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Last visited October 25, 2006

My Personal Reflections on Montenegro

On the internet I researched that the country was one of the poorest in Europe, but when I arrived it didn't seem to have a problem at all. Properties along the coast were being nabbed up by foreigners and land prices had skyrocketed by the time I arrived there. Everywhere along the coast there was reconstruction and construction, where the seemingly better off residents along the coast were employing cheaper labour from the interior and even Serbia to help them with the ongoing facelift. Parts of the coast seemed outright fancy, and very large and luxurious homes were being built, whether they were owned by foreigners or not. For the three months that I was there, I was looking for some property for a friend and he said the prices were unbelievably ridiculous.
Like many poorer countries, what bothered me the most was the litter everywhere. It seems that poorer countries, especially ones which are quickly climbing up in their wealth, are happy to litter and tend to have a greater disrespect of nature, as if their rising wealth gives them a sense of freedom that they can throw things away. Or because the not so recent transition from communism to capitalism might make them feel wealthy and flaunting to the point of throwing away the limitless amount of free plastic bags and packaging they are now inundated with during every purchase.
But this also seemed to create or at least continue to nurture an industry of recycling a lot of the garbage, as a class of Montenegrins would be seen at all hours of the day riding around with a big plastic bag of recyclable or usable garbage bunji strapped to the backs of their bikes. Parked once in front of an apartment complex, I would see how, all day, people would be coming out of the apartment buildings and throwing it haphazardly somewhere in or around the rubbish bins, while others would come along on their bikes and scoop out the useful odds and ends. Like a constant stream of ants busy at work. It's nice to see the recycling, but not nice to see litter throughout the city and nature. Even scuba diving was much less of a pleasure, floating over top of endless car tires, broken bottles, chains....
Perhaps the clothes worn by many people was on the shabby end, but everyone certainly had their mobile phone. They didn't look like they were starving or suffering but seemed rather jolly and high on life. In the cafe where I found free internet, it was located on what seemed one of the better-off streets in the capital city of Podgorice. Outside the cafe and along the whole street were fairly fancy looking tables and chairs, which along the entire stretch of street was not chained down during the evenings. Something I could not imagine happening in Paris or any other large and wealthy city in the world, so it quite amazed me that there was apparently no thought of crime.
There were plenty of busy discos with well clad, cheery and loud youngsters, so all in all - if I ignored the endless litter - I did not feel at all as if I was in some poorer or suffering country. And with the major highway they recently constructed in Croatia all the way down to the border of Montenegro, it seems this has opened the floodgates to tourism, and I am quite confident that their economic situation should improve rapidly every year from now on. From that perspective a good place to property invest in Europe.
But another thing which stood out for me is the bad driving. Like the littering, it seems as though the "poor", when climbing quickly up towards wealth, are quick to flaunt their fancy toys, and those youngsters with fancy cars often sped along, screeching with their tires, in a rather dangerous manner. So definitely make sure to cross every intersection with care.
Generally I found them much friendlier than the Croats, and many seemed to express a high reverence for the city of Belgrade (where everything was supposed to be much much cheaper), which I haven't managed to visit yet but look forward to.
The females looked hardly as attractive as those in Croatia (some of the most beautiful in the world for me), but I occasionally did see what seemed like a super model male (I used to own a modelling agency).
Montenegrins are very proud that they managed to stave off many Turkish attacks over the centuries. Which is understandable when you see the sheer steepness of its mountain ranges (Monte negro means "black mountain"). It truly does seem like an unimpenetrable fortress. North of Podgorice and eastwards is a massive mountain range which looks like will turn into an excellent and affordable ski resort in the backyard of Europe.
Another thing which stood out for me is the abundance of computer hackers. I met several in the cafe, and everyone would be looking suspiciously over each others shoulders, worrying that the other was hacking through their wifi connection and causing the problems and viruses on their computers. A local large bank hired some students to try and hack into their system, which they accomplished within half an hour, so they hired them further to help improve their defences. A woman, after seeing that I knew the computer fairly well, asked me if could help her get her mobile working, because she was convinced a disgruntled colleague had sent her an sms virus. All three of her phones were not working properly. Maybe she was right, but I've never heard of a virus sms. CD shops and computer stores would often have "hack" incorporated into their names. I met some real computer geniuses while down in Montenegro, who marvelled me with their knowledge. Many of my friends call me a computer guru, but I was truly humbled in the presence of these masters. One student hacker's eyes glazed over with dreamy anticipation of the day when he would be able to go to a Belgrade university to study how to become the ultimate hacker. Perhaps this has something to do with Serbs having a history of being the world's best assassins (by such profession actually triggering the first world war). But maybe because they have a great model figure to look up to: < > < whose lifetime of pioneer work in electronics led to the development of alternating current, extreme high voltages, semiconductors and the computer. He even worked for Alexander Graham Bell and made him look like a bit of an idiot.
I have high hopes for this country in terms of prosperity, although not the greatest hopes for their attitude, which in the city can seem chauvinistic and easily proud. But definitely a country worth visiting!

More Information About Montenegro

- thought the people were much friendlier and relaxed than along the coast of Croatia around Makarska
- didn't like Budva at all and people were very snotty to me there
- many towns have an old fortress town snuggled up above the city, or on the coast. Like little Dubrovniks and all worth visiting
- 70% of east coast population were Albanians. You can see it in the characters/alphabet on city signs, and in the food served in restaurants. Felt very safe there, and relaxed.
- I like the west coast a lot more, primarily because I like mountains.
- real sandy beaches on east coast, where you can find places to rent surf boards and go kiting (probably quite cheap)
- a lot cheaper in Monte than in Croatia, down to almost a third of the cost (was only along coast)
- yes, now a separate country from Serbia, but a lot of Serbs come down here to vacation
- after the Croats built up their highway, apparently opened the floodgates of tourists to here, so property prices have shot through the roof and everyone is busy developing and fixing up their rental pensions. A lot of the beaches along the coast were quite developed and getting that touristy feel. Hard to get down to the coast from the highway with the big truck, streets quite small, narrow roads many places, as everywhere along the Adriatic when not on the major highways
- seemed to have showers and good facilities at gas stations
- inland was very beautiful, nice lakes, was recommended a lot

Cuisine in Montenegro

Having traveled on such a tight budget during my first pass through Montenegro, I found the best survival food to be cans of sardines endlessly smeared onto another cheap loaf of bread. If you ignore the potential risks of getting Alzheimer's disease from the tin in the can, this is actually quite a healthy diet. Combine that with the occasional tomatoe and cheap 2L bottle of beer, I was doing pretty good.
That was almost the only reasonably healthy and cheap thing I could find in the local grocery stores. Spices were ridiculously scarce and expensive, so if you plan to do any cooking, make sure to bring lots of that.
What concerns locally cooked cuisine, I preferred Cavapi, as they also sold in Croatia. Little sausages of beef or whatever, mixed with raw onions and which you stuff into a pita like bread. Quite delicious, but be prepared for heartburn. But if you're only staying there temporarily, I'm sure you will survive.
Another specialty I particularly liked was palacinky. Basically crepes, or thin pancakes, over which is spread with a spatula anything from marmalade and nuts, to melted ham and cheese. Rolls up conveniently so you can walk while eating, and they are sold in many stands.

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Some of my personal stories when traveling through the country on this Montenegro and this Montenegro page.

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