The Serbia/Montenegro Comparative

Taken from the train so sorry for the lack of sharpness - houses nestled in the western mountains of Serbia

What is amazing is that I had had no plans to come to Serbia and Montenegro.  I had only come in this direction because I could not easily get to Greece and I needed to make my way over to Italy.  But I am so glad that I did and I will have to tell everyone to make sure to put it on their to do list. We as North Americans, as far as I can tell given the knowledge I had of this area, know so little about it.

The amazing mountains of Montenegro. This was non-stop gorgeous. The building in the background is a very old monestary with rooms/caves built into the mountain.

I remember learning in school a little bit about the area as it related to the events of World War I and World War II and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.  That’s all I really remember learning in school.  Then what more I came to know about the area of what made up the old Yugoslavia was through the war from 1991- 1995 and the Nato bombing of Serbia in 1999.  My perception, at least what I gained through the slanted media, was that Serbians were the bad guys.

Train travel where I met Nanid, a Serbian who now lives in Bar

Well as is typical, the media was biased.  You see, the Yugoslavia area is made up of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Vojvodina, and Kosovo.  Croatia is mostly Catholic.  Serbia and Montenegro is mostly Orthodox.  Bosnia and Kosovo are mostly Muslim.  I’m not sure about the others as they did not come up in my conversations.  Interestingly Croatia sided with the Nazis in WWII whereas Serbia was on the side of the Allies.

Can you see that wee itty bitty bit of road way at the bottom - yikes.

Anyway, during the war in 1991 – 1995, which was between Croatia (catholics), Bosnia/Herzegovina (muslims), and Serbia/Montenegro (orthodox), all sides committed atrocities.  But again, as I have mentioned, our media made out the Serbs to be the bad guys and the Croats to be the good guys.  At least that was my recollection.  I have been asking the people I have met on this journey about that war, as that is the one I really remember.  They are eager to give their side as they know that the world looks at them as the bad guys and they don’t feel the truth was fairly reported.  So I do feel sad for them because they are such wonderful people.

That's a better picture Nanid!

So I’m going to speculate.  When I asked Nanid a bit more about Serbian people and Croatians (he was married to a Croatian), he said Serbians are known for being tempermental and impulsive whereas Croatians are known for being more placid and balanced.  So this is my theory.  The Western media sided with Croatia in its reporting because of this more balanced personality type and because they were Catholics, whereas they gave the Serbs a harder rap because they likely perceived their more tempermental manner as them being the bad guys and also they were Orthodox.  Of course this is all speculation but when you hear the Serbs talk about their experience and their history, your heart goes out to the fact that the broader world came down unjustifiably harder on them.

A river cuts through the valley in the stunning mountains in Montenegro

As for the 1999 bombing, I still think it is a crock of sh*&.  It must have been a typical Western “we need to have control of this area” thing.  Bottom line is that NATO bombed Serbia for 70 consecutive days to get them to pull out of Kosovo.  Now the quick and dirty I have been told regarding this is that the Kosovo people are largely from Albania and are Muslim and have many children.  There is also a lot of crime and drug trafficking through those two countries.  Becasue the Serb population is more responsible not growing and spreading madly, their land and territory is being invaded by the Kosovos because the Kosovos are growing out of their land.  This perhaps is not too dissimilar to what we hear about Isreal and Palestine.  Anyway, the Serbs went into Kosovo to try and stop this apparent spread and attempt to take land from Serbians.  Well NATO decided Serbia couldn’t do this and bombed.  Apparently lots of civilians were killed.

Swings in a tunnel in Belgrade

So needless to say, I am sure that if Americans started doing that to Canada, we’d do something too – well I guess they do do that in some area – aka Saltspring Island – oops.  But then again, the Yugoslavia area has many millenia of struggles over being invaded and ruled by different groups.  So at this point I would think they are getting pretty sick of it.

My love of stairs ...

Anyway, this post has not been as much of a comparative as a history lesson a la Sara.  But from a comparative point of view, it was such a pleasure getting into Serbia and Montenegro as the people are polite and considerate not to mention beautiful.  It is so nice not to be hassled.  You can go into stores and look around and people leave you alone.  The food is amazing.  And things are cheap as it goes for us Canadians.  So I highly recommend it.  The land offers you sea and mountains and the cities fashion and aesthetics.  This area and these people deserve our attention.  Come visit – you’ll see it is worth it.

My hostel room in Bar - only $20/night and my own bathroom and my kitchen is on my own balcony.

Sunset in the mountains of Montenegro