Thawing out in Prishtina, Kosova
I’ve spent some time lately thinking about Chirstmases past. I have spent lots of time looking at pictures on Facebook and loving it. Seeing all those happy faces surrounded by family, food and glitz. All the fun, all the joy of the season. Our Christmas was a bit different this year. After bringing in the season spending a lovely afternoon with friends, things calmed down, a lot.
I had decorated a bit and baked some, but I then I realized I was done. That was it. You see it is VERY expensive to mail presents to or from this country, so we decided to trim our list to the bare essentials (our kids and granddaughter) and use Amazon. We also decided that we had bought ourselves lots of goodies while we were in the states, so we would forgo presents to each other.
Then I noticed that the lights that went up on Mother Teresa Blvd. last year in November, weren’t lit this year. And there were fewer decorations around town. It was just kind of bare. It seems the mayor didn’t want the New Year’s lights up until after the 25th for some reason.
Even the local churches decided that it was a better idea to have smaller services at each church rather than one big gathering on Christmas Eve as they did last year.
How does one celebrate when the glitz and presents and all the trappings are gone. Then one day, it hit me. It was like Whoville (don’t you love Dr. Seuss). We didn’t need all the falderal to have Christmas.
Yes, maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. So we celebrated Christmas Eve with a couple of friends by having dinner (they brought us thoughtful presents, by the way) and going to church together.
Then, by choice, Ted and I spent Christmas day, just the two of us. We went to the lovely Swiss Diamond for breakfast. Afterwards we took a walk down Mother Teresa Blvd. We walked and talked to each other. Every once in awhile we would stop and talk to Our Father. It was, perhaps the loveliest Christmas ever. Quiet, restful, full of the meaning of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the fanfare of Christmas. I can’t wait to have a Christmas full of family and loud noisy fun back in the states someday, but our little Whoville Christmas was just perfect this year.
When New Year’s came around it reminded me of another children’s tale, Frozen. I haven’t seen the movie, but in this case, the title says it all. It began the day after Christmas. We woke to a gorgeous blanket of snow. We decided that the best thing for these California kids to do was to light a big fire in the fireplace and hibernate. It was beautiful looking at the large snowflakes drifting down outside our window as we watched Netflix and drank tea, like living in a snow globe. We couldn’t even work because the heat was off at the school and the building was just too cold – delightful.
On the 30th we headed of on an adventure with two of our favorite travelers, Skender and Jackie. Skender had borrowed his brother’s car and over the rivers and through the mountains to Montenegro we went.
First stop, bathroom break at a gas station in Albania. Where it was more than a bit windy!!
We were going to have a cup of tea to warm up at the restaurant (yes, almost all gas stations have a restaurant attached), but it was all set up for a wedding.
Yes, a wedding at the local gas station.
Then we passed these guys.
Why were they huddled out there in the blowing wind?
a To sell New Year’s turkeys of course. Yes, fresh turkey for dinner, feathers and all. We just passed on by.
Then on we went down the curvy, one lane road past the border into Montenegro and what should we meet running full speed down the middle of the road, coming right at us?
a herd of sheep!
Yes, running, full speed! Guess they wanted out of the wind too.
Such a lovely drive, but even better, was the lovely town of Kotor that met us when we arrived. Kotor is a town straight out of the middle ages, complete with a full wall and doors into the old city.
Inside the wall, entering the old town
We stayed in a darling, modestly priced hotel
That is our room, second floor on the left.
with engaging views of the old city.
On New Year’s Eve Ted and I spent the day wandering the streets, just enjoying the view. One of the best things about going to Kotor at this time of the year is that most tourists want to come when it is warm and sunny, not when it is cold and the wind is blowing you off of your feet. Why is that good? Well, we had the whole hotel and practically the whole town to ourselves to explore. Fun!
We did lots of window shopping because most shops were closed for the New Year. Ted thinks that is a great way to save money :]
There were lots of churches to explore
The orange light at the base of the altar is a beautiful nativity.
There was even a town well,
a draw bridge,
The draw bridge no longer works, but see those metal balls hanging there? Those are the weights from when it did work.
and a moat
The gate on the right is the outside of the draw bridge.
As we explored outside the gates, we found a market
Not many vendors on this windy, colder than normal day.
and some ruins that we could walk all over, no one seemed to care about them.
Why weren’t archeologists all over this digging, we wondered. Then as we explored, we figured it out. It is a grave yard.
Yes, those roman numerals say 1561!
Our wanderings then took us around the bay a bit to enjoy the view.
Beautiful day, but did I mention that it was so cold and windy that we had to hold onto each other for support!
We even had a little pork for lunch!
Well, really it looked more like this :] Yum!
And what were Jackie and Skender doing while we wandered the town? Climbing straight up the mountain side to the fort at the tippy top.
They told us the view was well worth it. We will have to try it sometime when it is A) not so cold and gusty and B) we feel a lot younger.
That night to prove once again that Skender and Jackie are young, they stayed up until midnight, while the old fogies went to bed. Turns out that since most of the people in town decided that it was a good idea to stay inside for the blustery New Year, so there wasn’t much of a celebration at midnight. But, Skender and Jackie did see a couple fireworks over the bay while we snoozed away.
New Year’s Day we decided we should all go exploring the countryside. We had heard that out in the bay a short distance from town are two islands. One is a natural island and has had a monastery on it since the 1100’s. The other island is a man made island. The story goes, back in the 1300’s, some fishermen found a painting of a Madonna and Child on a rock out in the bay. They saw that as a sign to build. After 200 years, a lot of rocks and some sunken pirate ships, the town had an island and a church to house the painting.
Thank you Google images for this picture. I don’t know why, with all of the pictures I took, I did not get a good picture of the little island church. And yes, it was this beautiful!
This seemed like something we just had to see, so off we went to the town of Perast.
We hoped on a ferryand within a few minutes we were there
Once again we enjoyed the luxury of winter travel. We were the only people on the ferry and when we got into the church we got our own private tour from a sweet little lady with lots of great stories to tell.
See the painting above the altar? That is the painting that started this whole thing.
When there is a wedding in the church, the bride leaves her bouquet to ensure a long and happy marriage.
After the tour, we took a walk around the town
Palm trees always remind me of home.
I told Ted we should buy this and fix it up into a bed and breakfast, just like people do on House Hunters International.
Then he looked inside and said, “Yeah, just like on House Hunters International.” I think that means he doesn’t think it is a good idea.
After our walk about the town, we took a drive into the mountains to enjoy the cute little villages in the snow. Then it was back along the bay for dinner and to the hotel in time for me to cuddle up with the i-pad and watch the Rose Parade with Bob and Stephanie! Those of you who know me well, know that Bob and Stephanie are critical to beginning my New Year well.
The next day dawned bright, relatively warm, and without a breeze, so of course it was time to head home.
But, all of that wonderfulness, as cold and windy as Montenegro was, that was not the most frozen part of our New Year, no that happened upon our return.
Editor’s Note: While I was writing this blog, my daughter-in-law, sweet Andrea, reported on her Facebook page that she was out pumping her own gas in the -30° weather. Yes, that is MINUS 30° FAHRENHEIT. So, I do apologize to Matthew and Andrea Erskin and all the good people of Fairbanks, Alaska, but that is not going to keep me from whining for the next little bit.
When we left for our time away, we, like all good energy conscience people who have never lived in a snowy place before, turned off all of our heaters. Well, except for the one in the kitchen, which we turned down low because we were plant sitting for a friend and didn’t want to kill her orchids.
Anyway, as we made our way home, a man at a gas station was all too happy to tell us that the coldest place in the Balkans over the new year was Prishtina! Hooray! It got down to about 0°F. So, when we walked into our little brick, uninsulated home, it was freezing!! Well, except for the kitchen which was barely bearable. We started up the heaters and got some fires going, but all of that didn’t do much for our frozen chunk of a bed. Ted slept in his clothes, I slept in my warmest jammies and socks and my cuddly robe and we piled on extra blankets and still we shivered through the night.
The next morning we woke up to find that the water was just a trickle, until it stopped all together. That meant frozen pipes. So, we consulted the weather channel to find out how long this would last – about a week or more – and then we consulted some people who have actually lived through this weather before in these ice box houses. We were told to leave a tap open, get the house warmed up and then the water should flow again.
That night at dinner time Ted decided we should go out to eat because he could tell, while I am a trooper, making dinner in a walk-in freezer with no water was not an option. So, we bundled up and went on down to warmth and good food at our local hangout, Picnic.
When we got home, Ted said, “Listen, water.” Oh no, not the kind of water coming from a tap, no the kind of water spraying everywhere from the WALL!!!! Luckily it had just started and it was hot water (as opposed to icy cold water spraying all over us). We found the location – under the stairs where it is almost impossible to get to, of course – and got a bucket.
Yes, that is water pouring directly from a pipe in the wall. And yes, the only light nearby was a flashlight.
We thought, since it was hot water, once the hot water heater on the other side of that wall was empty, the water would stop. No, once the hot water stopped, the cold water started. So, Ted searched around and found the main shut off valve and turned all the water to the whole house off. Did I mention that this was a Saturday night and we would have to wait until Monday to get our maintenance man to help us? That is about the time we decided that we should crawl into our newly warmed bed and get some sleep.
Then on Sunday we found out why there are chimney sweeps in this world. We were finally getting it a bit warmer in the house with the help of a fire in the fireplace when the wind kicked up outside. It turns out that if your chimney in full of creosote, it doesn’t draw well and so when a gust of wind comes by, it shoots the smoke and ash back down the chimney and into your living room. We had to douse the fire and get out of the smoky room. So, Ted added chimney sweep to our list of Monday maintenance and that is when I decided that a Sunday afternoon nap was in order – at least I was getting some rest.
On Monday, Luli took care of us, got the water up and running and got a chimney sweep to come to the house. We finally got the house to a reasonable temperature and we found out that in this house all of the water pipes end in a panel behind the wall in the bathroom, so if the bathroom is warm, the water will run. We got a new heater and now the warmest room in the house is the bathroom! I have been thinking of filling the bathtub with cushions, turning it into a giant couch and spending my evenings in there.
So, things are looking up this frozen new year. We are back to work and the school is slowly thawing out. The house is warming up, the fire is roaring without a smoke filled room, and the water is running. We are doing well.
Spring and warmer weather are just around the frozen corner. We try to keep in mind what that perky little girl Annie sang,
The sun’ll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
there’ll be sun
Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow ’til there’s none
When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say, oh
The sun’ll come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on
’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You’re always a day away!
Yes, tomorrow it is predicted to be sunny and warmer. Next week? More snow, but this time I think we are ready.