First impressions?… Herceg Novi is not Dubrovnik.
Like its Croatian cousin (or should that be brother) it is on the Adriatic coast, in fact only 23km away. But while Dubrovnik has a stunning setting and Old Town, Herceg Novi is ‘merely’ a pretty coastal city with same nice scenery. Aesthetically while satisfying, Herceg Novi is not the most beautiful place. Atmosphere wise, particularly the people, it is one of the most beautiful places around. Which is what really matters. Herceg Novi is not Dubrovnik, but it is great in its own right.
As any city and region which has been traded through empires, as well as the Kingdom of Montenegro, the small city if just 13,000, 30,000 if counting the outlying areas has a historical and culinary heritage its size betrays. I stayed in the nearby town Igalo, really just an administrative division, particularly Herceg Novi itself. I had arrived in Tivat before getting a minivan to Igalo. The transport will drop you to any address in Herceg Novi so be prepared with your address. Although there are lots of signs for ‘Sobe’ in the town it is probably best in peak season not having to carry luggage whilst trying to secure accommodation.
The hotel I stayed had the most friendly staff I had encountered in Dragana and Milena and some of the kitchen staff.
Montenegro is a friendly place. The friendliest I have been to at the time of writing and I have been to a lot of friendly places. It does have some nice scenery, plenty of history but its people are the memory that I will carry with me. I made very kind friends in Sanja and Marija. Incidentally a better way to see Herceg Novi may be to arrive from Dubrovnik and go by bus. if you do and are returning from Dubrovnik, I would suggest visiting Dubrovnik last.
The first few days in Herceg Novi were pretty much a write off though. Heavy rainfall and dull weather are not the most suitable for a coastal city. A city of few renowned museums but most attractions being outside (apart from the churches and monasteries, some of the former being locked outside of liturgy) there is not much to do but stay in cafes or restaurants in such weather. Fortunately such days were to become past. It was good I was spending 8 days being based there although I could have made better use of the first and a half. I experienced my first memorable experience (of many) of Montenegrin hospitality when I went to a nearby village to see a church – St Sergej and Vakh. Having foolishly taken the taxi one way, but at least taking an umbrella I visited the old church which was shut locking heavy rain poured down that flooded the streets.
Walking back I stopped in a cafe (where no one spoke English), ordered Chai. The cafe had several men and no women except for the cashier/ waitress.
Some tried to communicate with me but my lack of Serbian skills didn’t help. I drank my tea slowly and waited until the rain seemed to abate. By then the customers had left and I decided to leave I went to pay when the waitress made clear one of the men who had left had paid for my tea! I didn’t have a chance to thank him. It was one of my first of many experiences of kindness.
Serbian, Montenegrin, Bosnian or Croatia?
The first thing you may notice that almost anyone living in the ex-Yugoslav republic can speak at least 4 languages..maybe more!
So are all those in the Baltic linguistic geniuses? Maybe not so, because there is no real difference between Serbian, Montenegrin, Bosnian or Croatian..
It’s the same language just politics and nationalism come into play.
For a start they are the same people, the same ethnic group. So when news media speak of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the wars of the 90s, they really mean tradition-religious divide.
And what makes a Croat, what makes a Serb? A Serb is traditionally Orthodox, A Croat a Roman Catholic, Bosnians largely Muslim.
As Stevan, the very kind boyfriend of Dragana said – it was ‘a silly war between brothers’.
Being Black is something of a novelty in Montenegro. I was often asked to pose for photographs. Whether by staff when I went to buy ice cream ( it took me at least 10 minutes to get my order!) Or standing to buy tickets in a bus queue. As explained to me Black people is something they often they see in movies or on TV not in real life.
Well I don’t tire of it as it is always preferable to meeting ignorant fascists any day and it is a great way to meet local people.
The Old Town (Stari grad) itself is rather small with a prominent clock tower and some nice forts with lovely views over the bay.
The Church of St Michael the Archangel is one such small beautiful church. To reach the Old Town itself is a minor exercise as there is no way to avoid the numerous stairs and walk uphill. For me this is not a problem. However in the heat of summer it may be for some. Another place worth seeing is the Savina Monetary which lies in tranquil surroundings.
In Herceg Novi On my last day I revisited a fort with Marija after visiting a coffee shop with Sanja and Marijana after their work.