Friday, May 16, 2014

Montenegro Lures the Marina Mega-Tourist Industry. History.

Montenegro is making, and has already largely made, its mark among the affluent global seafarers, and investors. A downside to reporting on the visual and other pleasures enjoyed by Montenegro's waterfront population, those with superyachts, is the impression that Montenegro is beyond the reach of the rest of us.  The Financial Times offers a review of properties and benefits on Perast with luxury in mind, see http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/52c4da44-cb0a-11e3-ba9d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz31sEVeWUm/. Fortunately, its inclusion of history amid the descriptions of exclusive developments -- Peter the Great used the area as a shipyard and naval academy -- retains the old lure that draws in the rest of us. 

1.  A history of Russia in Montenegro?  We found it in the hotel at Cetinje, and now ask whether Montenegro should be concerned about reabsorption, given the old shipbuilding-fleet connection.  Read of Matija Zmajevic, great shipbuilder to Peter I The Great.

2.  Montenegro's oldest noble families:  Is there a correlation between old pride in connections, and ability to maintain independence.  Or is Montenegro's topography, hard to invade, the key to its continuity. There is a time to explore an encyclopedia:  see http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Montenegro/. It avoided the ethnic violence of surrounding countries in the Balkans largely because of its cultural homogeneity, and identification with Serbia. A start on understanding.

2.1  Social organization here in medieval times focused on casadas, "patrician clans", brotherhoods:   History buffs will enjoy the descriptions of  medieval social organization that included elections to the main council, at http://www.perast.com/html-ENGLESKI/characters.html#/.

2.2   In the early seventeenth century, other individuals emerged as leaders in the arts, politics, and -- as to the great fleet -- Matija Zmajevic included. Recommended:  short, focused articles on area points of interest at http://www.trifunovickg.com/veroljub/perast/MasterOfArc/1.html/  Click back, and back. No easily navigable contents,  through the full 50 pages, but worth a leisurely, thoughtful look at each.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Culture. Roots of the old Yugoslavia. And the Pride of Montenegro

Culture.
 Pride of Place: Montenegro
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I.  Overview
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Yugoslavia. The old union of republics in the Balkans. Brian Hall's book about that union calls Yugoslavia, "The Impossible Country." See 1994's notable presentation at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/243199.The_Impossible_Country.; http://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/08/books/new-noteworthy-paperbacks-480695.html?scp=3&sq=book%20review%20%22the%20impossible%20country%22&st=cse

Those nations are now independent, with a great deal of bloodshed in the separations. What are those roots.  We noted a difference in the children and adults of Montenegro:  a pride of place not seen elsewhere, but how reliable is our impression? We were only there a few days.

"How do you like our beautiful city?" asked children playing soccer, with buildings in need of vast repair, but the architecture glowing with past political, diplomatic and other glories.  In Cetinje, waiters waving off questions with nods to other places, so we understood, but clearly wishing  they could speak freely.  Nothing furtive about them.  Just matter-of-fact. The election deciding independence from Serbia or not, was looming.  We sensed wariness, but not fear.  Is that worth noting?

How to generalize.  Impossible, with no "scientific" samplings, data, controls. 

Possible explanation for our unscientific observation.  We were sent an old article on Balkan history, New York Times from 1991, at http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/06/world/conflict-in-yugoslavia-national-rivalries-cloud-dream-of-yugoslav-unity.html?scp=1&sq=David%20Binder%20July%206,%201991&st=cse.  It notes that Montenegro and Serbia were the only old Yugoslav nations that were independent before WWI.

Is that the difference, and does that help explain the forcefulness of the Serbian sense of territory?  That people that know they were independent, have the privilege of a known past without subjugation, pass that on.  Here, we offer a review of that article with our own observations so far, to be augmented.

The history of this area is critical to understanding its conflicts.

A review of history is difficult before going there, because the groups are so many, and the cultures so varied.  We are not taught much about the Balkans in our schools. After returning, it is easier to seek out sources to get a grip on the conflicts, the groups.  Places and ideas are familiar.
  • In Montenegro, we found a difference from other Balkan states that were part of the old Yugoslavia. This was only an impression, based on surface happenstance of who we met, what we talked about, what we saw.  And we were only there a few days, so no generalizing is feasible.
  •  those things, over only a few days, are unreliable for generalizations, but worth noting.
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II.  Balkan History:  How to get a grip

A.  The old Yugoslavia now is no more, but the individual nations that once comprised it share history. The blends of cultures are seen in the architecture, religions, politics.  Islam in the south of the Balkan peninsula, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Orthodox Christianity in those areas as well, competing; and Roman Catholicism in the north, essentially.

We are using as a starting framework an old journalism piece, before the severances of the last decade, at  http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/06/world/conflict-in-yugoslavia-national-rivalries-cloud-dream-of-yugoslav-unity.html?scp=1&sq=David%20Binder%20July%206,%201991&st=cse.  Look at old articles because they give detail without having to justify information with current events.  Look back at a sense of immediacy that gets lost in current accounts.  From here, we will fill in other sources. As of now, this is a kind of review.

1.  Yugoslavia was the land of the south Slavs. It was comprised of six very different republics: Croatia, where we began, Bosnia - Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia (we only saw a corner because Sarajevo, where we wanted to go, was not included in our car insurance), Macedonia, that we did not see; and Slovenia.

2.  Before WWI, only Montenegro and Serbia were independent.

The others were part of either the Habsburg Empire, or the Ottoman.  Croatia 800 years earlier joined Hungary. The Slovenes were ruled by the Habsburgs since the 14th Century.  Croats and Slovenes enjoyed industrial development through the Habsburg connections.  Most Serbians and Macedonians remained barely subsisting as farmers.

Macedonia was Bulgarian and then Ottoman, and there were independent principalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the middle ages, but they fell under Turkish and later Habsburg control.  Find this history outlined at http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/06/world/conflict-in-yugoslavia-national-rivalries-cloud-dream-of-yugoslav-unity.html?scp=1&sq=David%20Binder%20July%206,%201991&st=cse

We are repeating the cite because it was so good.

3.  The idea of the one nation for south Slavs was the product of intellectual and religious leaders, including the 19th Century Bishop Josop Juraj Strosmajer, Croatian, spellings vary.  As Strossmayer, also see him commemorated in Prague, Czech Republic, see http://petrginz.blogspot.com/2007/08/holesovice-petrs-home-stepaniks-bridge.html

4. The first attempt at a Slavic nation was created in 1918, after WWI, when the Habsburg Empire of Austria and the Ottoman Empire of Turkey collapsed . It was called the Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes.  Then in 1929, the Serbian King Alexander imposed a dictatorship and renamed the nation as Yugoslavia. He favored Serbian ways.

In 1941, the Axis armies quickly overran Yugoslavia (it took 11 days), and civil war also began began - Serbian royalists against Croatians serving the Nazis. Then, enter the partisan guerrillas of the Communists, and the fight became a three-way disaster.  In 1944, the Partisans prevailed.  Belgrade came under control of the Soviet interests.  It continued as a communist republic in 1946, under the Croat Josip Broz Tito, Prime Minister and later President. He had led the partisans successfully as a guerrilla group in WWII. 

5.  The mixmaster

Ethnically, most of the population was Slav - say 83%, NYT July 6, 1991 article by David Binder, National Rivalries Cloud Dream of Yugoslav Unity. There were Slovaks, Bulgars, Ruthenians, Russians, Poles; as well as Albanians, Hungarians, Gypsies, Greeks, Vlachs, Jews, Tsintsars (who?) and Austrians.  Each wanted, or already had, a stake.  Serbs held most positions in the army, secret police, federal bureaucracy, thus Tito being a Croat was somewhat offset.  But the brutality modeled after Stalinism emerged. 

6.  After WWII, Yugoslavia became a police state: fair use quote -- "Hundreds of thousands of anti-Communist Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were rounded up and killed, among them the Serbian royalist commander, Draza Mihajlovic." See http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/06/world/conflict-in-yugoslavia-national-rivalries-cloud-dream-of-yugoslav-unity.html?scp=1&sq=David%20Binder%20July%206,%201991&st=cse.

7. Long-standing rivalries between Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic Christians also erupted - see issues related to whether Cardinal Stepinac stepped aside as Orthodox were led to their deaths, content to try to convert them before they went; or were his hands tied, see Zagreb, Croatia, St. Stephen's Cathedral,  http://croatiaroadways.blogspot.com/search/label/St.%20Stephen%27s%20Cathedral

B.  Divisions persist

1. How could such a patchwork of different interests possibly work together for long?  Each found some satisfaction in a new status, recognition of individuality, desire for nationhood, and these seemed to satisfy most groups.

Then emerged huge rifts among the Serbs, Slovenes and Croats - an inter-ethnic civil war. 

2. In 1948, Stalin had put Tito out of the Soviet Bloc because Tito refused to follow orders.  The threat of reprisals seemed to unify Yugoslavia to degree, but various components still sought nationalist goals for their own group. Croats wanted home rule, Albanians in Kosovo, and Slovenes pressing for roads, for example.

3. Tito died in 1980, and some powers passed to the republic-areas.  But in 1987, Serbian Communist Slobodan Milosevic rallied the Serbs for a nationalist agenda  and set out to subdue (which became genocide) the Albanian populaiton in Kosovo.  Collision course. The Communist Party collapsed in 1990, and Croatia and Slovenia pursued separatist policies.

And so, to today.   To be continued.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Kotor - Battlements Going up the Mountain. Occupation History; credit cards

Walled City of Kotor - Montenegro
Curtain Walls
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Kotor, Montenegro, curtain walls






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Curtain walls extend as a total barrier, often in a broad perimeter around a castle, here going up the mountain as an escape for an entire town, there, in the back.

Why need such extensive wall structures apart from the main walled town.  The separate curtain wall is a familiar sight in the Balkans, going up the mountains.  The curtain wall was needed because of the location of the town, at roadways and ports invaders used through the years. Occupation after occupation. With mountains as a backdrop, the city could be better defended, but. Kotor still has been in many hands - warfare upon warfare.

Occupation history:
  • Illyrian 300 BC or so (Old Greek),
  • Roman 168 BC,
  • Byzantine then until the 1100's,
  • Serbian to the 1300's,
  • then Hungary in the 1300's,
  • then Bosnian at the end of the 1300's,
  • Venetian in the 1400's as a voluntary transfer of protection against the Turks, and to 1797,
  • then Austrian to 1805,
  • Russian to 1807,
  • French to 1813, temporary fight for independence, lost, and
  • back to Austria to 1918,
  • liberation after WWI,
  • then the Germans,
  • and liberation from Germany 1944.
  • part of Yugoslavia,
  • then part of Serbia after the breakup of Yugoslavia, and
  • in 2006, independence from Serbia
Add to that plagues and earthquakes.
The city is over 2000 years old. No peace. There used to be an upper town and a lower town. See ://www.destination-montenegro.com/kotor-history.htm

Kotor - look closely at the mountain to see the curtain walls going up the side, another defense.


At Kotor, as in places in Croatia (especially Ston, see Croatia Road Ways, Ston post), you can see curtain walls going most all the way up a mountainside, with a large fortress at the top. These serve as another line of defense, if the the city walls are breached the population flees up the mountain. There is refuge there, better than below.

Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See whc.unesco.org/en/list/125; and thesalmons.org/lynn/wh-montenegro.

There are also palm trees, just as there are in the warm parts of Scotland even, and the old buildings. See the old town at www.photo-montenegro.com/home. Go further to these notations if that is helpful: php?akcija=rezpret&fKategorija=Kotor&fPodKategorija=Old+Town. Kotor was less damaged by invasions than many coastal towns, I understand. See www.matf.bg.ac.yu/konferencije/kotor/.

Getting around:

There are many ATM's, but you may find that only selected cards will work, and the money is not Euro. We ran into five currencies this trip - different in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. Some will accept Euro, but we preferred to use the country's cash and withdrew some for each day.

Credit cards.

Before you leave US: You should alert your credit card or debit card places that you will be in specific countries so they will not block your getting cash. We did that ahead of time, and still found that one card could not be used. Much fraud out there.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Kotor Bay. Perast Islands - on way to Kotor

Kotor Bay
Perast Islands
Drive to Kotor, Montenegro, Around the Bay
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From Dubrovnik, Croatia, it is an easy drive to Kotor. Leave late in the day from Dubrovnik, spend the night anywhere, such as old Cavtat, on the Croatia side; and leave in the morning to catch the views to Kotor.  Montenegro: see the cities and descriptions at http://www.visit-montenegro.com/croatia-dubrovnik.htm/.
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And, there are buses, of course, and rental cars from Cavtat for a day's junket.
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For maps, see this site that covers all the old Yugoslavia countries, the Adriatic coast - at http://www.atlapedia.com/online/maps/physical/Slovenia_etc.htm; however, this site as others may not be updated as to the independence of Montenegro from Serbia in 2006, so check this one: ://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/yu.htm/

Kotor Bay, Montenegro, Our Lady of the Rock, Perast Islands; Island of St. George







The island of St. George, as well as Kotor itself, has a long history, from 229 BC as an Illyrian city, see http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Bay_of_Kotor
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Our Lady of the Rock, Perast Islands, Kotor Bay, Montenegro

On the left, and in the center right, is on Our Lady of the Rock Island, off Perast, on the way to Kotor.

 The road goes around the equivalent of a fjord. See closeups at http://www.perast.com/html-ENGLESKI/islands.

 Navigate from the home page, using the further address information only as needed . Our Lady of the Rock is man-made - an island created over 550 years of dropping rocks on an underwater ledge, and then sinking captured ships over the same spot. Ingenious.
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The buildings on the right are an island, really a reef, called the Island of St. George. It houses a Benedictine monastery. See more on the islands off Perast at www.montenegro.com/en/Fascinada,_Our_Lady_of_Skrpjel,_Perast_Islands.
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This would be an excellent geo-tourism site because of the geological sites and attractions. See book "Geotourism" by Ross Dowling at http://elsevier.com/wps/find/bookdescription.cws_home/706060/description#description.

Kotor area- on the Balkan equivalent of a fjord

Near Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Kotor Bay, fjord, Montenegro


Here the mountains go right into the water, with little towns clinging around, and fortresses for last resort, up the cliff-side, fully walled. There are palm trees below, and where it is flat, lovely walled areas and twisting streets. This is a World Heritage area: see whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=31&id_site=125.

Here is a summary of the town's history, and a fine photo gallery for Kotor at www.barakatravel.com/?action=galeria&galeriaId=68. Go to home page first at the dot com.

The Financial Times has an article including Budva, see issue April 26-27, 2008, at page 10 --A flawless pearl - for now, by James Owen.  He notes that Budva was flattened in 1979 by an earthquake.  The restorations are not evident - so well done that we thought they were original. This is different from Germany where the devastation from bombing was so extensive and covered so much, that the renovations and reconstructions look Botox.