Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three-Card Montenegro

A couple of days into our stay in Dubrovnik, the boys and I decided to bust a move and make a border run for Montenegro.   Lisa gave us an indulgent look, but indicated that she was quite content to enjoy Dubrovnik for a day without anyone asking to use her iPhone.

The excursion began on an off note when we noticed that someone had given Fritz's bumper a good scrape overnight in the parking lot.   Oh well, we knew Fritz wouldn't be a new car forever.  

And, to look on the bright side, perhaps he would be less likely to be stolen in Montenegro.   The Croatian border guards seemed most attentive to the flow of automobiles into their former fellow Yugoslav neighbor.  Certainly Fritz's paperwork was checked more carefully than that of either of the two kids I had stashed in the back seat.

One got a sense of some frostiness between the two countries.  Or maybe the Croatians just forgot to put any mention of Montenegro on their road signs, even if the country was only a few kilometers away.  

In any event, Montenegro felt different.  The scenery was a now familiar mix of dramatic mountains, cliffs, water and sun.  But things were a little rougher around the edges, the Yugoslav era being a more recent memory (Montenegro only formalized its divorce from Serbia a few years ago, after a decade or so of legal separation.)

A half hour or so from the border, the Adriatic coastline gave way to the remarkable Bay of Kotor, a sort of subtropical fjord.  

Even by the region's high standards, the scenery was remarkable, with towering mountains circling each of a series of large interconnected bays, each lined with venerable towns and fortresses dating from the typical Adriatic laundry list of empires and occupiers (Rome, Venice, Austria, the Ottomans, etc.)

The current invasion, however, is clearly Russian, if the real estate signs are any indication.

Curiously, we traveled from an EU country (Croatia) which does not use the euro, to a non-EU country that does -- as its only currency.   Apparently, Montenegro got fed up with Yugoslavia's hyperinflation in the 1990s.   Unlike their fellow republics, they did not quit the federation -- but they stopped using its money.  Instead, they decided to use the Deutschmark exclusively.   When Germany adopted the euro, Montenegro came along for the ride.   The good news was that I still had enough euros left over from Italy to pay for lunch.

We spent the rest of the day hopping around the Bay of Kotor and its many fine sights, before taking a shortcut back via ferry.   We made it back to Dubrovnik alive and well and quite proud of ourselves for having bagged another country.


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