October 24, 2009

Magical Montenegro and Mujo.

My oh my. How quickly time flies. I returned to Aussieland last Thursday. It felt so strange; I was getting used to handling the Euro currency, driving on the "opposite" side of the road; the numerous cyclists; the different landscapes and the cold snap that left me wearing all my clothes at once. Home was dry, hot and brown. It hasn't rained since I left hubby tells me. And it looks like it. I yearned for the brilliant greens in northern Montenegro and in Germany. I have been very pensive and I look forward to Mitch returning next week so we can talk about our adventures.

How does one answer the question; "how was your trip"? I certainly don't have a one liner or a couple of words to describe it. There were lots of ups and downs; heaps of experiences; tears of joy and sadness and moments of sheer exhilaration. Anger too. The main thing is we did it and we are so much the richer for it.

Our travels saw us go to Croatia, Germany, Serbia and Montenegro. We spent one whole month in Montenegro and it was marvellous. But not for the usual touristy reasons. We stayed with relations up north, in the city and in the mountains and then with other relatives down on the coast in Tivat.

Montenegro is such a land of contrast. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. Gorgeous aqua coloured sea water set beneath the most rugged and tallest of mountains. No wonder the Turks were unable to conquer the people in this terrain. The population today is small. About 700,000, if that. The country is small in size too. It's not even 200 kilometres from the sea to the northern border with Serbia. Not your usual 200 kms though. There are lots of bends to negotiate. Monsterous mountains to climb. Crazy risk taking drivers to beware of. And lots of dodgy cars that may not make the stretch.

It was another world. Nothing like Australia. Yet Mitch and I became very attached to this economically and financially depressed country. But most of all we became attached to the people. These people were real. No one ever "hid" their feelings. I will never forget Rajka; she managed to laugh, cry, scream and sigh all in the one breath! No joke. There were never any fascades. You always knew how people were going because you could see it. It was sooooooo refreshingly honest and raw.

My uncle Manojle lives in Potrk. He is 82 years old. He lives with his bedridden wife, Stana, and his 55 year old son, "Mujo"(pronounced Mooyour). Mujo is his nickname. Unfortunately when he was very little Mujo had an accident with boiling hot water that scored his skin straight through to his kidney. He was lucky to live. He received a massive shock to his system and his growth was stunted. He never married. He lives in the family home in the hills and looks after his parents and tends to all the jobs around the house. He also milks the cows, makes yoghurt and cheese, bakes bread and does all the cooking for the three members of the household.

Whenever something is needed, he rings his brother who lives thirty minutes away by car and Mujo's shopping is bought home by either his brother or nephew. His sister,also a nurse, comes up regularly because their mother needs an injection from time to time. Mujo is amazing. He gets on with his "lot" in life and I never once heard a word of complaint from him. His mother has been bedridden since January and he can never venture far. Whenever she calls him, he carefully tends to her needs. He places her on the sofa during the day so that she is with the family and then he takes her to bed at night. Mitch and I have never seen anything like it. There certainly was no form of respite for Mujo.

Mujo did all the cooking while we stayed there. And it wasn't just us. We had other relatives who also stayed and lots of local people from the village who wanted to see these people from "Australia". Mujo handled everything and delegated jobs to willing helpers. Everyone respected him and everyone did as they were asked. The whole experience of seeing Mujo and his world was a very humbling one indeed.

Mujo adored Mitch. Mitch certainly pulled his weight around the place. I was very surprised actually. Mitch went up in the hills with my cousins and cut and carried wood all day. He helped with cutting grass, raking and collecting to form hay bales. He worked on a number of occasions and they were all blown away by this Aussie boy who was happy to help them with their chores. Far from what they expected. It was only later, they told me they expected this boy from Australia was going to be a "cool" kid with designer labelled clothes, attached to his ipod and expecting to be served. Gosh how I laughed. Because along came Mitchell and he is none of those things. To use their words; "he was one of us", and they adored him.

Mujo was always careful to prepare and have good food for his "Mitchko". He would get up at 4am sometimes to prepare the bread dough for proving and sometimes he would also make these donut type balls called "kroffne". Mitch loved them and he would gobble them up with jam or his newly found favourite food "Eurocrem", sort of like Nutella. I watched Mujo as he watched his Mitchko eating the freshly made kroffne's. Mujo was beaming. We shall never forget him.

Mujo's Kroffne

I'm afraid a little baking knowledge is required because in this part of the world there are no recipes or exact measurements. Mujo created this dish purely based on the look and the feel of the dough. Good Luck.

bread flour
sunflower oil
fresh yeast
2 eggs

Dissolve the yeast in some warm water. Add to the flour along with the beaten eggs, milk and a little oil.

Work to a smooth but stickly consistency. Rest till rises.

Mujo set aside for 2 hours. He says the rising shall depend on the quality of the flour.

When risen, place onto a well floured bench and knead. Knead till workable.

Roll out. Using a scone cutter; cut out round shapes. Allow to sit while bringing a large pot of oil to a hot temperature.

Place in only enough kroffne that will float on top of the oil. Turn with a fork till brown all over. Remove from oil. Keep warm while cooking the rest.

Mujo recommends making one on it's own; opening it up and seeing how well it is cooked before cooking in batches.


  1. What a beautiful entry, Mama.
    I read, and re-read with tears flowing.
    Just magic.

  2. How wonderful!! It is so great to have you back. We have missed you so much and have been looking forward to some exceptional blog entries and this is one of many to come I am sure!!
    What an incredible adventure you have both had. I love that you said about the reply to so how was your trip? that made me laugh. When Bruno and I got back from Japan, Korea and Thailand people said so what was your favorite part? I think it would be like saying who is your favorite child?? How can you say what was THE moment of the whole trip, you can't, the whole thing is collective and you just have different moments that make up the whole adventure.
    I hope you get to see bruno's blog with all our adventures - www.brunobertucci.blogspot.com.
    Can't wait to be inspired by your cooking!! Thanks again Marianna
    Love kylie

  3. What a beautiful post! what a lovely story and I'm so happy for you and your son Mitch. I can only imagine what it felt like and how wonderful it must have been for you to 'go back' literally and in your hearts. I look forward to more.:)

  4. Hello my precious Issy.
    Your few words left me feeling very touched. Wish you were here. Love Mama.

    Hey Kylie. Thanks sweetie for all your lovely remarks. I just popped over and checked out your trip on bruno's blog. My goodness. What a whirlwind of an adventure you two had. The moment in the massive stadium with everyone singing had to be one of the main highlights for me. Just amazing. You both sound like you had the most fantastic time. The pics prove it too. I don't think I shall be going into such detail with my trip. Just the odd trip down memory lane. Some things are best kept in the memory bank. Thanks for making me feel so welcome back Kylie, but quite frankly I need lots of motivation to get back to my blogging. Cross fingers I get inspired soon.
    Love Mariana.

    Lovely to hear from you again zurin. Thank you - in many ways it was a time for reconnecting and discovery and that is exactly what happened.

  5. Hello Mariana, I'm SO thrilled that you're home. I've missed you and reading this beautiful post reminds me exactly why. You are such a wonderful and touching story teller. Thank you for sharing Montenegro and Mujo with us. The kroffne look yummy - and I really enjoyed the picture of the table filled with simple but delicious foods. I am sure in many ways it was a life changing, and I hope life affirming, trip for you. The post you wrote about your family before you left was so touching, I still think about it. I hope you found all that you were looking for and more. Lots of love, dear friend, Debora x

  6. Hi there how wonderful to read more of your stories ......can't wait to hear them as well!! The photos are wonderful as usual. What a life changing experience for Mitch at his age so very good for him I would think. I have been checking your blog for ages every day and for some reason (maybe that little boy has been taking all my time) I didn't check for awhile and I missed this till now. Thankyou for sharing just lovely. Can't wait like Kylie to hear some more. Stormy

  7. Debora - Awww, your words left me feeling like all this is worthwhile Debora. You are so gorgeous and I feel so fortunate to have found a cyberspace friend like you. Yes the trip was life affirming and so much more.

    We did make some progress in finding out some information about my mother and where she lived. We went to the place where she was born and indeed the address at the time of her marriage to my father. We found someone with her maiden name in one of the apartments. We found out it was a male, forty year old, who had not been there for about two weeks. We left a couple of letters, in English and in German, in his mailbox. The next day I left for Australia. It is up to the gods now to see if we shall be contacted. Mitch and I were very excited to be in my mother's street and indeed in the vicinity of her home. I was rather emotional actually. I feel another post coming on if I don't stop now. Somewhere down the track I shall recap our time in Germany.
    Love Mariana

    Oh stormy - you always know how to make me feel good. Don't mention the word 'photos'. My god I think I have about two and a half thousand. A tad too many. Just a tad. Yes darl, you are so right. The experience was amazing for Mitch. He so loved it and he 'fit' in wherever he went even though he could not speak the lingo. His interest and connection to his ancestory is extraordinary. The girls are not at all like that. I believe he could easily live in Germany and he would also love living in the Montenegrin mountains. However he would need to be able to speak some of the language to get by. No English up there mate.

    Look forward to finally seeing you after all this time. And how does a picnic on the farm sound? Our farm is looking spectacular at the moment after all the rain. Hubby said it looks like "England". See you soon. Love Mariana.

  8. Welcome back! It's so good to hear of your travels and see that you're home; I look forward to reading more, as I'm sure you have much to share!

  9. I wasn't aware that you went on a trip but it sounds fantastic. The kroffne looks great I have never heard of it but it sounds and looks yummy.glad you had a good time.

  10. Welcome back Mariana. The time seems to have flown. I am so pleased that the trip went well for you both. Family are very important as is knowing your roots :-) I loved hearing about Mujo. The world is full of "real" people all with a different story to tell. I am looking forward to further posts and hope you feel inspired soon. Things have been hectic over this side of town and I have had neither time to blog nor read but as things settle down I look forward to both.

  11. Yes Baking Monster, I had a truly memorable time. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hey there dear Linda. Yes I fully understand about hectic lives and time getting away. Gosh, it is so difficult to paint a picture properly. These people live so differently to us it really is another world. However I am happy that my son embraced it and loved it and the relatives felt his total acceptance of them and their lives. We talk about them every day. Still. That must be a good sign.