Montenegro

Trip Start Aug 14, 2001
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Trip End Nov 07, 2002


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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Tuesday, October 16, 2001

All that's left of Yugoslavia are the two Provinces of Serbia and Montenegro. (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hecegovina have gained independence, while Kosovo and Vovodina are semi autonomous states of Serbia) The rebel province of Montenegro doesn't require it's visitors to have a visa, so we decided to try and check it out. We caught a bus to the border and had to walk for a half a mile in the mountains past a long lineup of trucks waiting to cross.(engines off, no movement) Then we handed our passports to a series of different Croatian/Montenegrian officials, got stamps and carried on walking a bit more and then got on another bus towards Kotor.

One of the strange things about Montenegro is how it uses German Deutschmarks as currency. We knew this before we arrived, but what we didn't know was that there are absolutely no bank-machines, no places to use credit-cards and certainly, it seems no one would dare cash an American Express Travelers cheque!! We could have been in big trouble, but luckily we had about a hundred US dollars cash with us and eventually found a 'bank' where we could make an exchange. They wouldn't take one 20dollar note we had because of a small tear in it! (One girl we've met since then ended up in a worse situation. She couldn't get any cash and ended up turning to a local woman for help and with luck, she found a free place to stay one night but had to hitch hike back to Croatia!) The reason these things happen are partially because of poor planning, but also because the Croatian Tourist offices are unwilling to give much info about Montenegro due to harboured bitterness over the conflicts a decade ago.

In Montenegro, we visited Kotor, Budva and Cetinje. The bus ride along the sea was beautiful. About half of the buildings we saw were either abandoned or half built. The Cyrillic Alphabet was in partial use, but most signs and menus and whatnot used the Roman based print and the language is the same as Croatia's (although in Croatia it's called 'Croatian', while Serbs call it 'Serbian' and those in Bosnia call it 'Bosnian'...) We stayed two nights in Budva with a nice woman and her English speaking daughter. When we arrived at the bus-station, she was the only one offering rooms, so we went with her! We paid DM 30 per night and were close to the beach. From the daughter, Nada, we learned alot about all the politics of this region. Alot of Montenegrians worry about the upcoming vote on independence as things could change for the worse... Their hatred towards Muslims amazed me. Alot of their troubles are blamed on the Muslim populations around them. But, I must say, that they don't have alot of sympathy towards the US or it's present 'war on terror' as the NATO bombings upon Belgrade in 1999 are still quite fresh in their minds. Nada said it was a horrible 72 days, as the jet planes rocketed by overhead toward Belgrade. We found ourselves dancing with our words, trying to say how we felt, without stepping too hard on big toes that we couldn't quite see underneath their very different 'skirt of experience' if you will...

People took a mild interest in us because there were so few tourists. Most people were friendly, but I felt a bit of tension in the air around us. We had to remember that most of these folks are 'trapped' inside their own country and can't help but look upon foreign travelers with a bit of resentment.

On the way back up to Croatia, two older ladies who were speaking English got on the bus with big backpacks. One of the ladies seemed to also speak fluent Serbian to the bus driver, which was strange because their English had a very Irish flavour to it. There are no buses on Sundays so we ended up catching a taxi with them back into Dubrovnik after walking back across the border. They were sisters, both from Ireland, one was visiting the other who had married a Serb and had been living in Belgrade as a teacher since 1956! They were off traveling together! We heard even more perspective on the civil wars in Yugoslavia...This woman also had to leave her home with her family during some of this period. Back home in Canada the news was too damn busy telling us about the latest OJ Simpson episode in those days, probably so we would have an excuse to be uninformed and therefore would just mainly go along with what our governments decided to do or not do.
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