They are literally known as the ‘People of the Black Mountain’, but there is nothing foreboding about the citizens of Montenegro. This is a state where all of the best bits of the Balkans come together as one, best typified by the 650,000 or so people that reside here.
If there is one defining characteristic that covers the people of the Balkans, it is hospitality. The Montenegrins may well be at the head of this particular table, although they will just as likely insist that you, the esteemed guest, sit at that prestigious spot. This is a country where ‘enough’ does not exist, where every last drop of rakija will be drank from the bottle and everything will be done to ensure a great time. The Montenegrins are seriously generous.
The Montenegrins might be seriously generous but they aren’t exactly serious all of the time. There is a keen sense of humour here that will almost certainly appeal to the Brits, as gallows humour is alive and well in this little corner of the continent. Much like their neighbours the Serbs, nothing is off limits and all situations call for a dry joke or two. If the quip can sum up life in a melancholy manner at the same time, even better.
No country does self-deprecation quite like Montenegro. This is a country that has taken its national stereotype, that of being lazy and preferring to stay in bed as opposed to work, and turned it into a world championship and a real mark of pride. Momir Bulatović, former President of Montenegro and Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, famously referred to himself as ‘Mummy’s little boy’ on a number of occasions. Montenegrins will often make a joke at their own expense in an attempt to lighten the mood, so be prepared.
Nations don’t come much tougher than little Montenegro. It is no coincidence that the mountain state was able to ward off the Ottoman Empire for much of the time the Islamic armies were rampaging through the region. These people were not giving up without a fight! You have to be tough to survive in this climate.
Centuries of fighting for its independence has meant resilience is part of the national fabric in Montenegro. Don’t make the mistake of lumping the Montenegrins in with the Serbs — doing so could well be the end of the fun times on your Montenegrin holiday. These people take their autonomy seriously, and rightly so.
The cultural history of Montenegro is littered with a number of charming eccentrics who left behind quite the legacy. Rambo Amadeus might just be the most unorthodox, and we’re not just talking about his name. The self-proclaimed World Kilo Tsar (downsized from World Mega Tsar in an effort to be a little more environmentally conscious) was the satirical brains behind the turbo folk movement that has been bastardised beyond recognition in the three decades since. The former champion sailor is wildly productive and he isn’t alone in that respect when talking about Montenegrin artists.
If you aren’t fluent in Montenegrin, do not fear. The phrase above literally means ‘everything slowly’ and it can be used to describe the pace of life in Montenegro. The people of this gorgeous state have a reputation for being somewhat on the lazy side, and the Montenegrins don’t disappoint. Don’t take it as a negative though — this is a place where everyone has time and isn’t afraid to use it, where an afternoon coffee can easily stretch into an evening beer. Don’t worry about it, simply relax and everything will be fine.
Montenegro is a very small country and has spent much of its history warding off the advances of major international powers. The Venetians, Ottomans, Austrians, Serbs and others dipped their toes into the feisty Montenegrin waters, leaving behind plenty of culture. The Montenegrin people thus seem like an amalgamation of a mass of influences, combining Mediterranean charm with Balkan passion. It is a truly beguiling mixture.
It is the code by which Montenegrins have lived for centuries. The idea of humanity and bravery is at the centre of Montenegro’s culture and history, and goes a long way to telling the stories of its warriors, artists, revolutionaries and the rest. There is no respect without integrity, dignity, sacrifice and humility, and there is nothing without respect. The idea might not be as strong among modern generations today but plenty of it survives — it is the typical Montenegrin way.