Montenegro is, as far as statehood is concerned, a very new country; one of the newest in fact, having formally gained independence on June 3, 2006. Before then it was part of the Former Yugoslavia, its abortive successor state, and finally a union with Serbia that only lasted three years. In reality, however, Montenegro is a very old country, having existed under the Romans, and later the Slavs. It was one of the few states in the region that actively resisted Ottoman rule, first accepting limited rule by the Turks, and then fully rebelling by the 17th century and establishing a theocratic kingdom that saw continued meddling by the Venetians and the Ottomans until the end of the 19th century. Montenegro is proud of its history of resistance and independence from meddlers, both western and eastern, and the Eastern European state has not seen many travelers until recently.
The real draw in this country of less than 700,000 people is the city of Kotor, which is located on the Bay of Kotor. The city was built sometime during the Venetian dominance of the area, between the 12th and 14th centuries. Kotor is well populated with 13,500 residents and has seen increased tourism, largely in the form of cruise tourists. Kotor is an old town defined by its fortifications and its uniquely Mediterranean appearance. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring some of the finest Baroque architecture in Europe. The Trypton Cathedral, the St. Nikola Church, the Church of St. Luke, and the Church of Blazena Ozana are all good sites to see great architecture. Also, the fortress walls that surround the old part of the city offer great views and a solid hiking challenge. For an even better view, tourists swear by the Castle of San Giovanni, which dates back to the 17th century and was built in the style of the Italian Renaissance.
Of course, Kotor is not merely churches and castles, there is also a Maritime Museum dedicated to the coastal town’s naval tradition. The city’s old town is also a great place to relax and grab coffee, all while observing the locals. The daily market also gives visitors a chance to meet people, and experience the city’s fishing tradition. Of course, many restaurants serve fresh fish directly from the sea, though this can be quite expensive. The best place to eat fish is a place called Galion, which is a bit of a walk from the old part of the city, and is along the Bay of Kotor.
Naturally, there are more modern pleasures to enjoy in Kotor, and the nightclub of choice is called Maximus. With a name like that it should be little surprise that the club is Roman themed. Montenegro also has established vineyards, and the local beer is called Niksic, which is named after the town where it is brewed. There is also an abundance of brandy, which is usually present at just about any meal. Besides fish, the cuisine is typically Mediterranean with plenty of meze to satisfy sodium cravings, kebab, and grilled meatballs called cufte that certainly came over with the Ottomans.
Montenegro currently uses the Euro, which means that travelling in the country is certainly less expensive than in years past. Also, the country tends to be one of the least expensive places to travel in Europe, even in Kotor which can be more expensive due to its popularity with tourists. Overall, Kotor and Montenegro as a whole offers travelers on a budget, especially backpackers, a great trip filled with all kinds of wonderful cultural excursions, great food, and reasonable prices!