Saturday Art: Ancient and New Montenegro

Iron Well in Kotor

One of the world’s newest nations, Montenegro voted itself independence from the Serbo-Croatian construct that followed Yugoslavia’s demise in 2006.  Serbia and Kosovo followed shortly after that.

Part of the Slovenian language group, the small country holds several historic cities, much like the rest of the area, walled away for defense and full of pride in their long history.

Home to some of the world’s loveliest beaches, small and well-situated, Montenegro has been mentioned in ancient literature for its treasured coves and its riches.   At Budva – known as Buthoe to the 4th Century Greeks – the small archaeological museum has sculpture, jewelry and wonderful artwork excavated from remains inside the walled town and surrounding countryside.

Entry to Ancient Budva

Diversity is a keynote in tiny Montenegro, with soaring mountains and calm seas, and an influx from the many cultures around it.   Needless to say, it’s very beautiful as well.

The Montenegrin Adriatic coast is 295 km (183 mi) long, with 72 km (45 mi) of beaches, and with many well-preserved ancient old towns. National Geographic Traveler (edited once in decade) features Montenegro among the “50 Places of a Lifetime”, and Montenegrin seaside Sveti Stefanwas used as the cover for the magazine.[35] The coast region of Montenegro is considered one of the great new “discoveries” among world tourists. In January 2010, The New York Times ranked the Ulcinj South Coast region of Montenegro, including Velika PlazaAda Bojana, and the Hotel Mediteran of Ulcinj, as among the “Top 31 Places to Go in 2010″ as part of a worldwide ranking of tourism destinations.[36]

As wonderful as its art is the bay the country surrounds, a small sea that gives it the impetus toward shipping and trade.   Constant contact with the outer world gave it sophistication and wealth, but didn’t break the long bonds among its people.

In Kotor, I was fortunate enough to see the beginnings of a wedding, when the whole party descends on City Hall to announce a new family about to begin.  With musicians playing and the guests greeting everyone along the way, the decked out bride and groom then parade on to one of the many churches representing many different faiths, in the town center.  Our guide remarked in consternation that he hadn’t known they were about to marry, and asked us to cheer for them.

Pride in their country and in their landscape is characteristic in all the Balkan area.   Its history contains episodes of war and disasters that have left a mark, but the effort to keep its beauty makes the present a contrast of stable work to maintain its people’s well being.

Kotor's historic City Hall

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