Named Mount Black, or Black Mountain, by people who must have worn very dark sunglasses, this small country on the Adriatic is little known to the outside world. It is time to change that. First the name, in the local vernacular it is Crna Gora which means the same but is impossible to pronounce, so let’s stick to Montenegro.
Looking at its history it can be said that the Montenegrins are very free spirited indeed and managed to throw of the yoke of Ottoman rule way ahead of any of the other Balkan countries surrounding them. Independence lasted until the end of the First World War, after which they merged with the other, now independent, South Slavs to form Yugoslavia. They finally seceded from Yugoslavia in 2006, marking the final nail in the coffin of the old South Slav federation.
Clan based Montenegro has a lot to offer the tourists. For one it is home to the deepest fjord of Southern Europe (if not the only fjord), at the end of which lies one of the Adriatic’s best kept secrets, the medieval town of Kotor. Up in the mountains the old Royal Capital of Cetinje lies at the foot of the Black Mountain, which doesn’t look so black from up close. Talking about mountains, various age old churches, monasteries and villages can be found hugging the steep cliffs and canyons, which also make for some scenic hiking trips. And then there is beautiful Lake Skadar, which is largely protected as a National Park.
Need I say more, or have I convinced you to give Montenegro a chance?
Highlights from Montenegro
- Though it has been discovered by the tourist, Kotor (aka Котор), is still an enchanting medieval town, situated at the end of a deep blue fjord. Climb up the hill to which Kotor clings for some amazing views!
- Old Cetinje (aka Цетиње) is sleepy and full of mansions and defunct embassies from long forgotten Empires (think Austro-Hungary or Tsarist Russia), it is like stepping back in time. It is also the home of a shard of the True Cross and a mummified hand of St. John the Baptist, which are kept, together with ancient books and icons as well as jewel encrusted crowns, in Cetinje Monastery
- Montenegro’s most important pilgrimage site is Ostrog Monastery (Манастир Острог), it is a sight to behold, glued as it is to the cliffs
- Skadar Lake National Park (aka Скадарско језеро, Lake Shkodër, and Lake Scutari) protects an abundance of wetland birds, picturesque villages, and island monasteries
- Podgorica (aka Подгорица) is Montengro’s small capital, with vestiges of the old Ottoman town in its centre
- For some sea-side fun, combined with a medieval town vibe, head down to Budva (aka Будва)
- A bit of history can be found at Stari Bar (aka Стари Бар), full of ruined churches and fortresses
- Another interesting historic site is Haj-Nehaj Fort
- Discover Kotor Bay, by kayak, hiking or cycling, don’t forget to drop by beautiful Perast (aka Пераст), or climb Mount Orjen (aka Орјен)
- Hike or raft through Durmitor National Park, with the UNESCO designated Tara River Canyon, glacial lakes and in winter you can ski at Žabljak (aka Жабљак)
Hints and Tips for Montenegro
- As in the other Balkan countries, the younger generation will speak more English than the older. A phrasebook will come in handy though, especially if you plan on visiting the smaller villages and off-the-beaten track places.
- Montenegro uses the Euro as currency, handy if you come from a Eurozone country.
- Public transport is a good way of getting around, there buses, minibuses and a few train services.