As part of our week long stay in Dubrovnik, we thought it'd be fun to rent a car and visit Montenegro since the border was only an hour away. We had heard a little bit about Montenegro and that it could be an up and coming tourist destination, so why not check it out?
The whole day turned out to be quite an adventure- we hiked up a mountain, got a little lost and ended up in a place that looked like Baz Lurhmann's version of Romeo & Juliet (dirty beach carnival looking place we dubbed 'Fair Verona'), we shopped, we ate, and mostly explored the city of Kotor. The whole day including the drive (there and back) was a day to remember... Thankfully, Montenegro's radio stations had lots of bad US hits from the early 90's as our soundtrack along the way! Almost like we stepped back in time, LOL!
Here's a look at our day trip and we included a couple videos of the most surprising musical moments on the drive...
Photos from the car ride after crossing the Croatian border into Montenegro
Our first strange radio music encounter was the moment we went through customs into Montenegro. I think anyone would think WTF if the Macarena randomly came on the radio, right? I couldn't help but think it was funny!
Views of Herceg Novi from the car
After passing through Herceg Novi, good ol' Billy Ray Cyrus paid us a visit on the radio- oh yes, his Achy Breaky goodness... How could we not sing along?!
Beautiful scenery all around as we approached the city of Kotor
City and fortress walls of Kotor
Street scenery inside Kotor's Old City Walls
Despite all of the strange/bad music we heard on our drive, we had a nice surprise when we saw/ heard these musicians on a street in the Old City. The music was beautiful and the sound captured the look and feel of Kotor.
Churches in the old city, most dating back to the 1300's
More views of the Old City streets and the entrance to Kotor's fortress
A must-do if visitng Kotor- ascend approximately 1,350 stairs to a height of 1,200 meters to see the views from atop PTvrđave Kotora or the Castle of San Giovanni
The PTvrđave Kotora fortress walls date back to medieval times, built on and off between the 9th and 19th centuries, and built by everyone from the Byzantines to the Venetians
Photos of the PTvrđave Kotora fortress once we got to the top of those 1,350 stairs!
The long, LONG, drive home and 2.5 hour wait in line to get through customs and back into Hrvatska!
Favorite moment in Montenegro...
Alex: While walking through the old town, there was a small group of street performers playing classical music near a small town square in Kotor. The group was nothing more than a violinist and two gentleman playing accordions but, the classical sound that they created gracefully weaved its way through the ancient city, calling everyone within earshot to seek it out. It was beautiful, peaceful, and a moment I will never forget.
Carla: I can't say it was an exact moment, but my favorite memory when thinking of Montenegro was just wandering the streets of Kotor. I think it was the first time during our whole Europe trip were I really zoned out and could just wander aimlessly. It is less crowded and smaller than all the other cities, so I really took it in. I didn't worry about being lost, I didn't feel like I had to swat people out of my way- I got to just stay in the moment I guess, so maybe that is why all the exploring is my favorite "moment".
What surprised us about Montenegro...
Alex: Honestly, the music selection on the local radio. Seriously. We heard the Macarena and Billy Ray Cyrus playing on the radio within 5 minutes of each other. It almost seemed as though the entertainment was being piped in from the late 80’s/early 90’s. At any rate, it gives the locals a good idea of what most of America is all about!
Carla: I thought it'd be a lot like Croatia since it basically shares the same Adriatic Coast, it's hot/sunny, has old Stari Most towns every few miles, and has mountains. Sounds a lot like Croatia, but I was surprised at how different the whole look and feel was. A lot of people describe Montenegro as "the most beautiful meeting of the land and sea" or "where the mountains fell into the sea" and it is truly the most defining characteristic of Montenegro. The natural beauty of the inland fjords meeting against the mega mountains is unlike anything I have ever seen, and it was all around, everywhere you looked!
What tip(s) would we share for someone going there...
Alex: It’s beautiful. The natural splendors are aplenty and that alone is worth the trip. However, Montenegro is just beginning to embrace the fact that they’re one of the next tourist hot spots. That said, it’s not as glamorous as some other places along the Adriatic. Give them 5-10 years though and you’ll be looking at some great accommodations right next to ancient cities that dot the coast all the way to the land where the mountains fell into the sea.
Carla: If you are driving into Montenegro from Croatia and plan to drive back into Croatia, know that it could take anywhere from one to three or even four hours to get through customs and back into Croatia. I have never had to wait in a line that long to get through customs into another country, and that includes going from Ciudad Juarez back into the US (work trip a few years ago, needless to say our company doesn't permit travel there anymore). Alex and I had no idea it would take that long and almost got charged another full day for our car rental since we didn't make it back by the 8pm deadline. We waited about two and a half hours, it was so annoying and stressful! So if anyone out there does the same at least you've been warned, build in that extra time to your schedule!
Why would we go back to Montenegro?
Alex: This is one place that I really want to go back to, just to see how it grows and develops.
Carla: I'd love to go back and explore some of the smaller towns that we saw along the drive and I'd also like to see if their tourism grows since it's possibly up and coming- I wonder if that will be true? It has many beautiful characteristics that Croatia has and we also heard that Montenegro is envious of Croatia's tourism boom, however Montenegro might have a ways to go before catching up to Croatia. It certainly is charming, but seemed like it needed some more structure or something? With that said though, it is a nice smaller town escape from Dubrovnik for a day and not far away at all!