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.
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.
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.