Montenegro has had a bloody history and only became an independent country in 2006. Engaged in warfare back to the Middle Ages, it also had a hard time in the 20th century, suffering great damage while battling the Austro-Hungarian forces in WWI. In WWII, Mussollino annexed the land as part of Italy and civil war followed until liberation when it became part of Yugoslavia. During the breakup of the Soviet World in 1991, it became part of Serbia and participated in active attacks against Croatia during the Bosnian War. I am surprised Croatians even speak to Montenegrins. Even recently, there was an attempted coup in 2016 and just this past April, a new government was voted into power. But you wouldn’t know or imagine any of this from visiting the peaceful town of Kotor on the coast.
It is a beautiful old town, within a protected wall, quiet and less tourist filled than others on the Dalmatian coast, and more involved in establishing itself as an interesting destination. It feels like there are more active younger people here. We stay in a palace repurposed to a hotel with very large rooms and windows overlooking the sea. Perhaps most indicative of its past identity problems, is the large Serbian Orthodox Church in the same square as the Roman Catholic church.
Jack and I walk outside the town to a local restaurant for a wonderful dinner and unlike most of the other places we have been, there is not a great difference in the sense of the personality of the people and place from the old inner city to the areas outside it.
We were told Montenegro was a very impoverished country until Russian investors helped develop a very large beach resort further South in Budva. And the stores and shops we pass before arriving in Kotor reflect a less affluent society than that in Croatia and Slovenia.
In the morning, we hire a private speed boat to take us to the Lady of the Rock Church, built on a manmade island on the bones of old pirate ships and rocks and to visit the town of Perast. The Bay of Kotor is actually at the end of a fjord like ring of land and water. We took a ferry across one portion for a quicker arrival but drove back all around the scenic bay on the way out. The speed boat trip for just the 3 of us is wonderful and we disembark and wander around the small island church and the town of Perast as well.
One of the highlights of our stay in Kotor for me was – the absolute best chocolate vegan gelato I have ever tasted! Water based but rich and creamy. The owner greeted us as we arrived on his very first day of opening this season and he is an example of the warmth and friendliness we have experienced throughout this trip with local tradespeople along the way. We went back on the second day for more!
And now for the real adventure of our journey: getting stuck on a dirt road which Google mistakenly directed us to in an attempt to find a specific restaurant. We ended up really off the beaten track, wheels caught at the end of a road on a pile of concrete and managed to get out with some stress but damaged the car door in the process. We did find the restaurant and had a great last meal before our departure in a gorgeous setting, sitting under an arbor, near a lake where a family of ducks floated nearby. Then we were stopped for speeding by a Montenegrin police officer near the Croatian border but Melanie managed to talk him out of giving us a ticket which would have created some serious time problems. A speed trap for hapless tourists without Montenegrin license plates I think.
And then the Dubrovnik Airport, where Melanie returned the damaged car for which we had purchased full car insurance (a lesson to you all to do so!) but was still asked to pay a huge sum because we did not have a police report (which would have been impossible to obtain – we were on a deserted road). The conclusion is still uncertain but it certainly led to some final drama as we departed together on the same flight out of Dubrovnik for home.
I end the blog for this journey with a few observations:
We were on the Dalmatian Coast but saw only one Dalmatian dog, on a leash in Dubrovnik. We were told by our local guide that they are not very common.
This is a beautiful part of the world, hiding its recent wounds very well. The bullet-marked deserted homes in nature’s abundant Plitvice Park emblematic perhaps of the contrasting realities people live within.
May we all travel wisely and respect those different life experiences.