Kotor is a small town on the coast of Montenegro, and has a lively marketplace filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and eggs, wine and cheese. We embarked on a cheese quest … Story and photos by Jim Shubin
Kotor seems to be prosperous: the women are stylish, the town sports an inordinate number of shoe stores, and investors from England, Ireland, and Russia are buying up real estate for 5,000 Euros/square meter. The people of Montenegro have voted in favor of independence and hope to join the EU in 2012. From the Adriatic Sea, one travels a narrow waterway far inland with steep cliffs surrounding the town. Founded in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE, there are two fortresses and a cathedral overlooking the town. There is a lot of Italian influence here as the Venetians located an arsenal here from the 15th to 18th centuries—which explains why the main square is called the Square of Weapons. Restaurants and cafes circle the square, and nearby is the market, where plenty of produce, fish, cheese, and vegetables can be found.
It was easy to find the market, and it was fun! We tasted almost everything—it seems the vendors like to feed the shoppers. On our cheese quest we came across a couple of vendors, one of whom we ended up calling The Feta Man. He assumed we knew what he was talking about but we had no idea, as we don’t speak Montenegroian—but with our simple Italian we got the gist of his bragging. “The best Feta in the world!”—he spoke quite loudly. His sales pitch was persuasive and after sampling a bit, we decided to buy some cheese for our lunch.
I had a 5-Euro coin and handed it to him, asking for a small slice. Pocketing the coin he grabbed a sheet of waxed paper, took his largest chunk and began to wrap it. It was about a 5-pound piece. “Attesa, attesa!” I shouted—to no avail. It seems he had suddenly forgotten how to speak Italian. He handed me the wrapped cheese with a big smile and no change, also handing me a plastic bottle of Pepsi Cola.
“No, No. We don’t drink that stuff.” I could only say it in English.
“Ya, Ya,” he replied, “Vino, vino—buon vino casalingo.”
So there we were, walking around town with a liter bottle of homemade wine, no glasses to drink it in, a 5-pound bag of stinky feta, no bread to eat it with, and out of money.