A Mimi on the Move: Montenegro, a gem on the Adriatic Sea

A bird’s-eye view of Kotor, which is nestled along the shores of Kotor Bay. Montenegro, which is nestled between Albania and Croatia, is home to several stunning locales. Photo by Pam Johnson

Editor’s Note: Pam Johnson and her husband Woody are in the midst of a yearlong trip abroad, visiting 12 countries in 12 months. Pam will file monthly stories along the way.

Along the coast, yet so unknown
A secret Adriatic pearl
Waves ever crashing
Against ancient stone
Against medieval walls
Against recent contention
Never marring the beauty within
both old and new
Montenegro’s evolving still.

In 2018, I visited Croatia with my mom. Through our taxi window from the airport to Dubrovnik, the driver pointed out the border of Montenegro. In truth, I didn’t recall hearing that name before and wondered why a Baltic country had a non-Slavic name meaning “Black Mountain.”

Little did I know that four years later, I’d find myself 60 miles south of Dubrovnik in beautiful and historic Budva, Montenegro. And what a treasure! Still somewhat untouched by the tourism that has flooded Croatia in recent years (largely due to the filming of Game of Thrones), this country truly is a gem on the Adriatic Sea.

As a visitor to this small country tucked between Albania and Croatia, all I can say is, “Wow!” From the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea to the high peaks of the Dinaric Alps, Montenegro is stunning. And everywhere you look, there’s the charm of Mediterranean living: beach-front cafés, pomegranate trees, locally produced olive oils, sailboats in the bay, and cats wandering the narrow alleys of the medieval towns.

The name “Montenegro” derives from the Serbian “Crna Gora,” itself derived from the Venetian “Monte Negro.” The Venetians who arrived during the 15th century thought the mountains in the area looked almost black due to the dense forests covering them, especially the most prominent peak, Mount Lovćen.

The moon rises over Old Town Budva. Photo by Pam Johnson
The sun rises over Budva. Photo by Pam Johnson

We lived in the coastal town of Budva, near Old Town, which is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Coast. With its centuries-old churches, medieval walls and fortress, and artifacts pre-dating Jesus Christ, we could almost hear whispers of the thousands of stories it wants to tell. So much history in such a lovely setting.

Our travels through the country took us to other just-as-beautiful places along the shores of Budva and Kotor Bays—Sveti Stefan, Kotor, Perast, Herceg Novi, and Tivat—as well as towns nestled in the mountains and valleys—Podgorica, Virpazar, and Cetinje. For those interested in other Balkan countries, Montenegro makes a great hub for visiting the bordering countries of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, and Kosovo.

Montenegro was only recently recognized as an independent nation (that’s why many haven’t heard of it), gaining independence in union with Serbia through the breakup of communist Yugoslavia in 1992, and then from the Serbian union in 2006. Even its Montenegrin language is new, becoming the country’s official language in 2007. Politically, things are still a bit unstable. They had mid-term elections while we were visiting, and it looks like the current party, that has been in power for three decades, will be ousted. We chatted with people passionate about both sides of the political spectrum. No one seemed shy about expressing their views.

Pam and Woody Johnson with their daughter Katrina, who came to visit. Photo by Pam Johnson

They’re also not shy about showing their kindness—from our Airbnb hosts, who took good care of us when we were sick; to the concerned children and shopkeepers, who helped me when I slipped and busted my knee; to the generous café barista, who brought me a surprise cookie with my latte order. We left Montenegro with our hearts full because of their friendliness and compassion.

We were sad to leave but look forward to our stay in the next country, Spain, to which I will return after studying there 44 years ago.

I’d love for you to follow my blog at pamtheeditor.wixsite.com/amimionthemove and my Instagram and TikTok, @amimionthemove. If you have any advice, questions or comments, you may email me at amimionthemove@gmail.com. Check back next month to read about our time in Spain.


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