Montenegro has its own alternative version of the Creation myth. Apparently, when God was busy creating the world, he carried a large bag of stones to distribute across the earth. Except the bag broke, and the whole lot fell on Montenegro. With all the mountains of rock around here, Mike and I find this story quite believable. Newfoundland could lose its designation as “The Rock”.
On one trip up some tiny roads we stopped to take a picture. Nearby were some goats supervised by a dog, blocking our road. While Mike was standing outside the car, more and more goats started coming out of the hills. Some of the new ones had horns. Soon there were a lot of them around the back of the car and we started to worry that they were going to butt the car. Mike quickly got in and as we started to drive off the entire herd started following us. Mike started going as quickly as he could on a narrow mountain track to try and leave the goats behind. We wondered if current day goatherds might use cars to lead the goats from one area to another and if the goats thought that we were their goatherd. Goats aside, it was another absolutely gorgeous drive with phenomenal views.
One day we took a lovely drive through the mountains and around a national park. I say lovely, but it was not all great. We were driving up one of those narrow switch back roads when we met a tour bus coming the other way. It was ridiculous to have two-way traffic on this road. The buses were far too big and there was no way to pass oncoming cars on most of the road. We watched one driver trying to back down the mountain to find a slightly wider section so that the bus could get past. He didn’t look very happy or comfortable, and the tour bus just kept crowding him, every inch he moved backwards the bus moved forward. Based on what we saw, the tour buses all go down the mountain in the same direction. There is no way two buses meeting could ever get by each other. We would have gone in the same direction if we had known that ahead of time. In Canada when we were touring the Rockies many years ago, we drove a lot of very small narrow roads that were called “fire roads”. They were built to allow road access to fight fires in the interior. For non-emergency use the roads were restricted as to which hours you could drive in which direction. That would make a lot of sense here.
At one point in the drive we were below the high clouds and well above the low clouds which is always an interesting perspective. I swear that the next vehicle we buy to tow behind the RV will have a higher road clearance than our low-slung Lincoln. It is a concern in so many places.
While exploring we accidentally came upon the town of Cetinje. It turned out that Cetinje was the cultural and educational centre of Montenegro for five centuries. It was the Old Royal Capital of Montenegro and today is the historic and secondary capital. We stopped outside one large home with plaques in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. With some help from Google Translate, it turned out that we were standing in front of the official residence of the President of Montenegro.
There is an interesting, although unlikely rumour about the former French embassy in Cetinje. The rumour is that when the building was constructed in 1909 the design was originally intended for the embassy in Cairo but due to a postal mix-up, it ended up being sent to Cetinje in Montenegro instead.
We were driving around the bay one day, walking through another old town, when we a saw a normal door into a house. The door was opened and when you peaked inside you weren’t looking at the inside of the house like one would expect, rather, you were looking into a private area with outdoor steps up to what looked like separate houses above. You have no idea what is behind these different doors in these old towns. Mike and I do get quite a kick out of seeing satellite dishes and laundry on the old buildings that look more like museums than homes. It is great that they are being used.
In the middle of the Bay of Kotor are two very small islands. The Island of St. George, also known as the “Island of Dead Captains” presumably referring to shipwrecks, has a monastery on it and is off-limits to tourists. Quite close to is it the man-made island called “Gospa od Skrpjela” or “Our Lady of the Rocks”. According to local folklore, around the early 1600s, following a shipwreck, some fishermen found an icon of Mary holding the baby Jesus on the rocks. The fishermen vowed to build a church on that exact spot. They brought many rocks over by boat and eventually created a small island on which a small church was built around 1630. Local fishermen continued bringing rocks, helping the island to grow.
The biking in Montenegro and Croatia hasn’t been the greatest. In addition to mountains everywhere, you also have drivers that don’t believe in moving over for cyclists. Given that the cyclist often can’t move over without falling off the road, this isn’t pleasant. Mike and I avoid busy roads and large hills which really cuts into using the bicycles. Remember that our second campground was the one where the owner got together with the owner of the first campground and decided to overcharge us ostentatious Americans, even if we are Canadian. From this campground there were two nice rides along the shore of about 15 km in each direction. This took us to two of the three main towns on the Bay of Kotor, Herceg Novi and Kotor, which we really liked. The third main town on the Bay was Tivat, or as we eventually found out “Porto Montenegro”. We actually stopped here when we drove into Montenegro to check on the roads and the campground ahead of time. When we tried to pay for the ferry across the bay, on our first trip, we were told that we needed local currency which we didn’t yet have. The ferry ticket office sent us to this town of Tivat to find an ATM machine. While there, we decided to wander around a little. It looked very clean and new.
Tivat had many gorgeous looking yachts docked in town. I looked in the window of some stores. A few of them actually had some prices showing. I knew that something was a little strange when I translated the prices. Here are a few examples, all converted to Canadian dollars. One display was of a men’s sweatshirt, ripped jeans, sneakers and a fanny pack. The sweatshirt was over $1,000, the ripped jeans were $650 and the sneakers were almost $1,200. The fanny pack must have some features that I couldn’t see in the window because it was over $1,500. The store had the designer name Philipp Plein, who neither Mike nor I had ever heard of. Down the street a little was a women’s store where the skirt in the window was just over $2,000, the running shoes were $1,300 and the purse was over $1,000. The restaurant I peaked in had an exorbitant price list. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit hole. It almost put us off coming back when we moved the camper to Montenegro, but we couldn’t resist returning to look a little more at the yachts. In actual fact, some of the meals in town were quite reasonably priced.
The yachts were a little more spectacular than we had first realized. Porto Montenegro was recently named the “Super Yacht Marina of the Year”. Many of the yachts fly under the Cayman Islands flag. The whole Porto Montenegro project started with Canadian mogul Peter Munk purchasing a former Yugoslav Army military base in 2007. The original purpose was to build a super yacht marina that would rival all others in the world. According to the internet Porto Montenegro was primarily made for super yachts and rich billionaires who would have one new destination where they could enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and great nature. They even have a Super Yacht Academy here that says it provides courses for all crew levels. Many of the yachts here are actually referred to as Giga Yachts (super then mega then giga in size), which just means that they are members of the largest yachts in the world.
Porto Montenegro is the deepest harbour on the Mediterranean. The original plans for the marina included berths for 630 yachts of all sizes with 130 of them for yachts whose lengths exceeded 30 metes or 100 feet. It has berths that are 250 metres or over 800 feet in length. That is about the length of a battleship.
The interesting picture at the top of this article was taken from our campground, before we knew much about Tivat and the marina. For the first couple of weeks we thought that there was a cruise ship in Tivat most of the time. What looks like a cruise ship on the right is a private boat, part of the Golden Fleet owned by the son of the late crown prince of Saudi Arabia. That boat is the Golden Odyssey, 123 metres or 404 feet. Interestingly, the prince’s fleet included an earlier boat named the Golden Odyssey. When he bought this new one, he named the older boat Golden Odyssey II. Doesn’t that seem a little backwards to you. This smaller yacht was listed for sale at $60 million Canadian.
The boat at the end of the rainbow, was one that I quite liked. It was designed based on the look of dolphins. Our nautical camping neighbour hated the look. It is called YAS, and is even longer than the Golden Odyssey although it didn’t look to have as many decks. The world’s largest trimaran the White Rabbit was docked in an unsecure area you could just walk past. Included in the picture are some of the “smaller” yachts. I understand why Forbes would say that “Porto Montenegro is becoming the ultimate super yacht sanctuary”.
Well Mike and I both love the water and we are moving to a largest lake in the Balkans, Lake Skadar, where we hope to put our “yacht” into the water. OK, would you believe that we are hoping to get our little inflatable boat with its 8 hp engine into the water. Oh well, something for everyone.