To go more further in the knowledge of Montenegro, this is an article written for the European House of Brest:
Where is Montenegro?
This is the very question I kept asking myself as I just enrolled on a European Voluntary Service just over a year ago. Knowing I would soon have to settle down to this hard-to-pinpoint country, I must admit I did not know much about the place and its history and had to do a bit of research. First thing first : Montenegro is a small state of the Balkan Peninsula, and it has been independent since a referendum in 2006. This 10th anniversary is an opportunity for the whole country to celebrate its autonomy.
Having said that, one cannot move swiftly across the country as it is crossed by a dense network of tiny sinuous roads. As a consequence, one can notice bus passengers lie down comfortably on the seats as they expect a long and tiring journey. Although the travel conditions are harsh, the scenery is breath-taking : deep fjords, hair-raising canyons (about 1000m deep, 2nd deepest after the Colorado canyon) and national parks in the middle of a magnificent mountain range.
But Montenegro cannot be summarized only by its landscapes. Often described as “Dark Mountains” and despite its chilly climate in winter, this land is inhabited by a warm welcoming and cheerful population. Made of a patchwork of different ethnic groups - a common trait of the Balkan region - and sharing a dense historical background, Montenegrins tend to spend a peaceful and free-minded existence, a sort of Balkan-style “Dolce Vita”, spending “polako” (quiet) time in the numerous “kafa” (cafés), which is a trademark of Montenegro. From a distance, this slow paced environment can be misjudged, but way to approach life allows people to link tight bond together and helps dealing with everyday troubles.
On the coastline, you will not struggle with the language as most people speak English, but as you get deeper into the mountain range, communication can get a bit more difficult. No panic though: Montenegrins are extremely curious and patient people, and they always find a way to make things happen. In order to make things even smoother for you as a visitor, why not learn some idioms of the Montenegrin language? This very musical language can be a bit hard to grasp, but using some typical expressions with the locals is always appreciated! On the other hand, their mother tongue uses 2 alphabets (latin and cyrillic) but learning a couple of typical words used on traffic or shops signs proves to be relatively easy.
Often compared to Croatia when it comes to the beauty of its coastline, Montenegro is also dense in terms of remarkable historical sites : Cities such as Herceg Novi, Perast, Kotor and its ancient defensive wall, Nikšić, Ostrog’s monastery or the formal royal capitole Celtinje are a must-see! Gastronomy is an important element of the local culture as it was gradually enhanced in refinement by the successive invasions of the past centuries. If you happen to enter the small village of Njegoši - home town of Prince-Bishop and writer Njegoš - you should indulge yourselves with culinary delicacies like “pršut” (smoked ham) and the local “sir” (cheese) and enjoy a truly magnificent view overlooking a bay with crystal clear water. For dessert, you will find it hard to choose between a piece of “sarma” and the famous “baklava”. While you are at it, why not start your digestion by dancing the « kolo » on traditional music played by balkanic band and enjoy the true spirit of this tiny yet culturally rich country.
Srećan put i vidimo se! (Have a good trip and see you soon!)