An Unusual Border Crossing
We wished we could have seen more of Montenegro, but our tour was rushed so we could make it back in time for the lamb dinner. In the morning we picked up our rental car and headed south. We reached the border, waiting about 45 min to pass through a surprisingly through inspection just to leave Croatia and then passed through a few miles of buffer zone before getting to Montenegro’s border for another slow one. It was some odd poltitical situation, left over from the break up of Yugoslavia, the bitter turmoil of the Balkans War and the recent peaceful EU pressure on Serbia to let Montenegro secede quietly. Nevertheless, it took much longer than we expected to get through the borders.
Just a short distance from the border is a little town called Herci Novi. Not sure what was there, but the guidebook said to stop here. Not sure what to see or do we followed the rustic dilapidated signs for the tourist office up the cobbled path. The signs took us away from the town into the second story of a run down apartment building, past laundry and through a dark hallway only to find that it, like everything else was closed on Sundays. Walking around was uncomfortable and being in this country felt weird and almost unsafe, like we were the only tourists who had ever come. We decided to get back in the car and drove all around the most southern fjord in Europe: the Bay of Kotor, which was dramatic with the mountains jutting up all around it from all sides.
We got the the city of Kotor very intrigued about what exactly we were going to discover here. Our guidebook was vague, but warned “Shhh…Don’t tell anyone about Kotor!” like it was a well preserved secret jewel. But it was weird, we were not exactly sure what to make of it. As we drove up we saw what looked like an imposing fortified city, with switchback walls running high up the steep mountainside. It was dark, gloomy and like everything was covered in suit. Walking through the city walls into the town we saw plenty of locals and shopkeepers armed to deal with floods of tourists but we only one of about 5 we saw. It almost seemed like they had been promised years ago that tourists would be coming to make them rich, but they never arrived.
About two minutes after we got there it began pouring rain like we had never seen before causing us to take shelter in front of a church where a man selling souvenirs asked where we were from, telling us “I have been in USA three times,” and eagerly asking where we like it better in America or here. From how excited he seemed to be talking to foreigners, we wondered how he was selling enough souvenirs to fund 3 trips to the US. He seemed honest enough informing us it rains here more than anywhere in Europe because the clouds get trapped between the mountains in this narrow but deep valley. The rain began to let up and we left the stoop and headed up the mountain along the walls on the crumbling stone stairway that seemed endless. We felt like we had walked all the way to the Earth’s atmosphere, when an Australian couple on their way down informed us that we had only come halfway. With no idea what we were doing, what was up there or even really where we were we decided that it was best to head back down. On our way down we spotted a plaque stating that the United States had for some reason pay for the restoration of the wall. It was unclear what exactly had been restored as it looked pretty decayed to us.
With some time to spare we decided that we really wanted to drive to Sveti Stefan before heading back to Croatia. Bryan was paranoid about getting back in time for the lamb feast so we only stopped to take a few photos of the beautiful little peninsula island. We were sad we couldn’t have spent more time there, because it was our favorite spot we saw in Montenegro. We headed north and took the ferry across the bay of Kotor which took about 10 minuets opposed to about 2 hours.
Montenegro was such a weird country, we can really even describe why. It was totally different than Croatia almost like another planet. We felt removed from anything familiar and there was an uneasy feeling about being there, even though it was part of the EU, it didn’t feel like it. It felt dangerous, even though it probably wasn’t. The costal resort towns we drove past looked eastern-euro-tacky. It looked like a European Mexico, but with an unusual amount of Range Rovers and Bentleys on the road. We can’t say we understood the vibe it was giving off, but we were intrigued. We would definitely go back to figure out what it was all about.