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Montenegro...Who Knew?

September 19, 2007

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What we saw was a cross between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, with old world French or Italian-like unspoiled fishing villages. We love the beauty of Yosemite and Lake Tahoe and adore small Italian and French picturesque villages, so you know we fell instantly in love with Montenegro. Who knew it was so nice? Naturally, it was not quite any of the above and had its own unique flavor, but this is what came to mind when we first saw it and tried to put words on this glorious experience.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the small country just south of Croatia and are so glad that we rented a car and drove a couple hours south of Dubrovnik to take in this beauty and ambiance. It has many similarities to Croatia and especially the smaller islands, but still had its own unique look and feel. We were there in high season in August and there was hardly anyone there. The tourists who were there seemed to be mostly Serbs and Russians.

It is always fun to rent a car and see more of the country, so we even enjoyed seeing more of Croatia on the way. One of the best places to view Dubrovnik is from the coast road that leads to Montenegro. We got some great shots when we left and saw an exquisite sunset when we returned. We enjoyed seeing Clipi and Cavtat villages in southern Croatia on the way.

People on the Fodor’s forums talk about the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro and the pictures posted and descriptions made it a “must see” on our list. We saw lots of campsites there and we considered possibly taking the RV for a few days, but renting a car seemed like a more efficient way for our purposes, as there was more that we wanted to see in Croatia and we are drawn northward.

They say that the Montenegro people and the Croatians are not fond of each other, especially since the last war in the nineties and we were warned about police possibly hassling us because of our Croatian rent-a-car plates. There were tons of police everywhere which gives a strange vibe, but no one hassled us at all and crossing the boarder was very easy for us going both ways. Montenegro appears to be a poorer country than Croatia and it feels more Eastern European, but they do use the Euro and we found people that spoke English.

Soon after we entered, we encountered an area that was just filled with naturally growing cypress trees. We had seen some of this in Croatia, but not to the extent of this area. DaVinci adores cypress trees so it was fascinating to see so many growing wild.

As we drove around the Bay of Kotor,the landscape became more and more stunning and mesmerizing. The high, wild mountains encircle the azure sea and  pearl white, small stone villages, capped with orange tile roofs dot the landscape here and there. The oldest settlements in this area were inhabited
by the Illyrians conquered by the Romans, then later under the rule of Zeta, Moors, Dubrovnik, Turks, Austrians and the French.

Our favorite little fishing village was the ancient seaside settlement of Perast, but everything we saw was delightful! The cover picture is taken from a slope in that small village. A famous site in the Bay of Kotor that can be seen clearly from there and all around the bay is a small island with the church of Saint Donat
“Sanctus Georgius de Gulfo” from the 9th century (also in the cover shot).

Next to it is an island called “Gospa od Skrpelja” which is an artificial island formed as an embankment of rocks and old ship parts around the underwater rock. It was built by generations of mariners from nearby settlements as a custom to leave a testimony of their Christian faith and this custom continues today.

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