The train had already reached the spectacular mountains of Montenegro when I woke up after travelling since 10 PM the night before.
The ancestors of Montenegrins were a mix of Illyrians, Romans and Slavs that formed the Duklja state under the Vojislavljevic dynasty around the 9th century. They were overrun in the 12th century by the Serbian king Stefan Nemanja who annexed their lands to Serbia and forcefully converted them from the Catholic to the Orthodox religion.
The Serbian kingdom crumbled in the mid-14th century and Duklja or Zeta as it was then called, regained its independence under the second Montenegrin dynasty, the Balsic, in 1356.
After the defeat of Serbia by the Turks in 1389 at Kosovo and of Bosnia in 1463 the third Montenegrin dynasty, the Crnojevic, moved the capital to the mountain retreat of Cetinje in 1482 just before the fall of Herzegovina to Ottoman forces. After the last Crnojevic, Montenegro was then ruled by Vladikas (Bishops) who were elected by popular assemblies until Bishop Danilo Petrovic established the hereditary Petrovic dynasty in 1712. Montenegro maintained its independence until 1918 when the Serbian king Petar Karadjordjevic exploited the chaotic conditions following the end of World War I and his army occupied Montenegro. Montenegrins revolted in 1919 but the stronger Serbs prevailed, the Montenegrin Kingdom was abolished and Montenegro was annexed by Serbia. In 1920 the Balkan states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia were merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia under the leadership of Serbia.
The farm houses on the high plateau looked prosperous from the train window but there were more mountains than agricultural land.
Deep gorges and difficult mountain terrain explain how Montenegro managed to retain its independence for so long.
Access to the coast which was important for landlocked Serbia is now possible thanks to an endless succession of long tunnels...
and high trestles but the line needs to be upgraded.
Industrial development has been slower in Montenegro than in Serbia since WW II because the relatively small population was dispersed in isolated rural and semi rural areas. Beautiful views however hold a great potential for tourism.
Here is a village house taken from the train window.
Montenegro has privatised most of its state enterprises and adopted vigorous reforms in the 90's. It soon chose to use the Deutsch Mark as currency instead of the unstable Serbian Dinar and it seems to be moving towards emancipation from Serbia. When I was there, the DM had been replaced by the Euro. Many of those I have spoken to have mentioned however that their economic dependence on their big northern brother was a major obstacle to full independence.
The Montenegrin coast is as beautiful as that of Croatia as you can judge from these ruins of an old fort facing the Adriatic sea.
Tourism is the major revenue earner but the majority of tourists come from Serbia.
Bar attracts a growing number of vacationers with a good tourist infrastructure.
It appears that the ability of Montenegro to diversify by attracting more European tourists could alleviate its dependence on Serbia and influence its future.
I could see two cruise boats in Bar harbour from my window.
Bar also has a well equipped marina and all the supporting speciality shops and services required by yacht enthusiasts. It was quiet when I was there in winter but I am confident that business will pick up in summer if the negative effects of the Bush war on Iraq abate.
Moving north along the coast we come to the town of Sutomore where the train emerges from a long tunel before following the shore to Bar..
Further north we reach Petrovac where the road from Podgorica descends from the mountains to the coast.
The medieval fishing village of Sveti Stefan on this island has been converted to an exclusive luxury hotel in the 60's. Fine sand beaches line the coast all the way to Budva a few kms further north.