“Wow” was definitely the most frequently used word during our time in Montenegro. From the time we crossed the border into Albania, it only got better and better. Albania’s gentle sloping mountains and babbling brooks gave way to sharp, craggy faces, fortresses, and the stunning Adriatic coast.

 

Unfortunately, the hotel we had booked was oversold, so we got “bumped” to the property next door, Hotel Splendid. I had been looking forward to the original hotel, and thought that any hotel that has to call itself splendid must not be. Luckily for us, I was wrong. The alternate accommodations were luxurious. While some chose to go into the city center of Budva and explore, others chose to stay at the hotel, swim, relax, and take advantage of the spa.

 

Our hotel, viewed from the water

Our hotel, viewed from the water

Yesterday, the wows continued in Kotor, a medieval walled city of a few thousand, with one church that had been in existence since the year 809. Kotor was ruled by the Venetians for several hundred years, and the locals will proudly tell you that they were never ruled by the Ottomans – which means that it’s visually very different from anything we’ve seen elsewhere.

 

The historic cathedral dating to 809

The historic cathedral dating to 809

Our concert at St. Nicholas’ Orthodox Cathedral opened with the Unity choir, which is the oldest choir in the Balkans. Wow. They had that beautiful, dark, powerful Russian sound and blew us away. The inspiration served us well: we took the stage and gave our best performance yet. Finally, we were joined by the Unity choir for a rousing joint encore performance of “Soon Ah Will Be Done.”

 

After the concert, we were honored with a reception that offered a chance for the choirs to get to know each other. Many of the basses spent time talking with Unity’s most prominent bass. The physicality of his performance was impressive – watching his chest cavity expand and the vertical space he was able to create to power that huge, resonant sound was certainly awe-inspiring.

 

Montenegro: wow.

 

-Benjamen Douglas