When we decided to spend our holidays in Montenegro, I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
Since the beginning, people’s opinions were different: someone said to have been there, and
that the place was really worth a visit, and someone who just replied: “Montenegro? Where is it?”
I can tell you so right away: it’s in Eastern Europe and its borders are Croatia, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo e Bosnia. Until 2006 it was part of Serbia, with the name of Serbia and Montenegro.
Actually it has been part of Serbia for just 61 years, from 1945 to 2006. Previously, in 1878, Berlin’s Congress gave it independence, and in 1910 Prince Nicola Petrović Njegoš, who had already his daughter married to the heir of Italy’s kingdom Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia, proclaimed himself king, giving life to the reign of Montenegro, which in 1941 passed to the Italian protectorate. Since 1946 it’s part of Yugoslavia and since 1992 from a popular referendum resulted that its people wanted to stay part of Serbia, with the 95% of votes. It will pass another 14 years to make Montenegro an independent nation again.
Serbian influence is still today very present. They speak Serbian, and the most of the writings you’ll find, also on ads and road signs are in Serbian (Cyrillic).
Something important to keep in mind is that only a few persons speak English, just in some touristic places (e.g. Kotor’s bay), young people can understand and make themselves understood in quite broken English but as for the rest… you’ll have to sort yourself out. Main language is Serbian, even if Montenegro has its own language, but the universal gesture language always works.
How to arrive in Montenegro
From Italy, until a few years ago it was possible to get there from Italy through ferries, leaving from Ancona to Kotor or from Bari to Bar. Today, anyway, it’s only active the line to Bar, both from Ancona and Bari, with the Montenegro Lines, of which I appreciated both the customer service, efficient, fast and always helpful, and the ship itself. Maybe a little grumpy the staff of bar and restaurant, but food was very good, even croissants and cappuccino were pretty good. On board of Sveti Stefan II, the ship we travelled on, there is a recreation room, a ball room, and a deck on the sea… So there is plenty of ways to spend the 9 hours of sailing. The trip costs 100€ round trip (plus 10€ of insurance and taxes) and it’s maybe the cheapest way to arrive.
By plane it is possible to arrive in Podgorica, the capital city, roughly one hour away from the coast, or in Tivat, 4 kms away from Kotor. Planes fares, as known, changes daily and in summer are surely not cheap… Booking with widely in advance, though, maybe you can find a good deal.
By train is more difficult, because in Montenegro there is only one line, that in 7 hours links Bar to Belgrade… and it doesn’t reach the coast.
Alternatively you can arrive in Dubrovnik, in Croatia, and from there rent a car to drive down to Montenegro (less than an hour to Hrceg Novi, 1 and an half to Kotor).
Economically speaking, Montenegro is part of E.U., so it has Euro as currency, but you’ll have to pass the customs, even if European citizens only need a valid document, not necessarily a passport… As a good traveler, I gave my passport to have the Montenegro stamp in my collection!
Montenegro is one of the nations with the lowest prices I’ve ever seen: a full fish meal in a good restaurant was 9€ each, or hamburger and chips 2.8€ each. Cabs? 2€ from Bar center to the train station (15 kms).
Montenegro in 4 days
As it always happens to me, before leaving I tried to set an itinerary that, in the end, we didn’t follow. We like it too much to live our liver day by day, and also we were unlucky for different reasons. In four days, obviously, one can’t visit the whole country, small as it is, but only the main things. Our was intended to be half a travel, half a vacation, so visiting, yes, but also relax. That’s why our itinerary is mainly about the coast.
So the first day we wanted to enjoy bar and its sea. It’s a place which is usually only named as a landing point, but it’s worth to spend at least one day there. Enjoying its clean waters, the beach of white stones, and the stalls on the seaside while eating one of those tasty icecreams along the carnivals it’s a must do.
Another thing which can’t be missed is a visit to the capital city, Podgorica (also because it is a European Capital, and we have to see them all!). Only an hour (by train) away from Bar, it’s a new city, which can easily be visited in one day. Also half a day, really, so the other half can be spent bathing in Morača River (highly recommended) with its crystal clear waters, turquoise and aqua green, simply charming. On summer temperatures in Podgorica reach the 42° C (107.6 °F), and being a humid place, the closeness it’s suffocating… that river it’s a liberating shelter if you seek some cool. I recall that the day in which we visited the capital we drank around five liters of water each, as muggy as the weather was.
One or two days has to be spent in Kotor’s Bay, where you can find one of the most beautiful fjord in Europe, other than many other characteristic places, old cities, and many nightlife clubs. Unluckily we couldn’t do that and still I kick myself… as usual I hope to catch up and spend there at least a weekend.
Montenegro is one of the less known destinations in Europe, it is seeing the light in those years, as Country and touristic destination, and maybe it’s also for this reason that is one of the most beautiful goals, keeping intact its wild beauty, and its authenticity.