Yesterday we took a bus trip to the country of Montenegro. It took about 45 minutes to get to the border of this country then another hour or so to reach our first destination. At one point along the way, we were less than one mile from the Bosnian border. I feel pretty ignorant because I had no idea that Bosnia is actually part of Europe; the country is working towards being part of the European Union.
The drive to Montenegro was beautiful. If you look at the picture, we started at point A and drove to point B. We started off driving along the steep and curvy Adriatic Highway, high up on a mountain that overlooked the sea. While driving, there were times I felt a little bit anxious/nauseous because when you looked down, there were only inches between the bus and the edge of the mountain. We had thought about renting a car for this trip and I quickly became thankful that we decided to take a bus and let someone who knows these roads do all the driving. Once we were further away from the coast, the scenery changed to cypress trees and vineyards. The mountains were lush and green instead of bare limestone like they are in Dubrovnik.
The tour guide shared that the abundance of cypress trees stems from hundreds of years ago when fathers were responsible for planting 100 cypress trees when their daughters married. The wood from these trees was then used to make boats and other necessities. When we passed through customs in Croatia, we were literally in what is known as “no man’s land” for a couple of miles before we reached the Montenegrin border. This is because the second largest canyon in the world (the first being the Grand Canyon) cuts through here making it impossible to build a border.
Montenegro is the third youngest country in the whole world. The country declared its independence from Serbia in 2006. Tourism comprises 80% of the Montenegrin economy. The average salary for a person in Montenegro is 400 Euro (approx. $487) per month. Therefore, the prices in this country are much lower than the countries surrounding it. We found the food there to be even cheaper than it is here in Croatia.
Our first stop in Montenegro was for a photo opportunity of Sveti Stefan island. The scenery was breathtaking. The lush mountains cradled the blue water of the Adriatic. It looked like the inside of a painting. After this stop, we were on our way to the city of Kotor. Kotor is old. The first mention of Kotor was way back 168 BC during the Ancient Roman times.
Kotor is very similar to Dubrovnik with a gorgeous old town and a harbor. However, it was over 100 degrees yesterday and very humid. There was also very little shade, so while the old town was very beautiful, I know that I did not soak up all the beauty and/or pay as much attention to the history as I usually do because I was literally melting.
After Kotor, we set off to Budva. On our way there, we were stuck in traffic for over 1.5 hours due to a fatal car accident that took place earlier in the afternoon. While I was very glad to be alive and safe, air conditioning in Eastern Europe is nothing like air conditioning in the US. We were in what seemed like the middle of a desert with the relentless sun beating into the already hot bus. At one point, in my head, I began rationing how much water I had and calculating how long I thought I could survive in the intense heat. Thankfully we were not stuck in traffic as long as earlier tours were.
While Kotor is old, Budva is even older. So old that it was mentioned in Greek mythology. Today it is becoming a popular beach and party destination. There were several multimillion dollar yachts parked in the harbor. The old town was the smallest old town we have seen on this trip. We enjoyed dinner by the sea then we meandered around old town before hopping on the bus and traveling back to Croatia. Unfortunately, we did not get a stamp in our passports.
Croatia (at least Dubrovnik) seems much more aesthetically advanced than Montenegro. Montenegro looks very post communism with the majority of the buildings being ugly grey concrete buildings. The concrete apartment buildings are over ten stories high and very visually unappealing. However, since Montenegro is such a young country and quickly becoming a popular tourist destination, I am sure that in the next ten years it will look completely different.
Today we walked along the Walls of Dubrovnik. This was probably my most favorite activity that we have done here. Even though it was super hot and we went in the middle of the day, the views were spectacular and well worth withstanding the heat, humidity and the sun. It was also fascinating to think of all the history that unfolded right where we were standing. The most obvious sign of what Dubrovnik has been through was the bright orange tiled roofs among the very old roofs. Every place with an organe tiled roof was destroyed or damaged during the early 90s. It is amazing how fast this city has rebuilt and rebounded from a terrible time in history.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Dubrovnik. We have decided that we have seen what we wanted to see in the city. Our plan is take a ferry to Lopud Island which is about an hour away. Lopud Island actually has sandy beaches which will be a nice change from the variety of pebble, concrete and limestone rock beaches we have been lounging on throughout the week.