Even though I’ve been in Europe now for a year and a half and have visited the likes of Luxembourg and Vatican City, I still experience disbelief that there are countries as small as Montenegro.
Consider the distance between San Diego and Los Angeles, which is about 120 miles (200 km). If you superimpose Montenegro onto a map of Southern California, from north to south the country barely covers that distance. And yet, within Montenegro’s tiny landmass is a bounty of rugged mountains, forests, rivers, and beaches. The most incredible part about this is that I spent five days in the Bay of Kotor, a tiny corner of the country, and came away feeling like I had missed something truly special.
Despite my short time in Montenegro, I learned two undeniable truths about this pint-sized mountainous country on the Adriatic Sea:
1) It is so, so beautiful–one of the prettiest places I have ever seen.
2) The drivers here are are terrible.
I came to this conclusion after spending three of my days exploring the Bay of Kotor by bike. Sharing the narrow, winding asphalt roads with Montenegrin drivers is an experience I wouldn’t wish on even the worst person. 2016 UPDATE: OK, maybe I would wish this on Donald Trump.
Despite my best efforts to hug the non-existent side of the road (either a steep drop into the bay or the rocky face of the mountain awaited me if I went off) I was accompanied by a constant stream of honked horns and generally aggressive driving. What I really wanted to know was what these maniacs were in such a rush for–it’s not like I was biking down one of Manhattan’s main boulevards at 8:30 AM on a Tuesday morning.
Asshole drivers aside, I still encountered some lovely people in Kotor. One day when I went hiking up the side of the mountain in search of an old ruined village, I met Antonio, a man with graying hair in his late 40s who was tending to the garden of his house by the bay.
After giving me directions to the ruins in Italian–he was half-Italian and spoke little English–he told me to park my bike in his yard and invited me for a beer when I returned. When I came back, a husky woman wearing a pink apron was making herself busy in the kitchen, and she brought out a cup of coffee for me. Apparently, she was his neighbor. Antonio had a slight stutter and looked a bit older than his age; he mentioned that he served in the army, although he didn’t say in which war or on which side. I didn’t press him for more details, not wanting to make him unnecessarily relive any trauma. Instead, I asked him about fishing on the bay and how he passed the off-season before the tourist rush in the summer. Then I thanked him for the beer and biked off, cursing the wild Montenegrin drivers as they zoomed past me.
15 thoughts on “Montenegrins Are Terrible Drivers”
Your post made me laugh out loud! I also really like the photos with the reflections – they are beautiful!
Thanks Nancy! If only the drivers had a sense of humor too.
Also of interest to you should be the seafood–you may have noticed that several of my shots captured fishermen or buoys. There is a wealth of shellfish to be found in Montenegro, cuttlefish being a local delicacy.
Sounds like a great spot!
Stunning scenery, Nathan! And did you get to see the ruined village?
Thank you Sue! Kotor was a dream to shoot, since I showed up during the off-off-season I had most of the place to myself (but I still had to deal with those lousy drivers, and I shudder to think what the road would have been like during the peak summer months).
I didn’t get to see the ruined village. Antonio’s directions were good, but the path that rose up the side of the mountain was very poorly maintained and completely overgrown in too many places, so I went back without seeing it (hence the lack of photos). Then when I was biking back to the old city of Kotor I noticed a tiny sign along the road pointing towards an alternative route to the village, but by this point it was already getting dark and it was quite cold, so I decided not to hike it up–it would have been a 6 km roundtrip, which is OK during the summertime, but not so nice when it’s dark at 5 PM and the temperature drops to 5 C or less.
I think you made the right decision! How on earth had you heard about the place, anyway?
Good question–I knew I wanted to spend some time in Montenegro before hitting up Sarajevo (the place I went to after Kotor), but I wasn’t sure where to go. Podgorica, the capital, was my default choice until I met some Germans at a hostel in Prizren, Kosovo biking overland from their home in Hamburg to China–they had passed through Kotor and highly recommended it, particularly the pass at Cetinje which offers breathtaking views of Kotor before plunging about 1500 m down to the Adriatic. Then a few days after I met those Germans, my two Canadian friends who I hung out with in Shkoder, Albania, told me they had come through Kotor and loved it. A lot of times, the best recommendations come simply from hearsay, not from a blog or a guide book!
What about you Sue? When you travel is everything planned out or do you allow for the flexibility to go somewhere depending on what you hear from others?
Stunning. Every photo is a poem.
Dude, that’s the nicest compliment anyone has ever paid to my photography! Thank you 🙂 I really had to try hard to get the shots of the boats on the water, since my camera isn’t well-equipped for zooming.
LoL. Not sure anyone’s called me dude out here. Keep up the great job.
In southern california everyone is dude haha
‘S where I live. =)
A part of SoCal that’s rural (I was just checking out your blog’s “about” page)? I had no idea there was such a place!
Well, rural relatively speaking, though there is a big, active shopping plaza next door. I think the cows meet the definition. =)
The big active shopping plaza next door sounds much more like the SoCal I know haha