West to East Micronesia China Mongolia Russia Baltic Region Visegrad Region Balkan Penninsula East to West Ancient Civilizations Straddling the Straight Southern Africa Eastern Africa Ethiopia United Arab Emirates South Asia Crossing Photo Album Trip Logistics Itinerary Transport Logs Route Maps About Us
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Kotor Fjord, Montenegro
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 630,548 Area: 14,026 sq km Gov't: Republic Religion: Orthodox, Muslim, Roman Catholic View Map
Kotor Fjord, Montenegro, October 29, 2003  

Montenegro Flag MONTENEGRO


October 29. MONTENEGRO A nice comfy bus picked us up in front of the Hotel Kompas at 7:15 in the morning. There were only a few other people on the bus but we proceeded to make a few more stops to collect more and finally headed down to the border at 8:45.  Our guide was a young Croatian woman and she was tasked with giving a tour in both English and German because the groups had been consolidated onto one bus.  It kept her constantly talking and unfortunately other passengers were not very polite when she wasn't talking in their language.  So, we didn't hear everything she said even though we were at the front of the bus but we got the gist of it.

The border check didn't even require a border official to board the bus.  Our guide handed over our passports and retrieved them for us.  We did pick un "escort" though, a Montenegrin woman who had to ride along with us during our stay.  Our guide introduced herself and the driver as Croatians who hoped to do their best to give us a tour of Montenegro.

Serbia and Montenegro are technically still a united republic but as both have their own heads of state the future seems uncertain.  The UN pressured them to agree to stay unified for three years in order to prevent any further civil war in the region.   Like their Serbian neighbors the Montenegrins are mostly Orthodox, with Montenegro having its own separate form of Montenegrin Orthodoxy, as opposed to the Croatians who are predominantly Catholic.  They also have maintained use of the Cyrillic script.  

Our first stop was at the stunning Kotor fjord, the deepest fjord in southern Europe.   The dramatic inlet surrounded by steep mountains with noticeably more green than Croatia's sparse landscape.  The bus a pre-determined stop at a look out point where we could look out across the bay to a small village and two tiny islands with churches, one man-made and one natural.  The man-made one, upon which the Our Lady of the Rock was perched, was apparently once the location of just a small rock where an icon of the Lady miraculously appeared.   Mysteriously returning to the rock whenever she was removed it was decided that a church needed to be built on that spot.  Supposedly local people threw rocks on the spot for some 550 years until an island large enough developed to support a church.  A bit a ship wreckage is supposed to have helped as well. 

It was an overcast day and the mountains with their soft reflection in the water looked a steel blue.  On the side of one mountain someone had a fire going and the smoke was being sucked into a long whisp that stretched across the water, hovering above the bay and not dissipating.  

After weaving our way around the fjord we arrived at Kotor Town, yet another medieval stone town with Venetian history.  However, this little town, in all its scenic glory within the fjord and with it citadel perched protectively high above, did not have the same charm as the other towns we visited.  The people were pleasant but the old town had been let go, the Venetian lion crumbling on its wall, and reflected the hardship that Montenegro was presently enduring.  Our guide gave us a cursory tour and left us to enjoy the town for an hour.  That was the drawback of a day tour, they moved at such a frantic pace and stopped for so few pictures that it was hard to really absorb a place.  Still, Kotor was too small to keep anyone busy for long and had we venture there on our own we might have ended up rather bored.   

Back on the bus with some pastries in hand the bus began a slow and smooth climb up a narrow road of switchbacks behind Kotor.  The guide had forewarned us that some people found the ride disconcerting but our driver was excellent and even with the minimal barrier protection along the sides and the fact that the bus consumed most of the roadway we never felt uneasy.  It was hard not to be captivated by the outstanding views of the fjord that the road provided.  Looking down the mountain the first bit of road that we had passed could be seen to spell the letter "M", the initial of the queen at the time the road was constructed, with whom the architect was infatuated.  

Our guide tried to keep people distracted with some jokes during the climb.  Her first told the story of a bus driver and priest meeting at the pearly gates.  The bus driver was allowed into Heaven while the priest went to hell.  When he asked why he was given such a fate he was told that people always prayed when they were with the bus driver while people just slept when they were at church.  She got some chuckles from the group but her second joke was a clear statement of water NOT yet under the bridge between Croatian and Montenegrins and the gap in appropriate joke telling between our country and hers.   The started by explaining the during Yugoslav times each country was labeled with a stereotype.  Slovenia was industrious and Montenegro was lazy.  The declined to say what the Croatian stereotype was but proceeded to tell a joke where a woman had been raped (there were kids on the bus) and when she went to the police she reported that she had been raped by a Montenegrin.  When they asked how she knew she replied that she'd had to do everything.  More chuckles.

After we survived the harrowing climb up to the ridge we entered a hilly area populated with farm houses, herds of sheep, and green landscape decorated with trees that were changing color.  The weather was getting worse and by the time we stopped in a small village for lunch it was raining.  The village was known for its specialty of cured ham, where they used a special wood to flavor the meat.  We stopped and had some sandwiches made of this famous meat and some local cheese accompanied with a rough wine.  It was a nice benefit of the tour to reach this out of the way little place, a route that would not have been taken by a public bus.  

After lunch the ride continued through a winding road to the old capital of Cetinje.  There was actually a few things to see there but our stop only permitted a tour of the Royal Court.  The small city was marked by a main street with modest-sized colorful building, some of which were once embassies for major European states of the 20th century.  We would have liked to hike up and see the Cetinje Monastery where the mummified right hand of John the Baptist is said to reside.  Unfortunately, that wasn't on the itinerary.  The Royal Court, the residence of Montenegro's last king, was mildly interesting.  A room full of exquisitely carved rosewood furniture and a collection of war booty flags from Turkey are the best my memory can recall.  It was pouring rain when we made a run for the entrance and we were still damp when we got back on the bus.  

It was then more driving back down towards the ocean to visit Budva, the country's top beach area in the summer, adjacent to a small fortified old town.  We had another hour to kill there but much of the little town was closed for the off-season.  We walked its tiny narrow wall in about 15 minutes, avoiding the small turrets that seemed to be popular bathroom spots.  It would have been one place that would certainly have been more impressive in high-season.

Back on the bus we followed the coast back to the fjord and, instead of winding around it again, caught a ferry across the opening.  It had been a whirlwind tour that just gave us a snapshot of Montenegro but were glad that we made the trip. It was dark by the time we got back to Dubrovnik so we had the bus drop us near the post office so we could have one last burrito at the Mexican Restaurant.  After dinner we said good-bye to Sado and his wife and left our impressions of the lovely Begovic Boarding House and a local map in their comments book.

SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24