Saturday, 19 March 2016


We chose Montenegro for our February adventure because of its beauty and the affordable price, but we forgot to factor in the weather. A holiday in February in the northern hemisphere is always a risk, weather wise, and more so in a mountainous country. Having booked and paid for everything, we found out that it would be raining practically the whole week...

The most emblematic picture I took was this one, at the spot with, according to our guide Miko, the most spectacular view in the whole of Montenegro:

It was supposed to be the view of the bay of Kotor from the top of a mountain. The problem was that we were right in the middle of thick clouds, so we were only able to view the bay when we actually arrived there. We have to go view it another time. Hopefully, in summer, even though the place will be much more crowded, it won't be rainy and foggy the whole time...

Later that day, the sun did come out and we went for a stroll in Kotor old town before driving to Budva, the tourist mecca of Montenegro - many apartments, yacht marinas, night life and so on. Not much activity at this time of the year, but the old town was still there and even just a bit sunny too.

The world famous Sveti Stefan was also spared from the rain when we arrived there:

The second day we had a new guide, Radovan ("Rado"), who took us to Lake Skadar and the coastal town of Bar. Again, Lake Skadar was spectacular but very windy and rainy. At one point we stopped at a view point to have a look at a spectacular view of of destination. We went out of the car, only to be forced back in for shelter by strong winds and heavy rain. It was so frustrating. At the abandoned but still beautiful old fishing village of Rijeka Crnojevica, we had to admire the place from inside the car. And so it went on...

The coastal town of Bar, its name associated with the Italian city of Bari on the other side of the Adriatic, has a frequent ferry connection and strong trade links with that city. In fact, we could see at the port thousands of new Fiat Cinquecento cars manufactured in Serbia and waiting to be transported to Italy. There's an old town, Stari Bar (Old Bar), built on a hilltop 5 km inland, with fortified walls looking out for possible invaders. It suffered huge damage in an earthquake in 1979. Works are now under way on restoration of those parts that are still standing.

Very close to Old Bar stands the oldest tree in Europe, a 2000 year old olive tree that still produces olives. It was already there at the time of Jesus Christ.

We saw a bit of sun, lots of rain, strong winds, cloud from up above, no thunderstorms... on day three we experienced snow, lots of it.

We were on a tour of the mountainous part of Montenegro. The first highlight here was the Moraca canyon, said to be the second deepest in the world. We stopped at the bridge, which is where the first snowflakes started to fall.

Rado told us a sad story about the engineer who built this impressive bridge. Surely he must have been so proud of his handiwork. In World War II he had to place a bomb and destroy a section of his creation to prevent the Nazis' advance into Montenegro. Eventually, the Nazis still overcame Montenegro and the brave engineer was executed. Later, the bridge was restored to its former glory and a monument was erected in his honour.

Rather a poor effort, I have to say. Looks like a memorial to someone who died in an accident. It sort of highlights the pathos. I straightened up the small flower pot on the right, which had fallen over with the wind.

Our next stop: the highest town in all the Balkans: Zabljak. It lies at the edge of a large natural park, Durmitor. We walked along a snowbound road into the park, towards Crno Jezero, the Black Lake. Except that it was white.

Rado explained that in summer it's completely different, teeming with hikers, cyclists, day trippers, ice cream vendors and all sorts of recreation activities. Certainly not in February...

The last day was really a half day. We went to the Ostrog monastery, built high up, practically on the face of a cliff. On the way up we could appreciate the beauty of the valley leading towards the capital Podgorica. Luckily, the cloud cover wasn't complete this time so we could appreciate the magic effect of the valley below us swimming in patches of cloud (the picture at the top).

It's a LONG way up. I can't imagine how they managed to haul all the building materials up without the aid of modern machinery. Ostrog is considered as one of the most sacred places of the Orthodox religion and there are many rites, relics and legends associated with it. Pilgrims from all over ex Yugoslavia visit the place.

It was getting uncomfortably close to flight departure time, but Rado insisted on taking us to another monastery on the way back to the hotel. It's called Zdrebaonik and it's for nuns. They have a church there, with lots of relics and stuff, quite impressive. Two young nuns invited us into their visitors' hall for a coffee and some cakes. In broken French and English we discussed our respective, wildly different, backgrounds. They then took us to their souvenir shop, gave us a gift and made us promise to visit if we go back to Montenegro. Back in the hotel, Miko complained that in many years he's been delivering supplies to them the nuns never, ever, invited him in. Must be my beard, or more likely Gianluca.

Time was really pressing but the kind people at Hotel M insisted on us having a farewell coffee. I've never felt so welcome in a hotel. They said there was still ample time to get to the airport and in any case there were no lengthy formalities. We arrived on time but much too close for comfort. 

Lovely people. Lovely country. Hopefully we'll go back, maybe even to the same hotel, but definitely not in winter!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about Montenegro a place not so familiar with, only familiar in fact when it being mentioned in the Eurovision song contest as one of the countries participating ! but it seems to be such a fascinating place and so different both in culture, and landscape that i am sure must have been fascinating pity about the weather but that is a good excuse to go and visit again in summer this time :) keep these blogs comming !