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Published: August 31st 2010
"Kotor is one of the great undiscovered places in the world. Montenegro is a beautiful secret!"
With the heading of this blog entry we did just like Ringo Starr did in 1967, we took a little help from a friend
. (Hope you don't mind us quoting you, Peter...
). It is very true that Kotor is a wonderful place that is yet to be discovered by tourists in general and that Montenegro is a underestimated travel destination.
The first week of our vacation we spent mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. You can read about what we did there in the previous three blog entries. The second week we spent in Montenegro. We decided to rent a car during these days so that we could travel around more and hopefully visit places that are off the beaten track. Well considering that entire Montenegro is "off the beaten track" strictly we didn't need a car for that. Walking across the border from Croatia would have been sufficient. But we had one week to spend in the country and we had already invested in a guidebook dedicated to Montenegro so to get the most out of our visit we needed the car.
We started this
trip in the city Kotor on the Adriatic Sea. Kotor has an old town surrounded by a city wall. So far this reminded us quite a lot about Dubrovnik. But Kotor differs slightly from the city a few hours ride north along the coast in that there are fewer tourists in Kotor. Therefore we found ourselves liking Kotor better than Dubrovnik. It was much more relaxed and less commercialised. We can for future travellers just hope that Kotor stays like this. But for the people who live in Kotor it is of course better if more visitors come because visitors spend money.
It is the old town of Kotor that makes the town worth visiting. The rest of the city is not very exciting and we never found any beaches. Maybe that is the reason why there were fewer tourists in Dubrovnik than in Kotor. If there aren't any beaches people prefer to go somewhere else. We will write a little more about swimming in Montenegro in our next blog entry.
The old town is a collection of houses, churches, palaces and narrow streets surrounded by a city wall and a moat. Look at the pictures and you
Kotor old town
A manual water pump
get a good idea of what it looks like.
From Kotor we drove east towards Mount Lovcen and Lovcen National Park. The route from Kotor to Lovcen National Park is very steep and on the way there are several hairpin turns. It was a hard work to drive there but the reward was wonderful sceneries along the way. Not only outside Kotor was it steep and mountainous in Montenegro. The name Montenegro means "Black Mountain". We don't know where the "Black" comes in but we sure know where they get the "Mountain" from. Montenegro has many mountains.
Speaking about mountains, on top of one of the mountains in Montenegro, Jezerski vrt in Lovcen National Park, there is a Mausoleum. This mausoleum is over Njegos
, or Petar II Petrović, who ruled over Montenegro in the first half of the 19th century. We have no interest in paying any tribute to Njegos but still the mausoleum was well worth a visit. Both for it being an impressive construction in itself but most of all for the fabulous views we got over Lovcen National Park from there.
Montenegro has been independent since 2006. But Montenegro was also an independent nation
Kotor - Coat of arms
We believe this is some kind of coat of arms. For what of for whom we don't know
before World War II. Today the capital of Montenegro is Podgorica but in the 1930-ies it was another city, Cetinje. We decided to visit Cetinje on this trip because of the city's past history as capital of Montenegro. In the city many of the former palaces, embassies and the former royal theatre are still standing though most of the buildings are for obvious reasons used for other things than they were originally designed for. In Cetinje it sometimes feels like time has been standing still for the last 80 years. It's almost like they are pretending that Montenegro never lost its independence in the first place and that Cetinje still is the capital. Some of the buildings that used to house the embassies still have the embassy seal on the wall and some of the palaces and other buildings look like they must have done in the 30-ies. It was interesting to see the seal of the country Austria-Hungary on one of the former embassy buildings.
Not far from Cetinje is a small hamlet named Rijeka Crnojevica. We wanted to visit this place but we missed the first turn off from the main road. For awhile we were thinking
Kotor city wall
Kotor has an old town surrounded by a city wall and a moat
about skipping the visit all together because we didn't feel like turning back. But then we saw small sign, it might even have been hand written, saying Rijeka Crnojevica. Since there was one more turn off we could reach the hamlet without turning back. We thought that was good and we took that second turn off to Rijeka Crnojevica. That turned out to be more exciting than we first expected because this road to Rijeka Crnojevica is an old one that is hardly not ever used today. It was paved most of the way but it was one lane only, and often there was so many branches from trees and bushes hanging over the road that the free path was narrower than the car was wide. (Needless to say, we didn't tell the rental company about that...) The road had several hairpin turns that were so sharp that we could not even take them with the car with less than we had to stop in the middle of the curve, reverse and then keep on driving again. Fortunately we didn't meet any cars going the other direction so we had the road to ourselves. But, as so often with steep
Narrow street in Kotor old town
The old town is a collection of houses, churches, palaces and narrow streets. Here is a narrow street
roads, we had wonderful views from the road. The view this time was over Lake Skadar and we could in the distance also see two mountain peaks that are nicknamed "Sophia Loren". Look at the photo of them and it is quite obvious where that name come from.
We did not visit Rijeka Crnojevica to see "Sophia Loren", that was just an unexpected bonus on the way. We went there to see an arched stone bridge that has been standing there for hundreds of years. We arrived and parked the car and the first thing we saw was a very nice arched stone bridge. We went there and looked at it and took some photos of it. The water under the bridge was still and the light was perfect for creating nice reflections in the water so we were very happy with our photos. But then we noticed another bridge a few hundred meters further up. It turned out that we had been taking photos of the wrong bridge. We walked up to the right bridge and took some photos of that too of course. Both bridges were nice enough to be published on the blog so our mistake
Church in Kotor old town
The old town is a collection of houses, churches, palaces and narrow streets. Here is a church
wasn't such a bad thing after all.
All over Montenegro there are churches and monasteries. That each village has its own church is not surprising but why there are so many monasteries we don't understand. One of the larger and more popular monasteries in Montenegro is the Ostrog Monastery. One reason for its popularity is the location and how it is built. It is located high up on the side of a mountain. It literally is on the side of the mountain because it was built using natural caves and hollows in the mountainside and the front wall almost seems to be an extension of the mountain itself. It looks like the monastery is hanging on the side of the mountain and defys gravity.
The Ostrog Monastery is popular among tourists for the unusual setting and construction. But the tourists are far outnumbered by pilgrims. Next to the main building of the monastery there is a guesthouse where pilgrims can stay overnight. In the summer it is also popular to sleep outside on mattresses.
We would now like to write a little about a place called Miljkovac. In 1943 Montenegro was occupied by Nazi Germany. In June
Our Lady of Salutation
Church on the hill above Kotor named Our Lady of Salutation
that year the Nazis were forced to retreat because they were being attacked by the Allies. When the Nazis left Miljkovac they murdered over 500 people before they left. These people were mainly old men, women and children, that is those who were decided not fit to be soldiers. This is just one of hundreds of tragedies during World War II, and it is not much different from all the other tragedies. Today there is in Miljkovac a memorial over the people who were killed that day in June 1942.
After we left Miljkovac we drove towards Durmitor National Park. We will tell you about that in the next entry on the blog. For now we would like to end this by writing about what happened on the way between Miljkovac and Durmitor National Park. The map we used indicated that after the town Savnik we should turn left. And indeed, after we left Savnik we found a road going left and we took that. What the map didn't tell us was that there were two roads going left. We took the first of these two but we should have taken the second one. So instead of going on
Kotor from above
Seen from Mount Lovcen
the road towards our destination we were going on a local road towards some villages far away in a valley. We have taken wrong turns before and usually we realise our mistake pretty quickly. Not this time because after we had driven a while on this road, the wrong road, we came to a large road work where they were clearly upgrading the road from local road to a major highway. We thought that made perfect sense for them to upgrade this particular road, or rather for the road we thought we were driving on, because it leads to a large tourist destination. To make us even surer that we were on the right way when we talked to some of the men who were working on constructing the road they happily waved us on. How far we actually drove on this road we don't know. We decided to turn back when we eventually came up to an unfinished tunnel though a mountain. We don't mind driving on unfinished roads but to drive into an unfinished tunnel could be very dangerous. We turned around, drove back and eventually we found the correct turnoff and we could drive to Durmitor National
That is a dirty word...
"Kuk" is a dirty word in Swedish. It is very similar to the English word so you can guess what it means ...and apparently it is 3.1 km long too...
As we wrote above Montenegro has been independent since 2006. As of 2010 Montenegro is actually the youngest independent nation in the world. It is true that Kosovo has declared themselves independent later (in 2008) and that this has been recognised by many countries. But to say that Kosovo is an independent nation we feel is to stretch the truth a little too far.
We find it a bit interesting that the currency of Montenegro is the euro, the currency of the countries that are part of the European Monetary Union. It seems that when Montenegro declared themselves independent in 2006 they decided to use the euro as their currency without even asking for permission. Can you really do that? Well, apparently you can. So in the spirit of the Montenegrins we think that Sweden should immediately adopt the Norwegian crown as our currency because Norway is richer than Sweden. And maybe the United States could adopt the Canadian dollar as their currency and in the process maybe the US can wipe out its foreign debt...? Or maybe not? It was just a thought...
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