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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hitting the wall in Kotor

Passengers step ashore in Montenegro to explore the walled Venetian style city of Kotor, just steps from the pier.

Steep cobbled streets have staircases for foot traffic. Despite its pretty scenes, Kotor is a lived-in village. 

Sascha makes the acquaintance of a friendly stray

After Sascha became ill ashore we opted for lunch on our balcony overlooking Kotor.
It happened in Kotor on a lovely sunny morning.
Out of the blue, after exploring the streets and shops of this Venice-like walled port city of Montenegro, Sascha and I sat down on a bench in the shade.
The next thing I knew my daughter was slumped over. Her eyes were unfocused and her speech was slurred. Her chin bobbed onto her chest.
Of course I’d known about the neurological disorder that blindsides her when least expected. It’s the reason she hasn’t traveled much and had almost declined the invitation to join me aboard the Crystal Serenity in the southern Mediterranean.
But I’d never before witnessed it happening.
“I’m fine,” she kept telling me, although she obviously wasn’t. “Just let me sit here for a moment.”
After a few minutes of my fretting and handwringing, she seemed slightly better. I knew she really hates hovering, so I left her sitting on the bench while I popped into a nearby farmer’s market, to look over the mid-September grapes and other produce. I was gone just a few minutes. But when I returned she was lying on the bench and retching. She’d attracted attention from hovering bystanders who seemed relieved at my arrival.
Instead of panicking, I helped her to sit and gave her some cool water to drink. “We must go back to the ship,” I told her. “Do you think you can walk a few blocks or shall I try to find help?”
I knew that the place where the Serenity’s tender had brought us ashore was just a half a block from where we sat. I knew that it would be staffed and I could easily get help if I needed to.
But asking for help is as difficult for my daughter as it is for me.  So taking it slow and easy, her arm around my shoulder as mine wrapped her waist, we approached the dock just as the ship’s tender pulled in. Crew members noted our disability and helped us both get aboard the tender, back aboard the ship and to our stateroom with little fuss. It was obvious to me they’d handled folks with disabilities before and displayed just the right balance between care and embarrassing over care.
“So much for our lunch and shopping afternoon ashore,” Sascha said.  “Now I just need to get into bed.”
I knew there was no telling when she’d be better. She might not be able to leave the bed for the rest of the voyage or she might awaken in a few hours and be fine. She’d been there before and we’d talked about the possibilities before we left home.
But I’d sailed with Crystal Cruises before and knew that the ship would provide every comfort and amenity. If she needed a doctor, there was one, although she declined. “It took years to get a diagnosis,” she said. “I know what to do better than anyone.”
A quiet, darkened room and sleep were the best treatment, so I left her safely in the care of our butler, who had told us to call him Papa. “Please just look in on her in an hour or so,” I asked.
So she snuggled in to those silky 500-thread-count sheets, pulled the down comforter up to her chin, drew the drapes and went to sleep. When I returned after going back ashore for a few hours, she was awake and much more bright eyed. “I just ordered lunch,” she said.”We can eat it on the balcony.”
So I quickly added my order to hers, and we spent the rest of the afternoon looking at Kotor from our balcony and watching the port traffic come in and out of the narrow channel. The waterway was almost fijord like, with mountains coming down to the sea and we were close enough to land to hear neighborhood dogs barking.
As day faded to evening, we both agreed it had been a lovely day - all things considered. 


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