Montenegro is the Switzerland of the Balkan Peninsula. Ruth & I have been there, but our knowledge is limited to Kotor and Budva. We were in Croatia and it was Easter Sunday. Dubrovnik is a wonderful city with a lot to do except on Easter Sunday. We looked at our options, which were very limited. A trip down to Montenegro and back late the same day seemed like the best choice, so we signed on. The bus left early so we were on the Bay of Kotor by late morning despite uncomfortable, double border stops. I had time to formulate many questions and tested some on our tour guide. She said that it was fine to ask her any questions but to stop when we got to Montenegro. Oh, oh. I never found out if she interpreted my questions as politically insensitive or if she disliked answering guest inquiries. I suspected the former.
Montenegro is small but prosperous, at least along the coast we were visiting that has a Mediterranean climate. Many Yugoslav kings had summer palaces on Montenegro’s 150 miles of Adriatic coastline. It was part of Serbia until 2008 and declared its independence 2 years before. Until its Serbian affiliation, it was part of Yugoslavia. The young and proud man who gave us a tour of Kotor claimed that his people had never been subjugated, but he never mentioned that it had been part of Serbia. Oversight or intentional? Montenegro has large forests and grassy uplands with an average elevation over 1,000 feet. Its tallest mountain, Babotov Peak, rises to 8,274 feet. Montenegro’s literacy rate is 99% and almost everyone speaks 2 languages and knows 2 alphabets, Montenegran and Cyrillic.
Many of Kotor’s attractions except for the Cathedral of St. Triphon were closed for Easter. The young male tour guide took us there and was clearly very fond of showing it off. Built in 1166, it has withstood many earthquakes and been rebuilt. It was pretty impressive especially its altar screen, a national treasure. I was disappointed that Kotor’s cats museum recommended by Atlas Obscura and highly rated by visitors was closed. Kotor was founded by Romans and, being an international port for centuries, it has a large cat population so is a natural place for this kind of attraction.
Our tour guide was very sports minded. He liked to talk about Montenegro’s national sport, water polo. He boasted that Montenegro’s team first participated in the Olympics in the 21st century without mentioning that Serbia was involved or that it was another 4 years before his country won its first Olympic medal, silver in women’s handball. I asked him if a visit to Montenegro’s capital Podgorica (pronounced pode go ritz a) was a good idea, and he said no. Even Montenegrans avoid it because there is nothing to do in this small city.
It was a beautiful spring day and we had time to climb the 2,000 steps up to St. Marie de la Salute, but Ruth wanted to shop for souvenirs. I wanted to know about Montenegro’s downside but remembered our guides admonition about questions. I asked anyway. It turns out that this country has a European reputation for excessive mountain rainfall, and one critic described its winters as “cold, snowy, and intolerable.” Oh, oh!
PS The cat photo is from libreshot.com.