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Published: September 10th 2017
During our recent visit to Dubrovnik we opted to take a day trip to Montenegro. I wanted to scope the country out as a potential future holiday destination, and was impressed at how much of a feel for a place we could get in a day. And my feelings towards Montenegro were - what a funny little country!
For starters, there's the currency issue. When Montenegro decided they didn't want to have anything to do with the rest of Former Yugoslavia they asked Germany if they could use their Deutsch marks. Then when Germany was changing to the euro, they asked for all their marks back. According to our tour guide Elena, they had to offer everyone in Montenegro a free 10 day holiday in Germany on the condition that they brought all their marks back in their suitcase and it worked! So then Montenegro asked if they could use the euro too even though they weren't in the EU, and somehow were allowed to. Especially odd when their neighbours Croatia, ARE in the EU and don't even use the euro (they will soon). Montenegro isn't allowed to mint their own euros though, so they have to use anybody's and
Another oddity is their attitude towards tourism. I'd been feeling sorry for them, that their tourist industry hasn't grown anywhere near the rate of neighbouring Croatia. Tourism contributes just 20% towards Montenegro's GDP, compared to Croatia's 80%. I thought this meant that poor Montenegro was unjustly not getting a look in, but apparently they don't care about tourism to the same extent and haven't particularly been trying to expand it.
This is because there is a lot of, ahem, 'organised crime' in the country, which takes care of people, giving them jobs paying way more than the average job in tourism would and so everyone is perfectly happy with the way things are.
Montenegro is also somewhat of a tax haven and therefore popular with celebrities and the super-rich, particularly the fairly new and imaginitively-named 'Porto Montenegro', a luxury marina for yachts and super yachts. Of course, during our day in the country, we didn't come face to face with any corruption, apart from the young guy at the first 'comfort stop' over the border who seems to have latched on to taking advantage of the naivety of tourists and pocketed some of my change and
overcharged some of our fellow passengers. Luckily, we noticed in time to get our money back, they didn't unfortunately.
Our day in Montenegro focused on the beautiful UNESCO-listed area of the Bay of Kotor. We drove right round it with a few photo stops and took a boat ride across part of it on the way back.
Our first main stop was in the gorgeous old town of Kotor. Its setting is spectacular, wedged in tight to a corner of the bay with a mountain looming large over it. If you find yourself getting lost in the winding cobblestone streets, you can just look up and see that mountain hanging over you, and know to walk the opposite way for the gate.
As pretty as the town's streets were, what really took my breath away was the way its walls and forts snaked so improbably up the side of the mountain. You can walk up them, I just didn't on this particular day due to heat exhaustion.
Kotor is full of Venetian palaces and Romanesque churches, one of which, St Mary's has the naturally mummified body of a nun on display. Thankfully her face is covered
by a mask, but you can see her bare hands!
The icing on the cake for me in Kotor were the hundreds of cats, an honoured symbol of the town. Dotted around you will find several cat-themed shops and a cat museum.
On the day we visited Kotor, two GIGANTIC cruise liners were also in yet the town was still nowhere near as crowded as Dubrovnik. This may be one of the factors that contributed to me perhaps loving Kotor even more than Dubrovnik, or equally at least.
Our other main stop of the day was in the larger town of Budva. It also had a lovely but tiny old town, but the rest of the city was nothing special. We opted to see Budva's famous ballerina statue along the coast, also giving us a good excuse for a refreshing dip in the sea. The main beach was overcrowded, so we walked round to the next beach along, which was every bit as crowded. Apparently Montenegro has already been discovered by half of Russia as well as Germany! My visit here was brief but I wasn't that impressed by the amenities or lack thereof, I couldn't find
public toilets on either beach and had to change into dry clothes at paid toilets in a park on the way back to the minibus.
We faced looooooong queues at border control on our return leg, it seems that many people had the same idea for a day trip as us.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day trip to Montenegro, especially Kotor. I now feel that I can tick it off my list without having to return to dedicate a full trip to it. Although, farther inland the Tara River Canyon does sound amazing....
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