and their ability to materialize in my memory.

In Žabljak my hosts were worried about me going alone in the unknown mountains. Two hikers met hunters with a wolf head that day and the temperature was – 5 °C in the morning. But I went. As Montenegro means ‘black mountain’ I was surprised how yellow it was, with herds of wild goats running in the distance. I felt as a survivor in the first evening burning a little fire made of a wooden walking pole to heat up soup and goulash.

After descending from Bobotov Kuk the second day I met Murderer and his Assistant in the mountain hut at Škrčko lake. They were friendly and prepared lunch from the can for me. But I escaped over the mountain Planina and spent evening by the fire, playing mouth harp and singing. After saying ‘Hi!’ to the lovely blue Tara river deep down the mountain Čurevac I returned to Žabljak. Lady was happy to see me alive again after 3 days and shared her roasted cabbage with me.

When I got off the train in Virpazar, an old village at Skadar lake near the Albanian border, I could feel warm and welcoming Mediterranean air. My search for a room ended at Beba‘s home. Beba was an old white haired lady, eating fish on her balcony.

Following mornings and evenings I spent in her kitchen where she was smoking on her bed, drinking coffee and telling me ghost stories. I believed her. I rented kayak and spent the day on the water visiting tiny island of Grmožur, Montenegrin Alcatraz. The only prisoner who escaped from there used the door as a raft, the legend says.

In the village Godje the red wine was running over the steep stairs between the old stone houses. Villagers sitting in the yard invited me to drink rakija with them in the morning, recalling memories from the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Some time later I was that drunken ghost picking up chestnuts in the forest.

With the night train I finally reached Belgrade, opening the drawers of Marina‘s sculpture Personal Archaeology. The whole magical world came out of there and filled the air with ghosts again. I felt alive.

Text & photo: Uroš