Britain could learn a lot from the Montenegrin concept of ‘kacamak’
Things turn even more sonorous when I wander off on my own towards leafy, lose-yourself Forest Park Gorica – but am lured into St George’s Church, at its entrance. It’s 6.30pm on a Friday, and from the open doors escape intermingled incense and incantation – inside is a Richard Osman lookalike with a Rowan Williams beard and long black robes intoning while a similarly-dressed priest sings out melancholy, mystical responses and the faithful cross themselves every few seconds.
The atmosphere is so heady it’s like I’m dreaming, and I can barely drag myself away. When I do, weirdly my feet seem to carry me – with no intention on my part – to another Serbian Orthodox outpost. The Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection, 20 years in the building, was consecrated in 2013, but inside it could be the 1600s: every inch is covered in Byzantine gold and murals of sad-eyed saints or stern-browed Orthodox patriarchs.
In one apse, Tito, Marx and Engels burn in Hell; in another, some children seem to do the same; in a third, a leviathan inexplicably consumes some saints. In the middle, beneath a gold-wrought chandelier so complicated it looks like it might beam you to another dimension if you stand under it, a scrum of people wait to be blessed by another luxuriantly bearded but this time lavishly cloaked cleric.
They kiss his hand, kiss a couple of icons, cry… and the whole thing is so tinglingly strange and atmospheric and moving that I almost join the queue, infidel though I am.
Instead, I walk down Njegoševa, which I refer to in my head as the Boulevard of Broken Diets – for a mile or so the pattern of businesses is bar, bar, pizzeria, bar, bar, steak-house, bar, bar and repeat.