Montenegro means literally Black Mountain or in Montenegrin Crna Gora. Montenegro is an up-and-coming country, and just might make it economically. The mountains jut against the rocky shorelines of the deep-blue sea. Along the shorelines, many villages and cottages dot the landscape, and mountainous peaks reach for the sky. This gem of a country is attracting tourists, and investors from around the globe. Montenegro was even called the playground of the Russian mafia.
Many tourists visit the coastline around Budva and Kotor. However, I ventured out and visited other cities. One city is Bar. Unfortunately, Bar is not a tourist destination, but a main port for the former countries of Yugoslavia. The only tourist attractions are the ruins of Old Bar, and the 1,000-year-old olive tree. Some of the ruins have been restored like the aqueduct, church, clock tower, and theater. However, the fortress walls are crumbing. The other sight is the oldest olive tree in Europe, which is very difficult to find. Montenegrins seemed to be adverse in posting signs.
- The area of the country spans 5,019 square miles, making Montenegro the 160th largest country in the world.
- The currency is the Euro, even though Montenegro is not part of the European Union.
- The capital is Podogorica.
- In 2011, the population was estimated at 625,000.
- Podogorica is the largest city, and the financial, manufacturing, and political hub of the country.
- The tourist destination for foreigners is along the coastline of Montenegro.
Budva is a miniature Dubrovnik, and is a major tourist destination. The central attraction is Old Budva, which is a five-hundred-year-old fortress that was converted into a shopping mall. Along the narrow, stone streets are shops, cafes, stores, and restaurants. As one walks along these cobble streets, one hears a plethora of languages, like Montenegrin, English, and Russian.
The coastal cities attract the foreign investors. The mountains inch against the Adriatic Sea. Subdivisions and communities are springing up along the mountainside that offers homeowners fantastic panoramic views of the blue sea, and rocky shorelines. I was surprised to see coastal properties selling for as low as 500,000 Euros. Furthermore, the Montenegrin government offers citizenship to anyone who invests at least 500,000 euros into the country. Consequently, Montenegro has a booming construction industry.
One can see the influx of wealth by strolling along the docks at the marina. Many expensive yachts, vessels, and boats are docked there, as the wealthy owners socialize in the city. The Government of Montenegro wants their country to become the top tourist destination and vacation spot, and they just might succeed.
Kotor is another old city of Montenegro. Old Kotor is a fortress that was built against a mountain. Similar to Budva, Old Kotor was converted to a shopping mall with restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars spread along the narrow, dark stone streets.
Old Kotor has one activity that the other coastal towns lack, which is mountain hiking. Several trails lead from the back of Old Kotor to the peak of the first mountain summit. At the top of the peak is St. John's Castle. A staircase leads all the way to the top, which has 1,350 steps. The staircase leads to a dizzying height of 1,200 meters, and has several spots with gaping holes and loose stone steps.
An old church is located half-way up the mountain. Ironically, the name of the church is Church of Our Lady of Health, because one has to be quite healthy to reach this church. A warning sign is posted two-thirds up the mountain, warning hikers the danger of hiking beyond this point. Once at the top, one gets a spectacular view of Kotor and the bay.
Tara River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Tara River Canyon lies along the border of Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The interior of Montenegro is not as developed as the coastal cities. Few visitors and tourists venture into the Montenegrin countryside. Instead, they remain in the coastal cities, where civilization continues to flourish.
Tara River Canyon really should be called the canyon of impending death. Driving along the paved two-lane road, one gets the uneasy feeling of vertigo. Some spots on the road have large gaps in the rails and steep drop-offs. The road snakes along the edges of the canyon and has numerous cavernous tunnels. The interior of the tunnels is rocky and water drops fall from the cave ceilings to the road below. Apparently, the government ran out of concrete, which the tunnels sorely need reinforcement.
Then the Bosnian side of the canyon became even worse. The road turned into one lane with dirt patches here and there. One part of the road collapsed, and we had to dodge several cows, and one bull grazing on the side of the road. However, we all made it out alive, and we did not have one scratch on the rental car.