The highs and lows of Montenegro. (July 2012)

Having spent the last few weeks near coastal resorts, during a heat wave, we decided to head for the cool of the mountains in Montenegro.

The rugged mountain ranges near Kolasin and Zabijak are dotted with glacial lakes that are set amidst world heritage national parks.

During the winter months, and they are long and cold in this part of the Balkans, these mountains towns are ski resorts.

Summer tourism is relatively new and the infrastructure is still under development.

Much of the accommodation is in apartments or 70s’ hotels that have seen better days. The meals are big but the beers are small (250mm) and warm.

However the scenery is spectacular and well worth the winding, bumpy mountain passes you have to take to get there.

We eventually did get down to the coast at Kotor, which was still in the grip of the heat wave.

Due to the lack of any real beaches, this medieval walled city isn’t as crowded as Budvar which is further south on the Montenegro Riviera.

The mountains are never far away and they loom large as an impressive backdrop to the town.

The harbour is almost in the centre and the cruise ship docked there appeared to be parked in the main street.

Dwarfed by the liner were the the usual array of sleek, tax evasion yachts, flying the flags of Nassau and the Cayman Islands.

The resorts are only now getting back to the tourist numbers they experienced before the Bosnian War (1992-1995).

As a result there is a big contrast in the service you receive, not only between the city and the country but also within the same establishment.

We were soon to discover the difference between waiting and serving.

On two nights we ate at the same restaurant in Kotor that was right on the water’s edge.

The first night we were served by an enthusiastic guy from Bosnia.

He was very attentive and continually checked on our progress and satisfaction level.

So much so that we engaged him in conversation and learnt a bit about him.

This gave us a richer cultural experience.

On the second night we were served by one of the locals from Kotor.

The service was prompt and efficient but there was no interaction.

He got a tip, just as the guy on the first night, but he didn’t earn it in the same way.

He served us our food but didn’t wait on our expectations.

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