Montenegro Express (1 of 4): Heart of Crna Gora

Nestled in the shadow of imposing limestone-faced cliffs that plunge dramatically from their lofty perches into the turquoise Adriatic shallows lies the stunning Gulf of Kotor. The dark, vegetation-mottled mountains surrounding the fjord-like canyon create one of the Mediterranean Coast’s most breathtaking geological spectacles, and may have inspired the name of the country that now calls this shoreline its own.

14mm @ 1/320, f/8, ISO 100
14mm @ 1/320, f/8, ISO 100

Montenegro, or Crna Gora as it’s known in the local variant of Serbo-Croat spoken in the region, literally means Black Mountain. Contrary to its monochromatic moniker, the country, a former constituent of the now disbanded Yugoslav Republic, has a colorful history and vibrant cultural heritage. Despite changing hands over the centuries as conflict in the region spilled over its borders, Montenegro has retained its own unique flair and emerged as a beacon of stability in the Balkans. With pending applications for EU and NATO membership looking promising, Crna Gora is poised to become an even more influential presence in the region.

I recently had a chance to explore the Montenegrin countryside, hiking up the cloud-shrouded peaks of Durmitor National Park in the North, wandering the primeval forest in Biogradska Gora, dipping my toes in the warm coastal waters in the south, sampling gastronomic delights in villages throughout the interior and meeting the truly hospitable people who call this surprising Balken gem home. The following series of posts take a photographic tour through four distinct regions in the country, starting with the heartland where the nation’s current administrative capital (Podgorica) and its historic cultural capital city (Cetinje) are located.

The Ribnica river winds lazily through the center of Podgorica as it flows into the Morača river.

3-frame HDR @ 50mm, f/2.8, ISO 100
3-frame HDR @ 50mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Two men in Eastern Orthodox vestments stroll through Podgorica’s downtown shopping district.

66mm @ 1/80, f/5, ISO 100
66mm @ 1/80, f/5, ISO 100

Youths play soccer in Podgorica’s central square, a popular community gathering place surrounded by shops and restaurants.

50mm @ 1/80, f/2, ISO 1600
50mm @ 1/80, f/2, ISO 1600

A restored central clock tower is one of few buildings standing among the ruins of Stari Bar, the historic old town overlooking modern-day Bar in southeast Montenegro.

32mm @ 1/320, f/3.5, ISO 100
32mm @ 1/320, f/3.5, ISO 100

A caretaker stands outside the small chapel inside the walls of Stari Bar waiting to unlock its doors for pilgrims who wish to light candles within.

32mm @1/80, f/8, ISO 100
32mm @1/80, f/8, ISO 100

The Crnojević River flows through a lush valley near Lake Skadar in southern Montenegro.

5-frame HDR @ 18mm, f/6.3, ISO 100
5-frame HDR @ 18mm, f/6.3, ISO 100

The old Rijeka Crnojevića bridge, also known as Stari Most, was built in 1853 by Montenegrin Prince Danilo.

32mm @ 1/250, f/4.5, ISO 100
32mm @ 1/250, f/4.5, ISO 100

A beekeeper in the mountains above Cetinje inspects a portion of his apiary before collecting honey for sale.

300mm @, 1/400, f/4, ISO 100
300mm @, 1/400, f/4, ISO 100

One of the proprietors of Pera Bukovicu Café takes refuge from the midday sun under an umbrella while waiting for patrons to arrive.

62mm @ 1/3200, f/8, ISO 800
62mm @ 1/3200, f/8, ISO 800

Pork shoulders destined to be sliced into prosciutto cure in a smoking shed behind Pera Bukovicu Café. The Café, which first began operations in 1881, is one of several establishments near Njeguši that make regionally-renown charcuterie and cheeses.

24mm @ 1/25, f/2.8, ISO 3200
24mm @ 1/25, f/2.8, ISO 3200

A plate of sir (cheese) and pršut (Njeguši prosciutto) served with a shot of the country’s trademark rakija (a grape-based, brandy-like liquor) makes for a delightful, traditional Montenegrin lunch.

56mm @ 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 100
56mm @ 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 100

A blacksmith hammers decorative horseshoes at his forge in Cetinje’s central square.

155mm @ 1/320, f/3.5, ISO 100
155mm @ 1/320, f/3.5, ISO 100

Montenegrin soldiers in full dress uniforms stand guard inside the entryway of the Blue Palace in Cetinje, which once served as the residence for the country’s crown prince.

24mm @ 1/1000, f/3.2, ISO 100
24mm @ 1/1000, f/3.2, ISO 100

Check out all the high-resolution photos from my trip to Montenegro in my album on Flickr.

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