It was a miserable rainy day and we were both down to our last pair of clean underwear, so putting off washing clothes was not an option. Unfortunately, the only place we had found that would do people’s washing was at a campsite about a mile outside of town. It took several minutes of walking in the rain to find a taxi out to the campsite, and since my only pair of pants was caked with mud I was looking rather cold and bedraggled in my shorts and t-shirt by the time we turned our clothes over to the woman at the campsite.

As we were debating whether we should walk back to town in the rain or not, I heard the offer of, “Cafe?” Although Pat looked reluctant, I promptly accepted. I was looking for anything to add a little warmth to my body. We were ushered into a small room with a big wood-fired cook stove that had me feeling warm almost immediately. Pat is not a coffee drinker, and politely declined when he was offered a cup and asked for “voda” (water), instead. This was apparently the wrong thing to request or was misunderstood, because our hostess promptly pulled out a bottle and a shot glass instead. How do you say no to an offer of hard liquor before 11:00 in the morning – especially when you don’t know the language? Apparently “nay” is not enough to decline a drink because not only did Pat get a shot of vodka, he also got a cup of super strong Turkish coffee put in front of him. He carefully sipped his vodka, and I managed to drink both cups of coffee which resulted in a serious caffeine buzz.

We thanked our hosts and as we got up to leave we were told that if we waited five minutes another man who had arrived while we were in the kitchen would take us back to town free of charge. Several other Montenegrins had dropped in to the kitchen to speak to our host while we were drinking our vodka and coffee. The pattern was the same every time: first they would shake hands with our host and hostess, then with me and then with Pat. We did our best to follow suit, and shook hands with our host and his guests as we left the kitchen.

The next morning we had another encounter with Montenegrin hospitality. As Pat was walking in to town to get juice and rolls for our breakfast, he was approached by our hostess where we are staying here in Zabljak. She seemed to have been waiting for us to appear, and asked us to join her for breakfast. The table was set, and there was a huge plate full of delicate crepes and homemade cherry jam waiting for us.

Our 72 year-old hostess does not seem to speak any English and our Montenegrin skills are limited to: thank you, goodbye, yes and no. To fill in the gap where conversation normally would have been she kept plying us with food. Pat succumbed to five or six crepes and I had three. When we insisted that we couldn’t eat any more crepes, she poured us both a glass of homemade huckleberry juice with huckleberries floating around in the glass. Then she and I both had a cup of strong Turkish coffee, and more fresh huckleberries. We finally managed to roll out of her kitchen after the coffee in a full and happy state.

In the days that followed, we were pulled for more Turkish coffee and huckleberry juice. One evening she beckoned us in and showed us several large mushrooms that she had harvested in the mountains. The next morning, she served us a delicate home-made phyllo pastry laced with pieces of mushrooms and a mild cheese. It was still warm from the oven, and was delicious. Even Pat, who doesn’t like mushrooms, ate his serving and confessed that it was quite good.

Montenegrins really do seem to be very welcoming and kind. Two women we met here got caught in the same thunderstorm we did a few days ago. As they were walking back to town cold and soaked to the bone, a taxi driver stopped and gave them a lift free of charge. When we went to pick up our laundry in the rain, we paid a cab driver to take us out there and he brought us back in to town for no charge.

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