12 September 2018
We have spent a lot of time in Montenegro gazing at the mountains so decided we really should have a closer encounter. Hiring a car for a couple of days we headed up from Kotor and up and up. From sea level to 1000m via 30 treacherous hairpin bends we made our way deeper into the Lovćen mountains.
The view from breakfast not far into our journey was pretty stunning but with hindsight breakfast was a slight mistake on my part. I am not good with heights and this road with its twists and turns with added constant sheer drops and frequent gaps in the frankly inadequate barriers meant my legs were jelly and my heart in my mouth. This definitely tops the list of most dangerous road driven.
High up on the plateau in the vast Lovćen National Park I was glad to get out of the car on the flat in Cetinje, the old Royal capital of Montenegro.
The change in temperature at 650m meant that we were feeling a lot cooler and decided on a walk up to a viewpoint above the town for a better view over the park.
We could see the high peak on which the mausoleum to Montenegro’s poet prince, Njegoš perches at 1660m. We had planned to go there next but after the drive up from Kotor I had lost all nerve for another 20km up half built roads. We made do instead with the memorial to someone else which we found at the top of this much more manageable hill!
Cetinje is a very pretty town full of colourful and historic buildings including Njegoš’ home, a monastery and embassy buildings dating back to Montenegro’s independence in 1878. The red painted building was the British Embassy.
Having learnt very little about Montenegrin history in our extended time here we thought we should visit the History Museum and put that right. Stefan could barely contain his excitement at finding a small collection of Roman coins so we moved swiftly to more recent history!
Stories of occupation by the Ottomans, Venetians and Austrians mirrored those of Greece and Albania with Montenegro only finally gaining independence with its own constitution in 1855 only then to be subsumed again within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1922.
Occupation came again with the World Wars and we read familiar stories to those in Albania and Greece of fierce resistance by the partisans. Finally liberated by the Yugoslav Partisans in 1944 Montenegro became one of six constituents on Tito’s Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The bit we really wanted to understand better was Montenegro’s part in the wars of 1991 -1995 but these were only given a very fleeting mention. What we know is that allied to Milosevič’s Serbia Montenegro found itself on the wrong side of history and its navy bombed by NATO. After severing ties with Serbia in 1996, this country with a population of only 600,000 welcomed 136,812 refugees perhaps by way of reparation for its involvement in the human rights abuses of the war. For a few years from 2002 to 2006 Serbia and Montenegro fell back into another union but independence for Montenegro came again following a referendum in 2006.
As well as history and art museums Cetinje also has a large relief map of Montenegro and visiting it left us in no doubt as to how the country got its name (translation Black Mountain) or what a job the countries road builders had! It was good to see an aerial view of the whale tail shaped Bay of Kotor in which we have spent so much time.
Luckily the road builders had been hard at work building a far preferable road down towards Budva and we enjoyed a much calmer descent to sea level than our ascent.
We also got a great view of the town and Sveti Nikola where we had anchored six weeks ago.
Having not landed at Budva when we were anchored there we thought we should have a quick look at the Old Town as we were passing. We had a wander around the narrow streets and a drink in the square but the greater charms of Kotor lured us back…