Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Montenegro and NATO. A vote Yes.

I stayed at the old Russian hotel in Cetinje with my son at the time of Montenegro's vote to separate from Serbia.  Tensions were high. Clusters of men at the hotel, heads turned; more clusters as we looked in the nearly empty dining room, looks our way, and finally a set of nods and we were shown to a room.  We ate at what we thought was a student restaurant. What's up? Can you tell us what the people think around here about the decision to come?  No. Waiters slowly shook heads and tilted toward more groups of men.  Not comfortable.  Back at the hotel, I was tempted to look behind the big potted plants and the radiator in the room -- why bother. It's only us.  Still, there was an atmosphere of fear, no freedom to discuss.  The current trigger for this recollection is  No, Mr. Trump, no nation is too small to be considered fungible, not worth every effort we can extend to nurture autonomy.

The work toward incorporation has been ongoing, see  The Senate has advanced the idea, see

Keep it going over the finish line.  And go there. Beautiful, excellent food, friendly people, when there are not the clusters of suits.
So, as a tourist with no family or other stake in this lovely country, I hope it will stay toward NATO and that the US will come to its senses in fostering freedom anywhere.  Thanks.

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 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 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

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  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

 Pride of Place: Montenegro
I.  Overview
Yugoslavia: The old union of republics in the Balkans. Brian Hall's book reflects on that union of Yugoslavia, The Impossible Country.  See 1994's notable presentation at;

Those old Yugoslav nations are now independent, with a great deal of bloodshed in the separations.

A.  What are those roots.  We noted a difference in the children and adults of Montenegro:  sensing a pride of place not seen elsewhere.  How reliable is our impression? We were only there a few days.

1.  Example, spontaneity of children:  "How do you like our beautiful city?" asked children playing soccer in a small park area in Cetinje, with buildings in need of vast repair, but the architecture glowing with past political, diplomatic and other glories. They had no question but that their city was indeed beautiful still, as it is in a fading way, as anywhere with insufficient funds for repair.

2.  Undercurrent of reticence in adults.  Was this an outgrowth of the looming independence from Serbia election:  In Cetinje, waiters held back, waving off questions with nods to other parts of the restaurant where serious diners sat, so we understood the service people did not feel free to discuss independence openly.  The staff was matter-of-fact, however, not appearing cowed.   We sensed wariness, but it was not fear.  Is that worth noting?

3.  Brian Hall's book calling a union of these disparate Yugoslav parts as impossible.  How to generalize.  Impossible, with no "scientific" samplings, data, controls. 

3.1  The nations involved did not share a history of independence.  Read an old article on Balkan history, from the New York Times from 1991, at,%201991&st=cse.  It notes that Montenegro and Serbia were the only old Yugoslav nations that were independent before WWI.  So, Montenegro, still under Ottoman rule, as was Bulgaria, was at a disadvantage in terms of experience.  See

3.2  Montenegro, however, as part of the Ottoman Empire, still presented a difficult --literally -- terrain for anyone asserting controls.  Geographically, the mountains would create pockets for different interests to foment undisturbed. A review of the area's history is difficult before the actual visit, however, 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 by then familiar.  Still, in Montenegro we sensed a pride, not an undercurrent of anger.

3.3  Serbia in particular exerts a forceful sense of territory.  Serbia had also been under Ottoman rule, but in 1814ff, some parts managed to establish autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, then becoming independent in about 1878, see  Do people that know they were indeed independent, and have the privilege of a known past without subjugation, pass that on so that the tradition itself supports ongoing independence.  Did that help doom Yugoslavia.  Here, we offer a review of that article with our own observations so far, to be augmented.

II.  Balkan History:  How to get a grip.  Rebecca West's 1931 Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (as reviewed in The Guardian) is unsurpassed as a resource, context-creator.

A.  The patchwork:  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.  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).

1. Resource.  Read old journalism piece, before the splittings apart of the last decade, at,%201991&st=cse.  Older articles often offer detail without having to reshape information to fit with current events.  Tere is an immediacy, when the stakes do not require making sense of something.

2.  Cultural background. Macedonia, that we did not see; and Slovenia.

3.  Narrowed timeline.  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 NYT Conflict in Yugoslavia cite above.

Although already having cast off the Ottoman Empire, Montenegro formally declared war upon it in 1912, see

3.  The idea of the one nation for south Slavs was the product of particular 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
  • 1918.  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 had collapsed. The new nation was called the Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes.  
  • 1929.  The Serbian King Alexander imposed a dictatorship and renamed the nation as Yugoslavia. He favored Serbian culture.
  • 1941.  The Axis armies 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. 
  •  1944.  The Partisans prevailed.  Belgrade came under control of Soviet interests. 
  • 1946.  Yugoslavia continued as a communist republic under the Croat Josip Broz Tito, Prime Minister and later President. He had led the partisans successfully as a guerrilla group in WWII.  
  • WWII and following: 
5.  The mixmaster of those familiar with independence, and those still feeling their way.

5.1  Ethnicity. 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. 

5.2.  Religion.  Longstanding 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,

B.  Divisions persisted, the old Tito framework died with him.

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. 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 population in Kosovo.  Collision course. The Communist Party collapsed in 1990, and Croatia and Slovenia pursued separatist policies.

And so, to today. Ever updating.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

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

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

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 ://

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; and

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 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

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
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
And, there are buses, of course, and rental cars from Cavtat for a day's junket.
For maps, see this site that covers all the old Yugoslavia countries, the Adriatic coast - at; however, this site as others may not be updated as to the independence of Montenegro from Serbia in 2006, so check this one: ://

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
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

 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.
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,_Our_Lady_of_Skrpjel,_Perast_Islands.
This would be an excellent geo-tourism site because of the geological sites and attractions. See book "Geotourism" by Ross Dowling at