August 8, 2012

Montenegro On A Whirlwind

Montenegro is a country smaller than Connecticut and just 45 minutes south of Dubrovnik. It also was a part of the former Yugoslavia, but while Slovenia and Croatia gained their independence in 1991, Montenegro didn’t completely break free from Serbia until 2006. Now it’s one of Europe’s youngest countries trying to find its identity.
We rented a car and passed through customs picking up what must be the world’s simplest passport stamp. Then we spent the rest of the day exploring Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor.

The bay itself is a quirky place with mussel farms, an arthritic treatment spa popular with Scandinavians, and the locally self-proclaimed world's smallest river. Quite the mix.

Hidden back within the fjord, the town of Kotor was the highlight to our day. Its Old Town is in the shape of a triangle protected by the bay, a moat, and a steep cliff with fortified walls and a castle on top.

It might have been about 100 degrees outside, but during the hottest part of the day, we decided to hike the walls.

Even after all of the walled cities we’ve been to, none have been quite like this…a zigzagged network of switchbacks that looks more like the Great Wall of China than anything else.

It was so worth it. The view at the top speaks for itself.

With 75% Eastern Orthodox Christians, 13% Muslims, and 1% Catholics, Montenegro was a nice cultural change of pace from the rest of Europe that we’ve seen.

Montenegro is trying to cultivate its image as a high-roller luxury paradise, while struggling to upgrade its sometimes third world infrastructure. We didn’t go into it expecting any sort luxury, and we left happy with their lower prices, friendly locals, and rugged beauty.

We heard that Montenegro is the next Croatia. And we read that Croatia is the next Italy. So does that mean that Montenegro is the next, next Italy? Ummm, okay, but I’ll give them the next century or so to work that out.

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