I bet Crna Gora is on your bucket list! What's that you say? Never heard of it? How about Montenegro? Ah, now I have your attention!
A short drive south of Dubrovnik is the tiny country of Montenegro, the second-smallest (after Kosovo) of the former-Yugoslavian nations. It's capital is Podgorica, which rolls off the tongue so nicely, .........Pod-GORica, it's my current favourite place name! AND, as Titograd, it was one of eight towns and cities in Yugoslavia that used to be named after Tito! But I regret to say we did not go there! Apparently it has absolutely no redeeming features and is decidedly dull and boring!
Not so the Montenegrin coast! Busloads of tourists flock to the Bay of Kotor, a fjord-like inlet of unparalleled beauty and a UNESCO World Heritage site! Yes, we were on one of those buses! A small one! With a Croatian guide who had not much that was complimentary to say about Montenegrins, but did fill us in on the history and tell us some interesting stories, including one about her husband being one of the fabled Dubrovnik defenders! The other 14 occupants of the bus were Swedes, Koreans, Kiwis, Scotts and even some Quebecois! Here's what we saw as we drove around the bay to the town of Kotor.
As you can see, it was a dull and cloudy day, we even had a very short shower - our second in six weeks! It happened in the little town of Kotor, and lasted less than 5 minutes as we wrestled with the crowds - not only were there tour buses but two cruise ships in Kotor that day, bedlam! Kotor had some lovely Eastern Orthodox churches.
It was in Kotor that it became apparent that, yet again, I lost out on the "best-dressed tourist of the year award". Painful as it was, I'm recovering nicely from the disappointment, and plan never again to leave home without my mauve ensemble!
Our bus then took us to see the most famous Adriatic "island" of all, Sveti Stefan, (sounds like sweaty Stefan but means Saint Stefan!).
This little peninsula is a resort hotel with about 50 rooms in what used to be fisherman's cottages, but probably renovated quite a bit since it costs several thousand bucks a night to stay there!
In case this looks familiar, it's where Novak Djokovic recently got married, as you will surely know if you are a devotee of Hello Magazine!
Sveti Stefan, and most of the real estate nearby in the town of Budva, is owned by Russians! They love the Montenegrin Riviera where it's warm and beautiful with no peeling wallpaper or icy sidewalks! The locals gladly accommodate them by making the area virtually bilingual, we saw Russian signs everywhere!
Budva is a charming little town, we had lunch there in a waterfront restaurant, and enjoyed the old town much more than Kotor - the bakery was a highlight!
Montenegro will certainly stand out in our memories for the entertaining ritual we witnessed at the ferry terminal where we took a shortcut on the way back. Forget parking in lane 15 and waiting your turn BC Ferries style! No way! Instead you barge in and jostle for position! Then as the ferry approaches you rev your engine a few times and move gradually forward even as the cars coming in the other direction are driving off! You might also throw your car in reverse and try circling round and nosing your way in at one side, or make a last minute dash when you see the other ferry approaching and try barging ahead of those cars! It was amazing! All of us "foreigners" on the bus were gasping with disbelief, even as the ferry staff, in their striped shirts stood around and completely ignored the mayhem!
And, while I mention striped shirts, the Adriatic coast has a worse case of striped-shirt-itis than even the Finns! Except here it's only blue and white, and mostly pirate-related! There is more pirate paraphernalia in the shops here than you can imagine!
We enjoyed our day in Montenegro - our expectations were not high, so we weren't disappointed! One day on a tour bus, even a small one, taught us that this style of travel probably isn't going to be a priority in our future travel plans!