Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro is a country in the Balkan region of southern Europe. The word montenegro means “black mountain”; in Croatia, it is called Crna (or Tsrna) Gora, which means “black hill.” In fact it is mountainous and rocky along the Adriatic Coast, with many of the older buildings made of the local stone. Sharing borders with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, it is part of the former Yugoslavia. Its capital and largest city is Podgorica, but another city, Cetinje, was formerly the royal capital city.

In ancient times there was a tribal people here called the Docleatae. In 9 A.D. the Romans conquered the region; Slavs took over the area in the 6th century. By the 10th century there was a principality called Duklja, covering what is now southeastern Montenegro, which had ties to Serbia, Byzantium and Bulgaria. Duklja gained its independence from Byzantium and expanded, but by the end of the 12th century it became part of Serbia. Serbia ruled the area until the end of the 15th century, but it fell to the Ottomans in 1499. It became an autonomous region within the Ottoman Empire—a theocracy led by the Serbian Orthodox Church. During the late 19th century Montenegro fought for its independence from the Turks, achieving recognition in 1878. In 1910 it became a kingdom, but by the 1920s it was made part of Yugoslavia. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Montenegrins voted to remain part of a smaller Federal Republic of Yugoslavia along with Serbia, but when all the dust had settled, Montenegro became an independent nation in 2006. It is now an independent, sovereign republic with a newly minted constitution as of October, 2007. There is a president, a prime minister and a parliament. The national anthem is a popular folk song called Oh, Bright Dawn of May.

Visitors will enjoy the beautiful, unspoiled coastline—with its wealth of biodiversity—and the traditional architecture of coastal cities like Kotor, whose old town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With an area of about 5,000 square miles and a population of about 625,000, it is uncrowded—and very friendly, as tourism is important to the local economy. Citizens are about 45% Montenegrins, 29% Serbs and 12% Bosniaks (from Bosnia and Herzegovina). About 72% are Eastern Orthodox but almost 20% are Muslim. The cuisine is a delightful mix of Mediterranean and Turkish. Montenegrins are very athletic—water polo is considered the national sport, and they love soccer, basketball, volleyball and handball as well. Fans of Rex Stout’s stories will recall that his fictional detective Nero Wolfe was born in Montenegro.