Posts Tagged ‘Serbia’

The lack of direct flights to Montenegro had deterred me from visiting until I saw ‘Gateway City: Dubrovnik’ as a chapter of the Lonely Planet Montenegro guide – I could fly there, hire a car and cross the border in no time; I could even use my BA miles!  Then in the weeks before I left I had a bad feeling about the trip. There had been a lack of clarity from Avis about taking the car out of Croatia so I had visions of being stuck at the airport and since booking the hotel on the basis of one Tripadvisor rave review, a number of very negative ones had turned up……….well, in the end it turned out more than OK; it was a lovely trip.


Not only was there no problem taking the car into Montenegro, but they had the requested automatic and a brand new white Smart 2-seater nonetheless which I became rather fond of. The hotel proved to be excellently situated mid-way between the two nicest towns on Kotor Bay, Perast and Kotor, and very good value-for-money – I’d have paid £30 for the view from my balcony, but they threw in a large suite, free Internet access and breakfast. I was so bowled over by the view that I didn’t go anywhere on the afternoon I arrived; I just sat there looking at it, glass of wine in hand.


Montenegro is my seventh and final FYRO; a small mountainous country of less than 1m people bordering Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.  It was the last to declare independence by divorcing Serbia in 2006 and managed to do so without much protest; maybe Serbia was pre-occupied with Kosovo at the time, or maybe it was too small to bother. Given one of the consequences is that Serbia becomes land-locked, I’d have expected a fight.

Just south of the border with Croatia, a small inlet on the Adriatic coast leads to a bay and another inlet from this bay to another bay called the Bay of Kotor. If this was the rich Faroe Islands, there’d be a tunnel or bridges, but its not so the two narrow straights mean a ferry or 100 km+ drive. Steep rocky mountains fall into the water and the road hugs the waterside, going through or bypassing lots of small villages as it circuits the whole bay. The mountains are often reflected in the water that seems much more than a lake than the sea. It’s idyllic.


The first full day was spent driving the half of Kotor Bay I hadn’t driven to get to my hotel the day before. Perast was the first stop; it’s a delightful sleepy one-street town along the waterfront with two monastery islands off shore. Kotor followed, a walled town at the foot of the mountain on which the wall continues much higher to and from a fortress. Both are great to explore on foot and very different but with the same Venetian feel of much of Croatia. After this I headed to the Adriatic coast to take a look at the unfeasibly beautiful walled private island of Sveti Stefan, currently being reconstructed as a hotel, and Budva – a dreadful over-developed resort town but with a terrific walled old town with a citadel.


Day Two started with an extraordinary drive on a single-track road – ‘the back road’ – with more hairpin bends than I’ve ever encountered, 5000 feet up to the Lovcen National Park. The coastal views were spectacular and the autumnal colours simply beautiful. I climbed the 417 steps the mausoleum of a national hero-poet (yes, POET!), which despite a lovely sculpture wasn’t worth the panting on its own – but the views were even better, so I didn’t regret it. I ended the day in the old royal capital of Cetjine, which was a delightful sleepy and very moochable town.


Sunday started in somewhat surreal fashion with the only other guests having a conference in Italian and English about a chocolate manufacturing process over breakfast. Then as soon as I was on the road I found myself at the tail end of a convoy led by a car with a giant flag hanging out of the window and hazard lights flashing. I haven’t got a clue what it was about but I accepted the waves and blown kisses from onlookers as if I did. It turned a bit scary when we entered a tunnel and someone fired five shots from the window of one of the cars. I hung back and had lost them within a couple of miles. 


The usually reliable Lonely Planet sent me on a 2.5-hour detour to Ulcinj close to the border with Albania – one of their 15 highlights of Montenegro ‘A vibrant slice of Albanian culture beneath a cluster of minarets’. Well it was a premiere league dump! Fortunately, the day picked up significantly with a visit to Lake Skadar National Park and another extraordinary drive with more stunning views – of lakes, rivers and mountains this time, with the autumn colours more yellow and orange contrasting with yesterday’s reds and browns as it was lower and further south. The riverside village of Rijeka Crnojevica was a lovely spot to stop and take in the beauty of it all.


Just when I was wishing I was staying for a few days more, torrential rain arrived on the final morning to make me feel OK about going home. This really was a beautifully scenic country. The roads were dreadful and the standard of driving worse (they really don’t see the point of being able to see the road ahead when they overtake!) but I still loved the journeys. The food was good and the wine drinkable.

I’ve enjoyed all bar one of these FYRO’s (Serbia is the exception) but now I’ve visited them all and experienced their difference, it is so obvious that the break-up of Yugoslavia was inevitable.

There are an awful lot of photos for such a short trip, which tells you something about its beauty. Here they are…..

You are invited to view Gareth’s photo album: Montenegro 2010
Montenegro 2010
Dec 31, 2001
by Gareth
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