Big cities wore me out.
The agitated sound of motoring vehicles was constant. The air tasted gray and poisonous. The hard concrete gradually beat my feet, as I walked long distances on it.
Thus, I felt envigorated to leave Belgrade and its 1.8 million people - even though many of them were good people.
South of Belgrade, dirty, red, wavy, clay roofs on white homes intermingled with dark-green trees and fields so sunny and clear that the whole hillside countryside seemed heavenly.
Further south, the steep slopes of green mountains were painted up-and-down with these Serbian red roofs, because there was no other place to build cities or small towns.
My favorite driver of this hitchhiking trip was Ilea, a tanned, bulbous man who otherwise looked young and happy to be retired. He'd picked me up in heavy rain. We'd seperately witnessed rockets being fired at white clouds, which brought the rain. Ilea said Serbia had shot those same hissing rockets at NATO airplanes in 1999, but they only managed to knock down two.
In "Czecherbian" (if this made-up word seemed tough to pronounce, the language was even tougher to speak!), Ilea said he'd picked me up because a person's "dusha" (soul) was what mattered. Money wasn't important. He blamed Josip Broz's (Tito's) communism for destroying the country's moral character. He said the only thing good about communism was that women became free sexually; there had been little else to do.
And, prophetically, he said Serbia would be in Kosovo again.
But, I wasn't on my way to Kosovo, I was on my way to Montenegro.
It didn't make much sense to me why we English-speaking people used "Montenegro", the Italian translation of the local name, "Crna Gora", which meant "Black Mountain."
But, at first, it seemed like the whole country was on a single, black mountain. Big houses had personalities that could handle winter, and they claimed lonely spots on the endless plateau. Snow clung to far-away, black mountains. The air was fresh and black with clouds. In one spot, a river cut through mountains like a knife cuts cake, to make a foggy valley which resembled Alaska, and it seemed strange that this valley should be overflowing with white, red-roofed houses.
It also seemed like the whole country of 800,000 was one small village. My driver loudly honked his horn at his friends, who were almost everyone. If it was like a village, it might've explained why people in Belgrade described Montenegronians as "bezobrazny" (uneducated) and "malo grazdanin" (small citizen).
To my surprise, the Montenegroins I saw didn't resemble Slavs. They looked more Mediterranean, with sandy-colored skin. They said Serbia had occupied them in 1912, in order to have access to the sea.
The "Montenegronian" language was born two years ago; but, it sounded like they were essentially speaking Serbian.
My first driver, a twenty-one-year-old policeman returning from an overnight visit to a Serbian woman, said female Crna Gorilla's were very conservative romantically. My second driver, well-groomed and healthy-looking on the outside, dark and untrustworthy on the inside, spoke only about sex, in Czemontenegronianech, though I told him I wasn't interested.
From my experience, we hitchhikers were more likely to get picked up by aggressive, sexually-interested guys in countries where the women were conservative - for example, Greece and Turkey.
My third driver had lived in New York but said he was happy he was married to a Montenegirl, because he was allowed to "beat the hell" out of her.
And the Black Mountainite women didn't have much to say for themselves; I only saw one. Her skin was like a chalky peach. Her dark hair was wound up, with a tail. She had strong hips, in a long, white skirt with red shapes on it.
The third guy drove me on one of the country's dangerous roads, through a canyon so deep it was like Zeus had thrown a terrible snake into the land. That snake was the dark-aqua Moracha River. It now had a wide gulley to relax and play with boulders in, as it went by. Pyramidal, concrete-colored mountains stretched up and away from the crazy, local drivers, or leaned over the river.
My one night in Black Mountain was spent in nature. I camped in Lake Biograd's National Park. Yellow-green, dark-green, and green-green-green forest crowded around a lake 3300 feet above sea level. I pushed myself through the warmbody-swallowing water, which gave me a happy zap better than that of any drug. This was what I lived for!
The lake calmed me down. I'd been moving and writing so much lately, it took a second for me to relax and be still. The black lake ... the lack of people's voices and machines ... the twittering of small birds ... the splashing of water fowl as they hit the lake ... the darkness ... minks squeaking ... trees breaking ... there could've been bears ... my tent ...
Thanks, Dusha; Sasha & Isadoara; Ilea; Miroslav; Micko; Rifko; disgusting guy; and Nesrut for rides!