The little-known small country of Montenegro (Black Mountain) in south-east Europe has a charming coast on the Adriatic Sea and borders with Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Serbia. Despite it’s small size and relatively little information about it, Montenegro combines many desirable features for visitors, namely lovely seascapes and beautiful beaches (the coast is only 1-6 miles wide but 295 km long), with many well-preserved ancient old towns and villages, impressive verdant mountains and a lovely climate – still pretty warm but not as hot as most other Mediterranean countries. The New York Times, Yahoo Travel and Lonely Planet have all recently given Montenegro top marks as a worthwhile tourist destination.
Initially inhabited by the ancient Illyrians, the 9th century Byzantine feudal state of Duklja became independent in 1042 and reached great prosperity when known as Crna Gora. After a 400 year Ottoman Turkish rule, then briefly becoming part of former Yugoslavia once Tito’s partisans ousted the Germans, Montenegro declared independence in June 2006. Today, Muslim, Albanian and Catholic minorities co-exist with Croats and Montenegrins, having expelled the Serbs after many bloody skirmishes and declared their independence by a small but significant vote margin. Most citizens are Orthodox Christians and their first language is Serbian, although the new 2007 constitution made Montenegrin the prime official language.
The economy of Montenegro is mostly service-based and tourism is a crucial contributor, attracting large government expenditure on infrastructure and improvements. Montenegro has two international airports and the Port of Bar is the main seaport.
Montenegro’s high peaks along its borders with the western Balkan Peninsula give way to a narrow coastal plain which stops abruptly in the north. There, great volcanic mountains dramatically plunged into the sea, creating the Bay of Kotor inlet in the process. The Montenegro mountains comprise possibly some of the most rugged terrain in Europe and are extremely popular with experienced high-altitude walkers and climbers. Several companies also offer organized hiking trips.
Must visits include the capital Podgorica and the former royal capital Cetinje, both crucial cultural and arts centers. The culture of Montenegro resulted from its historic influences, Orthodox, Slavonic, Central European, Islamic and Italian-Venetian. Accordingly, there are many significant cultural and historical sites and superb religious monuments like the basilica of St. Luke and many medieval monasteries with amazing wall frescoes.
Montenegrin cuisine varies according to the region that you’re visiting, with coastal areas differing from the northern highland region. Try seafood by the coast and be prepared to discover a great variety of Eastern European and even oriental dishes in the north. And if you’re feeling particularly fit after a hearty meal, try joining in the Oro, a traditional folk dance where dancers jump up and stand on each other’s shoulders in a circle.
Posted : Monday, March 14th, 2011 at 12:00
Karen Bryan is the founding editor of the UK based, multi author Europe a la Carte Blog which features Europe travel tips about the best places to visit in Europe.