November 15th, 2022
Diesel: €1.64 per litre which is $6.40 US per gallon (the one time we filled up we got it for €1.59 = $6.29)
EU Plate letters: MNE
Montenegro is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located a part of the Balkans and is bordered by Serbia to the northeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north, Kosovo to the east, Albania to the southeast, Croatia to the northwest, and the Adriatic Se. Podgorica, the capital and largest city and is home to roughly 30% of its total population of 621,000. It is half the size of Belgium or slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut.
During the Early Medieval period, three principalities were located on the territory of modern-day Montenegro: Duklja, roughly corresponding to the southern half; Travunia, the west; and Rascia proper, the north. The Principality of Zeta emerged in the 14th and 15th centuries. From the late 14th century to the late 18th century, large parts of southern Montenegro were ruled by the Venetian Republic and incorporated into Venetian Albania. The name Montenegro was first used to refer to the country in the late 15th century. After falling under Ottoman rule, Montenegro regained its independence in 1696 under the rule of the House of Petrovic-Njegos, first as a Theocracy and later as a secular principality. Montenegro’s independence was recognized by the Great Powers at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. In 1910, the country became a kingdom.
After WWI, the kingdom became part of Yugoslavia. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, the republics of Serbia and Montenegro together proclaimed a federation. Following a referendum of independence held in May 2006, Montenegro declared its independence in June 2006 and the confederation dissolved.
It is a member of the United Nations, NATO and more and is currently in the process of joining the EU.
The flag represents the culture of the people of Montenegro. The two-headed eagle with a crown shows the close relationship between the church and the state. There is a shield at the center, which acts as a protection to the eagle. The shield has a lion at the center that symbolizes the lion of Judah.
As mentioned at the end of the Kosovo blog, the border entry points for both Kosovo and Montenegro are NOT at the actual border. Entry into Montenegro is 6 km / 4 mi from the border itself. Entering this country took about 8 minutes; one booth does both the visa and car paperwork and then a customs inspection takes place. Pretty fast and easy.
We had countryside or forest to drive through to reach the first city in this country.
We even saw some of those unusual haystacks we saw back in Bosnia & Serbia:
So since the Euro is the currency here in Montenegro, we did not have to get cash but needed SIM cards. The first town of any size we can across, Rozaje, had a ONE shop but it does not open till Thursdays! A local told us to try in the next city, Berane. Here we struck gold! First off, we found it; secondly, an employee spoke English and thirdly this was the cheapest data we’ve ever purchased! The tourist SIM card gives you 200GB for 15 days for only €10! This was better than what we had in Brazil which was about $23 for 100GB for a month. So we are getting about a GB for 5¢ USD. We have NO idea how we’d use up that much data in the week or so we’ll spend here. We’re still in a state of disbelief.
We were not sure what language they speak here and our Google Translate app had no “Montenegran” option. We asked the nice fellow at the ONE shop and he said most people spoke Serbian which is on the app.
Now the highways in Montenegro are nowhere as good as Kosovo and the main M5 we took from Rozaje to past Berane was a two lane road only. There’s not a huge amount of traffic, at least at this time of year but there were some slow pokes. It very much reminded us very much of the way the road to Sooke from Victoria was back in the 70’s and 80’s – windy, slow and wet! Yes it’s raining again. Also as we are in mountainous terrain we are back to a lot of tunnels.
So after getting connected back to the world, we made our way northward to see the Tara Canyon and the Djurdjevica Tara Bridge in the Durmitor National Park (a UNESCO site). This will be our most northerly point in Montenegro at 43.15ºN.
The Tara Gorge is the largest and deepest gorge in Europe and said to be second only to the Grand Canyon in the US (but we know the Grand Canyon is NOT the deepest). The canyon is up to 1,300 m / 4300’ deep and features rocky and pebbly terraces, sandy beaches, high cliffs, and more than 80 large caves. The water is a glacial green and crystal clear. The Tara River is the longest in Montenegro at 82 km / 51 mi (with a small part in Bosnia). The bridge was built in 1940 and at the time was an engineering marvel with an arch span of 116 m / 381’.
There are LOTS of zip lining places around here and we expect this place gets very crowded in the summer. In fact, the fellow at the campground we stayed at said he had 100 vehicles in the campground last August! Crazy!
Since we’d already gone about 180 km / 111 mi – we decided we’d call it a day. We found a campground on park4night and it’s just across the bridge. Kamp Kljajevica Luka offers cabins and camping for both tents and motorhomes. The sky began to clear and it felt so good.
Upon parking we were invited up to the bar for a shot of their homemade plum schnapps! It was too strong for Doug so Fran had them both while we stayed warm by the woodstove.
For €10 a night they offer power, water, HOT showers and bathrooms. There was Wi-fi but it didn’t reach out spot. Our spot had a pretty good view of the bridge too. Most of the camp is not level and the owner directed us to the flattest area which was the furthest from the restaurant where the Wi-Fi comes from. Even our SIM got at best H+ which kind of made sense as after all, we are in a gorge. (By that evening we did get 4G again so that was good.)
After making brunch we had a chill afternoon which is always appreciated on a border crossing day. We both went for hot showers and since the power wasn’t going to come on until 4pm, at 3:30 we decided to go sit in the bar/restaurant with our laptops and use their Wi-Fi since our ONE cell was not coming in as strong as we’d hoped here in the canyon.
Well the promised power at 4pm never happened so we couldn’t run our heater and charge up the batteries. After two drafts each, we returned to Minou around 6 and had dinner. We had to turn the furnace on once to get the chill out of the air and we had a pretty good night, dark and quiet except for the odd dog.
On this our first day in Montenegro, we passed through 17 tunnels.
So Wednesday morning we awoke to rain that had started before we woke up and it’s supposed to last for days!
While we drank our tea this morning we watched the Artemis launch on YouTube. Since there’s no point in staying here without power so we packed up and left.
We passed through a ski town at 1400 m 4600’ then it was down to 750 m / 2500’ and back up to 1088m, down a bit and then up to 1450m.
On this highway we actually saw a black fox! It stopped to look at us as we drove past him and then took off so no time for a photo but this is what one looks like except the one we saw was drenched!
It’s a cousin of the red fox but a recessive gene will sometimes make them varying shades of black and this one was wet in the rain so he looked really black.
The fog and the rain persisted and when we were down at 600 m / 2000’ it was actually worse and then remained that way.
Our destination today is the Ostrog Monastery and Fran had found a campground with power not far from there.
The Ostrog Monastery is a monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church situated against an almost vertical background, high up in the large rock of Ostroška Greda, in Montenegro. It is one of the largest Orthodox shrines in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog, who was buried here. The Monastery was founded by Vasilije, the Metropolitan Bishop of Herzegovina in the 17th century. He died there in 1671 and some years later he was glorified. His body is enshrined in a reliquary kept in the cave-church dedicated to the Presentation of the Mother of God to the Temple.
The present-day look was given to the Monastery in 1923–1926, after a fire which had destroyed the major part of the complex. The two little cave-churches were spared and they are the key areas of the monument. The frescoes in the Church of the Presentation were created towards the end of the 17th century. The other church, dedicated to the Holy Cross, is placed within a cave on the upper level of the monastery and was painted by master Radul, who successfully coped with the natural shapes of the cave and laid the frescoes immediately on the surface of the rock and the south wall. Around the church are monastic residences.
The Orthodox monastery of Ostrog is one of the most frequently visited in the Balkans. It attracts over 100,000 visitors a year. It is visited by believers from all parts of the world, either individually or in groups. It represents the meeting place of all confessions: the Orthodox, the Catholics and the Muslims. According to the stories of pilgrims, by praying by his body, many have been cured and helped in lessening the difficulties in their lives.
The road there was mostly highway until the last 15 km – it was a smaller road with lots and lots of switchbacks in it. We made it to the upper parking lot right at the entrance so we were happy as the lower parking area meant a wet walk uphill. The fog had really socked this place in.
Here’s the lower building:
The upper building:
This building you can walk all the way up to the top viewing a few of the rooms built into the wall of the rock but no photos are allowed. The frescoes were amazing – even better than the ones we saw in Kosovo. Each of the “rooms” had a monk or a security person in them so there was no “sneaking” photos. Fran did sneak these on one of the balconies:
And here’s some from Google (they were not many):
The lower building is one you cannot explore because we think we understood the monks live in there and they were sleeping…..?
It was a short visit and we’re glad we went. Due to the weather though, we’ll not be able to get this shot from the distance:
The campground Fran had found was only 12 km / 7 m away but the road our mapping app took us down was very narrow and super windy and technical. At one point we considered turning around but Doug’s driving skills got us through. Minou touched a lot of trees but the road was mostly paved and we met no other vehicles – thank goodness!
We arrived at the campground only to find it closed. On park4night someone had been there 3 weeks ago but with the wet weather that started yesterday, we think they closed up as the camping is a grassy area and it looked soaked.
Okay change of plans. We really wanted to have power tonight as the batteries were getting no sun today, of course, so we decided to push on another 28 km / 17 m to the capital city of Montenegro, Podgorica, where there was a hotel that has parking spaces for RV with hook ups!
On our way here, Minou hit a mileage milestone of 111,111:
We arrived at the hotel and Fran went inside to find out about the price etc. No one spoke English but a woman who appeared to be a chambermaid, made a call and she was told to wait ten minutes so Doug got Minou parked and found the power box to get her plugged in.
Since getting closer to the coast and away from the high regions of Montenegro, the temperatures have improved; while it’s not warm, it’s in the high teens C / mid 60’s F and at night it does not get nearly as cold; in fact it’s sometimes too warm in Minou to sleep as we can’t open the roof vents in the rain and if it’s too windy, opening the windows more than a crack caused them to open wide and then slam down thus disengaging the angle we set them at.
The manager arrived in 25 minutes and after registering and paying €15, we were set. She showed her where the bathrooms were and told us if we wanted a shower to ask. So depending if we stay one night or two, we’ll figure that into the plan tomorrow.
The rain never let up – it got quite hard at times but we were nice and warm and dry inside and it lasted most of the night.
Thursday morning it rained early and Doug went out to run when the patches of blue sky appeared (today he had his best run in years!) but he still got wet. We had hot showers in the hotel and left after tea time. Since the weather was actually clearing (despite yesterday’s forecast) we figured we should get out and see some stuff while we could.
The Mala Rijeka Viaduct is the highest railway bridge in Europe and the second highest in the world (behind one in China built in 2001). The bridge is 498.8 m / xxx long and 200m / xx ‘high. The construction began in 1969 and completed in 1972. When it was built, it was hailed as one of the many star attractions on a stretch of track linking the Montenegrin port of Bar with Belgrade. The line is undoubtedly a great feat of engineering.
It was not all that impressive from the view that we could see it at and made even less so by not seeing a bridge go across it. However the drive up to the view point was beautiful.
We then drove back into the capital city of Podgorica to see the centre of the city; It has a lot of brutalist architecture (not to our liking). Since the city was basically razed to the ground after numerous bombings in WW2, the post-war reconstruction was made mostly in the typical style for this time and following years – brutalism or socialist modernism. Most of the blocks of flats were built that way as well as buildings of public use.
We couldn’t find parking but saw two cars parked in a left turn lane that was closed. We parked in front of them
and then walked the main pedestrian street to the square which has a lovely fountain:
And then made our way to the “Old Bridge”.
The Old Bridge dates back to the 15th century, when the place was under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, and is very distinctive for that time and culture, made of stone and with arches connecting the two sides of the river.
We left the city via the new Millennium Bridge
Although the weather has been mostly wet (though we did get a good sunny break this morning), it has definitely warmed up as we’ve gotten closer to the coast. We are very happy about this especially for in the evening – means using the furnace less.
We made our way to see the Horseshoe Bend of the Rijeka River. The last 3km was another narrow, windy single lane road like the one we drove yesterday from the monastery but with more switchbacks.
Here’s what we saw:
Nice views because of the weather but again, we’re not sure it was worth that road which had to drive back up!
So since the sun is still shining we decided to push on further and make our way to Kotor. No sooner had we reached the highway and began heading there, did we hit clouds, rain and then heavy fog. Uh oh, were we making a mistake pushing on?
Fran checked the weather app and it showed 21C / 72F for Kotor today and no rain until tomorrow! We’ll take that. As we approached the coast and the small city of Budva the fog lifted and it was gorgeous. We stopped to take a photo of the Adriatic with Budva in the frame.
Kotor is a coastal town located in a secluded part of the Bay of Kotor (often called the only fjord in southern Europe but it is a ria – a submerged river canyon). Together with the nearly overhanging limestone cliffs, Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive landscape.
The fortified city of Kotor was also included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as part of Venetian Works of Defence between 16th and 17th centuries: Stato da Terra – western Stato da Mar in 2017.
There is no camping in the city (of course) and Fran found a couple of parking lots that allow overnighting. We tried the cheap one at €10 first; they now want double that so we went to the other one 100 m further away and they only charge €15 and it’s more secure so we went there. It’s a gravel lot as opposed to the other which was paved but that didn’t bother us; it was level.
It’s now about 12:30 and we are getting hungry so we walked into the Old Town (about a five minute walk) and found a nice place on a square to eat.
Approaching the The Old Town you get views of the walls leading up to the fortress.
As most old towns, this one too is all pedestrian streets (only small delivery vehicles allowed to drive inside) and reminiscent of Dubrovnik on a small scale and the city walls were not as well preserved. There is the fortress atop the hill if you are inclined to pay €8 and walk up 1300 steps!!! Doug was going to until he learned you had to pay.
We had some really good pizza and beer for lunch and then got lost meandering in the streets.
The main attraction to see here is the St. Tryphon Cathedral which was right beside the place we had lunch. After eating we paid the €3 to enter and visited both the main church and its museum.
The Cathedral was built in honor of Saint Tryphon, the patron and protector of the city. Saint Tryphon is said to have been born at Kampsada in Phrygia ( now Turkiye), and as a boy took care of geese. His name is derived from the Greek word: tryphe) meaning “softness, delicacy”. He acquired fame as a healer, especially of animals, and is considered one of the Holy Unmercenaries, particularly invoked on farms.
During the Decian persecution he was taken to Nicaea about the year 250 and was tortured in a horrible manner. He was beheaded with a sword after he had converted the heathen prefect Licius.
It was built on the same site where an older church had already existed long ago. That earlier church was built in 809 by Andrija (Andreaccio) Saracenis, a citizen of Kotor, where the remains of the saint were kept after being brought from Constantinople (now also known as Istanbul).
The cathedral was consecrated on 19 June 1166. Compared to other buildings, the Kotor Cathedral is one of the largest and most ornate buildings in Kotor. The cathedral was seriously damaged and rebuilt after the 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake, but there were not enough funds for its complete reconstruction.
The April 1979 Montenegro earthquake, which completely devastated the Montenegro coast, also greatly damaged the cathedral. It has been salvaged and the careful restoration of parts of its interior was only completed recently.
The Romanesque architecture contains a rich collection of artifacts. Older than many famous churches and cathedrals in Europe, the cathedral has a treasury of immense value. In its interior there are frescoes from the 14th century, a stone ornament above the main altar in which the life of St Tryphon is depicted, as well as a relief of saints in gold and silver.
The collection of art objects includes a silver hand and a cross, decorated with ornaments and figures in relief. It is only a part of the valuable objects of the Treasury of this unique sacral building which was the City Hall in the past.
We found a city gate that took us up to walk on the walls and got these shots:
After getting lost for a while, we found some gelato and then made our way back to Minou. It was a very pleasant and worthwhile visit. We really lucked out with the weather too.
Today saw a total of 5 tunnels enroute to Kotor.
We awoke Friday to the expected rain but it seemed to be on and off. As we left around 9:30 it seemed to be clearing; okay maybe we could stroll through the Old Town of Budva on our way south.
We found a parking lot and it was still not raining – yahoo! – Although it was not clear. We wore our rain jackets and carried umbrellas just in case.
We spent about a half hour walking the narrow streets (this was very similar to Kotor but smaller with more souvenir shops) where we saw the citadel from the outside, a couple of churches, lovely narrow alleys and squares:
We have been trying to get euros out lately with no success; either the machine won’t give us more than 200 or it tells us we’ve hit our daily limit when we have not even received any!
So Doug tried again today and the machine said “your card has been reported lost or stolen”. Uh oh. We tried another machine and this one allowed larger amounts than 200 but again wouldn’t give us money so we called Schwab and got it all sorted out. The agent actually stayed on the line while Doug tried again to be sure. How kind! It was 4am where she was in Indianapolis!
Just after that got sorted Fran noticed the sky getting darkened and we figured we should begin heading back to Minou when it began to rain lightly. If we hadn’t had to make that call, we would have been able to beat it.
The rain began to really come down and the forecast was pretty much 90-100% all day into tomorrow so we have the time and we figured let’s just find a place with power to hunker down at least tonight – with no sun our solar was not going to be fully charged anyway.
We found a place that was on both iOverlander and park4night and arrived at Camp Maslina around 11 – there was only one trailer there but the spots looked difficult for a rig Minou’s height to get into when the lady (who spoke very, very little English (but she spoke German) pointed down a small paved path into another area. She said we could park right on the paved path and still get power for €15 a night. We took it.
It rained pretty much the rest of the day until early evening. The low tonight was in the mid teens C / low 60’s F so much more bearable – even though we had power, we did not have to use our electric heater (except to dry out our shoes!).
So today we drove through 3 tunnels.
It did rain a bit overnight but it was not raining come morning and we had hot showers and enjoyed a relaxing morning.
We are fairly close to the border with Albania but will stay another night or two here in Montenegro, weather dependent. We left Camping Maslina around 9:45, couldn’t find anyone to pay so we dumped tanks, filled water etc. and Fran found a fellow outside what looked like the main house and asked him – he didn’t seem to speak English but it seemed like he would pass on the money to the woman…..
We drove through the holiday town of Bar enroute to the oldest tree in Europe: an old olive tree that is over 2,000 years old.
One of the world’s oldest olive trees in the world is located near Stari Bar in Montenegro. The circumference of the tree is about 10 m. For more than 1,000 years, most of the 100,000 olive trees in the municipality of Bar have existed. Scientific analysis of the wood tissue was carried out in 2015, which showed that the olive tree has an age of 2240 years. It has been under state protection since 1957. It still bears fruit.
According to the legend, the feuding families would come to the tree to make peace with each other. This is how the area where tree is located, Mirovica earned its name, the root of the word meaning peace.
Another popular folklore tale states that friends were playing cards next to the tree. During the game, one of the players accidentally threw a lit match onto the tree, and it soon went up in flames. However, it didn’t burn the whole way. Another tale has it, a side of the olive tree has burnt out due to a massive thunder strike.
We parked and walked over to see the tree (looked more like a bunch of trees all growing together to us); there is a small plaque the stone wall surrounding the tree (which kind of looks like many trees not just one). There is a small charge to enter which we decided not to pay and just took a photo from the gate.
The last place we wanted to visit here in this country was a long beach just before the border. We hoped it would be a nice beach, not the typical Adriatic coarse sand with gravel or completely rocks. It’s just past the most southern city on the coast: Ulcinj. Apparently, it’s 12 km / 7 mi long.
We arrived at a wild camp we found on park4night. It’s at a closed restraint called Havana Beach.
We parked in the small lot and were all alone. We’d read there were bathrooms and we went to check to see if they were open (they were but had no power) then took a stroll on the beach:
This was a wonderful sandy beach with NO rocks. It was quite wide and reminded us of the non-resort beaches we would see on the pacific coast of Mexico south of Puerto Vallarta – was just missing palm trees and vendors!
We decided to stay here for at least one night as the weather is supposed to get wet and soggy again this afternoon so we’ll see how our batteries fare and if it’s raining when we get up tomorrow. It didn’t really start raining until around 2pm so we had both gotten our steps in after brunch.
We could see the beach and the sea from our picture window and we stayed dry inside.
Around 3pm we noticed the wind really picking up and the rain was not letting up; Minou began rocking in the wind and it was supposed to get worse overnight so we were not in a good place to sleep. We finished up what we were doing online, packed up and moved inland hoping to find a place close by but we had no luck. We ended up pushing on closer to the border and parked in a small strip mall where others had spent the night. While it continued to rain ALL night, heavy, light, thunder and lightning, the wind only had the odd big gust. However, due to the heavy rain and thunder, it proved not a good night for sleeping anyway.
Now our EE cards will again not work in Albania but Doug we had our eSims that we bought in Ireland and used back in Canada/US last spring. We decided to activate one of them as it’s good for six months for 100GB of data. We will be out of Europe for about three months but Fran can easily use up that 100GB between before and after.
Well that was a struggle to get up and running. We wanted to try it while Doug still data here in Montenegro cause you need a connection to do so. After two hours of back and forth with the support department (via Email as they don’t appear to have a chat support option), it was working. Phew! Now lets hope you don’t have issues as we cross borders!
Enroute to this beach, we drove through five tunnels.
Doug was determined to go for his Sunday long run the next day despite the weather….He made it further than he’s done in a long time with very little pain. He was very, very happy.
After he returned and had tea, we drove the last 9 km / 5.4 mi to the border stopping to fill up enroute. Doug knew there were two stations so we went to the second one but it was out of “Euro Diesel” so we had to turn about and go back 2km to the first one to fill up as gas is cheaper here than in Albania. By now the rain had stopped once again but for how long who knows?
There were many flooded fields:
Less than 2 km from the border, we came to a stand still – was this the border line up or what? Turns out the road was flooded!
Doug had just run past here a little over an hour before and there was no problem. Now the water from the fields on the left side of the road was pouring across the road onto the right side over a small bridge. A few cars tried to cross.
One from the other direction was stopped in the middle of the road. We waited about 15 mins and it still wasn’t raining and we could actually see the “river of water” subsiding some. We decided to go for it but four cars from the other direction had also decided to do the same and because of that car in the middle of the road, they were driving on our side of the road (higher side) and we had to back up! Well for Fran this was pretty hairy because she could see the edge of the road was giving way and kept telling Doug not to go any further right; you never know if a chunk is so saturated it decided to give way under the weight of Minou!
Well luckily, with his skill, we were able to get sufficiently back, they passed by and we made it through.
We made it to the border at 11:20 after another small section of flooded road.
There was a very short line up – we recognized some of the cars from back at the “flood” and in 6 mins we were through. IT seems Albania does not stamp your passport as they are all digital.
We drove a total of 572 km / 356 miles in Montenegro.
This was our wettest country ever! We only stayed five nights, had one mostly dry daybut still it rained some every day.
We were surprised by the beauty of this country and even more surprised by the beach we ended up at yesterday; only the weather this time of year really sucked!
Fun Facts about Montenegro:
- The Bay of Kotor is the southernmost fjord in the world.
- Skadar Lake is the largest lake in the Balkans.
- Montenegro is home to the unique phoenix plant: the delicate Ramonda Serbica, a legally protected flowering plant that grows on the slopes of Rumija, and when it dries it can come back to life with the first rains.
- The only habitat of the black salamander (Salamandra atra) in Montenegro is on the mountain Bogićevica (Prokletije), at an altitude of 1,952 m.
- Montenegro became the first ecological state in the world, with the adoption of the Declaration in Žabljak on September 20, 1991.
- The country is located in 4 climatic zones, which means that even on a hot summer day, you can take one of the many day trips to the remote mountainous areas and find snow there!
- Montenegrins, together with the Dutch, are considered the tallest people in Europe.
- Montenegrin people smoke a lot and smoke everywhere. Women even smoke in the maternity hospital! Since the summer of 2019, it is forbidden to smoke in closed restaurants, but it is acceptable anywhere on the street and terraces.
- It has one of Europe’s sunniest capitals. Podgorica gets 2,480 hours of sunshine a year
- Montenegrin has many beaches of which there are 117 in total
- The Montenegrin domain “ME” is fastest selling domain – After gaining independence, Montenegro also gained the “.me” domain – what could be more appealing to the narcissistic social media generation? Between 2008 (when it went live) and 2010, 320,000 names were registered – including 50,000 on the first day, making it the fastest selling top-level domain ever.
- in Montenegro is an attraction that cannot be found elsewhere in the world – the curious Cats Museum of Kotor, packed with art and paraphernalia related to felines.