Thursday, June 07, 2007

New Country

My first impression of Montenegro was not a good one as the immigration officer stamped one of the three remaining blank pages in my passport when there was plenty of room on other, used pages for the stamp. No big deal one might think, but to the traveller they are vital as many countries issue full-page visas and so I have room for only two more. Usually I stand by the immigration counter watching the officer like a hawk, steering his attention (and stamp) towards a space on an already used page, but this time it wasn't possible as I was on a cross-border bus and all the passports were collected together and taken into a back-office to be processed. One would think though that it would be possible to at least train these stamp monkeys that little bit.

But enough of my moaning, what about Montenegro? As the latest rat to have abandoned the limping ship that once was Yugoslavia Montenegro (or Crna Gora as they call it) is the youngest country on the planet, less than a year old (it's official birthday is the 8th of June). Since it's such a small country they didn't even bother to make their own money and have adopted the Euro instead, which certainly makes things easier for me. Youth, however, is no guarantee of virginity and the Montenegrin coastline is an extension of the exquisite Dalmatian riviera that starts in northern Croatia. Black, heavily wooded karst mountains (hence the name of the country) rise straight out of the sea to form irregular, sheltered bays with the occasional, discreet sandy beach. Due to the difficult topography this was the only part of the Balkans to remain free of Ottoman rule (which, if you mention it, gets you extra brownie points with the locals). Small, medieval towns dot the rugged coast, each a little maze of cobbled alleyways and cute little churches. The most famous are Budva and Kotor, the latter tucked away at the end of a secluded gulf, which is universally acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful in the world. This, unfortunately, is not a recent revelation, as is eminently shown by the large number of houses being built in the area and even larger number of real-estate agents advertising in English, German and Italian as well as the grotesquely large yachts moored in the marinas. Hopefully the interior will be less crowded with tourists.

1 comment:

Inihtar said...

Gorgeous photo! Imagine how cool your passport will be, with all those visa stamps, despite what the "stamp monkey" did! LOL! I think when you return to "domesticity," you should display that passport in a very prominent place!