Thursday, January 04, 2007

Casino Royale and maybe one Montenegro Backdrop

 Hollywood at the Bay of Kotor?
Casino Royale Film

There are scenes toward the end of Casino Royale that could well be the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, and not Lake Como in Italy at all. But it has been too long since I was at Lake Como in Italy to be sure, and the screen credits only show Lake Como.

Lake Como also has high mountains around. One thing clear - James Bond 007 was not in Montenegro except for perhaps a backdrop (see our home page for the bay, and the monasteries on the islands). The screen credits show only Italy and the Czech Republic, appropriately.

So, go to Montenegro.

More blogs about Montenegro Road Ways.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Skiing in Montenegro - Durmitor National Park

Skiing, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro


Durmitor, National Park, Montenegro

In the distance is the mountain range that offers superb skiing we hear. We did not go up to these alpine-like areas, because spring roads can be in poor shape with the snow melt and we were short on time,  but sports enthusiasts will want to look up www.adriatic-tour.com/en/ski_resorts, and especially Durmitor National Park. See www.durmitorcg.com/jezera_eng.php.

Montenegro map, Budva road choice

Budva or Vertical Mountain Road
Choose Budva If On Your Own


Choosing the longer route, reluctantly. It is easy to take a junket from Dubrovnik, Croatia, to see this beautiful neighboring country. See map at www.jazztour.ru/images/montenegro/montenegro_map_new. Spend a night Cavtat, Croatia; then drive on around Bay of Kotor to Kotor itself.

You can see some of the old curtain walls going up the mountainside, additional defense. Also, note the palm trees in Kotor. Unexpected, but we understand the bowl formed by the mountains moderates the climate. Is that so?



Kotor, Montenegro, Mountains



Then look again at the surroundings, and the map to find Cetinje, the next stop.

We had two choices after Kotor:

a) the vertical snaking-looking road up through mountains to Cetinje, the old capital. Or,

b) the conservative and coastal road to old beachy Budva first, with the castle, then on more of a level road around to Cetinje.

There is a time for even the Car-Dan Tour Company to be Conservative. Reluctantly. Geography rules. So we went the long way, the scenic old Budva walled city way.

And, looking at the maps, no wonder the Montenegrins moved their capital down from Cetinje in the high karst mountains, to the levels at Podgorice, on the level road way to Cetinje.

Looks very industrial, lots of smokestacks. Accessible. But the new capital over there can have none of the patina, the faded grande dame mystique of Cetinje.

Just business. Next trip, maybe, up we go, over the top, very slowly.

Budva - Where Zeus captured Europa

 Budva, Montenegro - A Place of Myth
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This is where the god Zeus captured the lovely Europa. Its mythological roots run deep. See http://www.montenegro.com/en/Little_tourist_guide_-_The_Old_Town_-_Budva.

Archeological people say that the town was settled, with records and all, in the 4th Century. It has a readily identifiable rock formation, the Island of St. Nikola. It helps to do an Images search if a photo in your own camera is unclear when you get back. Looking up those third-party photos is the best way to check which picture of a walled city is which.

For Budva, see also www.photo-montenegro.com/home, and navigate about. The rock formations are the identification for sure.

Budva, Montenegro. View from castle to sea.


Budva is a fine walled city, with impressive rocks to dash invaders.

It shows how dangerous many of the harbors were, and why walled cities on peninsulas were effective defenses. Little chance to hover about and think. Do see this overview gallery - www.pbase.com/bauer/montenegrohref.

Here is an etching of the town map in 1615. At historic-cities.huji.ac.il/montenegro/budva/maps/beauvau_1615_budva_b.j etching. Numbers 3 and 4 on the map look like Kotor and Bay of Kotor, from the location, not the spelling, and number 2 could be Cetinje, but I am not sure. Walls and battlements.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ostrog - The Monastery Built Into the High Cliff

Ostrog Monastery

Ostrog Monastery, Cliff top, Montenegro

This cliff-top monastery was built in the 17th Century as a refuge from the invading Turks and at an altitude that seems impossible. It is set into the mountain itself, a cave.  There are two church areas, upper and lower. See ://www.destination-montenegro.com/tours-ostrog.htm/ The lower church was built in the 18th Century. See ://www.wayfaring.info/2009/08/12/discover-montenegro-ostrog-monastery/  The relics of St. Vasilije, who built the monastery, are at Ostrog here.

For an overview, see www.barakatravel.com/ and go on to these further identifications for that site if helpful - ?action=galeria&galeriaId=37.

The road snakes up and up, and buses can only go so far. Then walk.

With a car, creep around each bend.

Ostrog Monastery facade, Montenegro, cliff top








At the base, is a good restaurant (I think it was the only restaurant). Ask the waiter for something the waiter would order if his mother were there. Great approach always. What would your mother cook? Order local dishes.

Be sure to take the left fork up to the monastery. The right fork takes you deeper in the valley. We enjoyed the junket but then were pushed for time getting back.

A white-knuckler but the road is quite good - watch the heights, and lack of guardrails.  For the nervous,  stop midway up and walk the rest of the way. More details atwww.montenegro.org/mon_ost.

Cetinje, 500-year capital (until move to Podgorica)

Cetinje: Former Capital


Old Ruler Ivan Crnojevic, Hotel Grand

Cetinje, Ivan Crnojevic Statue, Monastery, Montenegro (Orthodox)

Here is Ivan Crnojevic, in the courtyard of the monastery at Cetinje.

He ruled 1465-1490, took on the Turks as well as the Venetians, and ultimately moved his capital here, to the now Cetinje.

This site says that marked the beginning of a more national consciousness for the Montenegrins. See more on Ivan Crnojevic at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeta_%28state%29. Good for Wikipedia.




Cetinje, President's House, Montenegro

Cetinje was the capital for 500 years - with buildings showing many periods and styles, and many in disrepair after the move of the capital to Podgorica, a more accessible location. Cetinje is high in the mountains.

Here is the President's house. This would make a fine capital again.


Cetinje, Grand Hotel, Montenegro

This is the Grand Hotel, and I believe it is the only hotel. We saw no others. See www.cetinje.cg.yu/engleski/turizam/grand.

If there had been no hotel at all, we would have headed for one of the many schools' dorms to try to get a room, or introduced ourselves to the local police and slept in the car behind the police station.

That is the game plan, never had to use it. The area values education highly, and many of the old embassies from the glory days are schools. Before 1918, this was a political and educational hub. See www.montenegro.org/cetinje.

Choice to go on to the next town? Not up here. Rule: Avoid unfamiliar or any mountains after sunset. See www.cetinje.cg.yu/engleski/turizam/turizam. That site has links to the area's history, economy, attractions also. Wander there.

The hotel. Hotel Grand. This was built in 1984, see ://hotel-grand.tripod.com/It really looked like we were the hotel's only tourist visitors. There were clumps of men in suits, always in corners, talking. Secrecy. This was the month before the independence vote. Connection?

The heat arrived, everyone courteous, no inconvenience at all. The concierge had someone bring us in a heater, and the hot water came on by morning, so we were fine. Any big place has to conserve on utilities, and the food was good and the staff helpful. No complaints at all. It is reasonably kept up.

See the new government forming at www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=aQdBXJG9o5XY&refer=europe/ Montenegro New Prime Minister. Tensions were obvious when we were there May 2006, with a waiter telling us he could not really talk, groups hovering about, and so we took our photos quietly. The smooth transition in the news is welcome news.

Another fine photo gallery for Cetinje - see ://www.montenegro.com/phototrips/central/Cetinje,_the_old_capital.html/

Cetinje - Guides: Kids Anywhere

Soccer and Logo Clothing

Cetinje, Montenegro, schoolboys

Our thanks to these fine gentlemen who stopped their soccer to give us some tips on the town and where the hotel was. Soccer news at www.einnews.com/serbiamontenegro/newsfeed-serbia-montenegro-soccer.

As I recall, each fellow has on an American logo shirt.

They also showed us the bunkers they had built (their words). These were cardboard constructs, and then one up a tree, like we do.

The difference is, their experience is direct. War has been in their back yard.

They knew good English, especially the scholar in the Gap shirt. I wrote the school administrator to find their addresses and send each of them this picture, and the US consulate, but no response.

Children - soccer is everywhere. Read more soccer news. With independence, Montenegro and Serbia probably will no longer share the same team. See www.topix.net/soccer-fifa/serbia-and-montenegro.

Expect the exotic and find just fine regular people. Same the world over.

Flag. If I were teaching with those boys in the class, I think they would like this website, for flags of the world, because they were so proud of their beautiful city. Go to www.allstates-flag.com/fotw/flags/cs-cg..

"I hope you like our beautiful city," said one boy as we left. The city is no longer beautiful in the way we think, because it is badly in need of repair, everywhere. But it is beautiful in what it evokes, and the treasure it clearly remains for Montenegrins.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Mountains and Six Checkpoints, Ostrog area to Dubrovnik; Cyrillic and insurance

Views. What Can We Say.

Montenegro, mountain views

Magnificent views. Breathtaking. And we didn't even get to the high mountain ski areas.








We alternated high enough mountain areas with vistas of glacial plains below, and six border checkpoints: Montenegro to Serbia to Bosnia to Croatia. We had a basic map, but no real directions, and did fine. Just keep going down. There are few choices in the higher reaches.

Montenegro, mountain views



Illegible road signs in Cyrillic.

The biggest problem driving back to Croatia from Montenegro was in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Cyrillic alphabet suddenly was the only choice. We couldn't tell what was what. So you pick a sign somewhere and go.

We had wanted the town by-pass but ended in the middle of it - enjoyed that as well, but difficult finding our way out. Maybe you luck out, maybe you don't.

Documentation. Be meticulous and careful to have it ready. At one checkpoint, the guard looked at us and our wet laundry spread over the back seat and just waved us on. We were obviously hopeless. Other guards at other checkpoints went into the trunk, looked all around, and asked many questions.

Car insurance. Be sure to tell your rental car company when you rent that you are going into the specific countries you plan to see. They will write that on the insurance, and without it, you may be turned back.

Border patrols will ask to see the insurance.