Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Montenegro - and Nero Wolfe
Montenegro isn't a country I'd associate with classic detective fiction - at least so I thought, until I remembered belatedly that one of the great sleuths of American mystery fiction hailed from Montenegro. This was Nero Wolfe, who featured in many novels written by Rex Stout. I've only read one or two of them, though, and I can't remember Montenegro featuring. It's years since I tried Stout - I was a bit underwhelmed with the widely admired Some Buried Caesar - and perhaps it's time to give him another go.
All this is by way of preamble to my last bit of reminiscence about last week's Adriatic cruise. The final port of call was a place called Kotor, which I must admit I'd never heard of. It is situated, rather idyllically, at the end of what is sometimes called Europe's southernmost fjord. In fact, it's a river canyon, but however you describe it, there's no denying that it's breathtakingly lovely.
Kotor is a small walled town with a long and notable history. Monttenegro only declared independence about six years ago, but in one guise or another, this little bit of Europe has played a part in much of the continent's history. Today, it's a place where tourism offers the potential for a brighter, and more peaceful future. The idea of a "wine and book shop" certainly deserves to catch on in my opinion, though sadly they didn't stock any Nero Wolfes.
Testament to Kotor's history of getting embroiled in warfare is the walled fortress at the top of the cliff that looms above the town. I started walking up to the fortress without having any real idea of how far away it was. By the time I'd begun to realise, it felt as though it would be wrong to turn back, so I carried on to the top. Apparently there are roughly 1350 steps from the town to the top, a climb that took about an hour, but believe me, I was too busy trying to get my breath back to count. At least the stunning views made it absolutely worthwhile.
I didn't see any reference to Nero Wolfe in Kotor. Maybe he didn't come from that part of the country. But who knows? One of these days Montenegro may have its own Wolfe trail. Nero might even do for the place what Morse did for Oxford. In the meantime, the beauty of the place is a more than good enough reason to visit it.