The Black Mountain

The word “Montenegro” comes from the Italian from “Black Mountain” – apparently, when the Venetians were building their medieval empire, they attacked and conquered all along the coast from Venice to Constantinople. Montenegro, though, was avoided at all costs. The people who lived there terrified the Venetian sailors and soldiers and pushed back any kind of attack with a savagery and passion that was seen nowhere else by these experienced conquerors. So, the Venetians called it “The Black Mountain”, and spent the rest of their 1000-year existence avoiding the place. Good move.

Nowadays, Montenegro is no longer somewhere people should avoid, but in stark contrast is a great place to visit, and one of the world’s fastest-growing tourism destinations. This has been facilitated by the Montenegrin government, which has tried to drive the country towards a sustainable tourist-based economy. You can see where they’re coming from – the place by rights should have been a tourism hotspot long ago; it’s good they’re getting there eventually.

The south coast area of Montenegro is up and coming in tourism circles so quickly you’d be forgiven for thinking there were rockets attached. The place has been voted one of the best places to visit in the world by various tourism companies recently, and, frankly, we should trust them to know what they’re talking about. If you still feel a little suspicious, though, here’s some more reasons to visit the place the Venetians couldn’t:

Beaches. Of course, first and foremost are the beaches. They have everything the Mediterranean is so popular for, and then some. They’re immensely pretty, offer excellent seafood whenever you want it, and have the excellent hot climate that’s the reason people come from all over the world to holiday here. The beaches are at the heart of Montenegro’s tourism industry, and government knows this – they make sure the beaches are as clean, tidy and as peaceful as possible year after year, to guarantee people will visit again and have a great time. Sveti Stefan is a favourite – the beach includes a tiny red-and-white brick village jutting out from the shore – you just have to see it to believe it – it’s beautiful.

Mountains. I realise that “beaches”, and now “mountains” looks like a bit of a cop-out as far as subheadings are concerned; but they’re really both enormous attractions in Montenegro – I’m not just flicking through a Geography textbook and putting stuff in. Honest.

The mountains of Montenegro offer an entirely different (but no less fun) tourism experience – ski resorts have become another popular destination for tourists hoping to find themselves “that” secret ski resort. The area hasn’t been touched much by humans since various tribes lived here attempting to escape Romanisation, and it shows – the forests and mountains are untouched, wild and beautiful.

Sights. “Aww, come on, he’s not even trying”, says my readers, as they see my third subheading. Look, I don’t need to be imaginative all the time, OK? What I’m saying makes perfect sense – I can’t wrap everything up in some clever little metaphor so we can both feel so much more comfortable and superior in our intelligence – look, I’m using metaphor, but you and I understand, don’t we? Because we’re not like the others; the losers. Isn’t this so gratifying, laughing at fictional persons we’ve both unconsciously agreed to create… Right? Right?

So, there. Sights. I’m sticking with it. Montenegro has loads to see. UNESCO’s article on Kotor gives an impression of how important the region has been to the world around it – take notes on the mentions of architecture in the region, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of absolutely stunning buildings – the masons and bricklayers in the region must have been astonishingly skilled. Nowhere is that more obvious than at Ostrog Monastery, a pilgrimage site for Catholics, members of the Orthodox Church and Muslims. The monastery was built into the side of a mountain – beautiful architecture indeed.

However you choose to visit, Montenegro will have a lot for you. Remember how lucky you are to be able to visit – 600 years ago you’d be far to terrified to visit The Black Mountain. It’s funny how things change, isn’t it?