Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monte Negro- Country of black mountains

This year I wanted to go to some new, different place for holidays. Just got bored of usual typical holiday destinations in Greece, Spain and Italy. And suddenly remembered of Monte Negro. I heard this country first time when I watched the James bond movie Casino Royal. Since then I wanted to see this country. But it’s not that popular holiday destination and so was difficult to get information about this country.
Finally started to Google Monte Negro. And got the email id of MonteNegro tourism office. I emailed them and got all the information about when to go and how, best tourist city etc… They gave me email of their travel agent and I must say this travel agent from Monte Negro was really good. Very friendly, very helping. Always answered all my emails very patiently. Offered a very good deal of hotel, different tours there.
This country is actually very new. Very small but very beautiful country. Monte Negro was a part of former Yugoslavia and now since 2006 they got independence. Since then county is definitely facing some financial challenges but they are hoping to get better in next few years.
This is a very beautiful country with long costal area at the south surrounded by black mountains. The name of the country itself means Black mountain. This is an Italian word. Monte Negro was ruled by many years from Turkish people, Italian people.
We decided to fly with Monte Negrian airlines. I must say that was not the very best experience. :( They have really old aircrafts; seats are not so clean and not enough leg space inside. Well it was just a two hrs. flight from Frankfurt. So was ok. Plus it was very cheap. :)
 When we landed in Podgorica airport, the first impression was good. Very small airport even if Podgorica is a capital city of Monte Negro. When we came out the first thing I saw was advertisement of our german bank…. Sparkasse. :) was very happy to see something written in german. :)
The travel from airport to our city Budva was just 86 k.m. but it took more than 1 hour. They still do not have very good infrastructure. Also the road is not that easy. Very small roads and that too from the mountains. 
In our stay there, we always experienced the hospitality of Monte negrian people. They are very helpful, always answering with smile, even if some people we asked help for on the road; were not able to speak English or german still they tried to explain us always with signs, tried to help us as much as they can.
The main industry in this country is tourism. They still have to develop it a lot but they are trying.
One day we did a hiking tour up in the mountains. It was only two of us , high mountain and very narrow road, lot of spider nets on the way, plus some small snakes. I was really afraid but Jens as usual with his "all is good attitude", made me do this trek. The view of the city of budva and island of St. Stefan from the top was just amazing. When I saw that I was really happy and thought it was totally worth to walk this way up. This island St. Stefan was actually a fishermen’s town in former times and now they turned it into a hotel. The complete island is a big hotel and of course very expensive. One big hotel chain from Singapore bought and renovated all and now a big, expensive hotel. No one other than hotel’s guests are allowed to go inside. If you want to see the hotel from inside then you have to pay 25 euro entrance fee . Just to go inside and have a drink in their very stylish restaurant ,25  euro.... hmm not very impressive.
One day we did a tour of MonteNegro with the bus. It was really cheap , just 45 euro per person with bus, tour guide and food. Wow just cannot imagine this price in Germany for any such a big tour. That was one of the best thing there , everything is really cheap. In this tour we visited a city of Kotor. It is a very old town . They have preserved it very nicely. This is a city of very reach people thats what our tour guide told us. We also went with the bus on the top of the mountains to have a lunch in a very small family restaurant. That was amazing. Seating outside on benches, having a spectacular view of the whole valley. just gr8! There we saw the original small room where they do the best smoked ham. They are doing this since almost 50-60 years. We also ate that ham . very delicious.
We also visited the old capital city of Monte Negro called Cetinje. Now there is just one palace of their former king which has turned into a museum. the tour guide told us one interesting story as in olden times they had a tradition to decide the marriage of the children when they were very young and then when they become 14-15 they used to get married. I mean woman around 14-15 and man 19-20 years old. Their king was married when he was around 19 and queen was that time 14 years old. In very young age they had to take the responsibility of the country. I was surprised and told to her that in India also many years ago there was this kind of tradition. 
Monte Negro had their own currency but after many wars etc.. their currency’s value got totally damaged. Was a big inflation and then they got into some kind of contract with Germany that they could use german Mark as their currency. And so automatically when Germany changed their currency to Euro Monte Negro also had to change to Euro. Even though they are still not in European Union they are using Euro as their currency. They have to work hard and improve many things in the country to be a member of the European Union but they are hopeful and think in few years they will be up to the European standards. Currently lot of investment is going on in tourist industry. This is the best time to buy land in this country as prices are lot cheaper than other European countries and in few years one can sell it for really high price. Because in few years they will need more land for hotels, and villas and other touristic attractions. So those who have surplus money, I think the best thing is to buy land there now.
We also visited the Tara River canyon in the north of the country. The north side is not much developed as compared to south of the country. On the north there are only high mountains. No sea. But its equally beautiful. They have made a plan to develop this part of the country as Eco tourism area. The life there in the  mountains is really simple and quiet. People do not earn much there but they still live happily with whatever they earn. Mostly all people have some cattels, and little farms around their houses. Also try to get some extra cash by searching good raspberries, mushrooms, some herbs from the deep forests there and sell it.
This Tara river canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world. The road to go there from the mountains is amazing, beautiful and difficult to drive. These mountains there are paradise for hikers. This road goes through the national park Durmitor. The water of Tara river is very clean. Crystal clear. 
We have a plan to do once a big hiking tour of 6-7 days that starts from north of monte negro and ends to the deep south in Albania; a neighbouring country.
There are four national parks in Monte Negro. We did once hiking in another national park called Lovcen. This hiking tour was good too. The road later was very narrow and just at the age of the mountain. So if you miss one step then directly in the valley. But again the view of the city from their was too good.
One day we visited the biggest lake of the Balkan “Skadar Lake”. When we cruised through this lake, we went to one small family restaurant in one village. The owner of this hotel and restaurant was really a nice person. An old man with hat and white beard. Very friendly . The interesting thing is he goes every morning in the forest and collects some very good herbs and makes a packet of it for each lady customer who comes in his restaurant to eat and gives as a gift to each lady. Something to remember by. Very sweet gesture. The food was good too.
 In this whole holiday we always had really good food. Every evening had a good dinner by some sea side restaurant with fresh fish and seafood, good local Wien, beautiful view of the sea, smiling waiters. Was perfect.
Many people there told us  that , financially ;the time of Yugoslavia was much better for them .  Since the freedom, many factories just got closed , so people have to go far away from their families to find a job and also do not earn much now. But they have to live with it now and can just hope for a better time.  
This is still not a very hot and popular holiday destination in Europe but the way they are trying to improve their tourist industry , in next 4-5 years it will be definatly one of the most popular holiday destination. And I just hope they will still be able to keep their charm and will not become one of those typical commercialized holiday spot. So till that time one should really plan holiday in Monte Negro.

fresh fish to choose for dinner