I couldn't help but ask her where she was from…
(waitress) – Eastern Europe
(me) – Ah, which country?
She comes back later with the bill. I'm reading my iPhone.
(she) – So did you look up where is Bulgaria?
(me) – My dear, actually I know where it is. I've been to Greece and Romania and even Serbia, but not your country
– Really? Greece is beautiful. And in Bulgaria we have the mountains, the ocean, but you know… It's Europe! (pulls an exaggerated disapproving face)
– What do you mean?
– You know… RUDE people!
We just finished a driving vacation through Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia, with a brief city tour of Belgrade, Serbia thrown in for good measure.
Scroll down below the slideshow for my commentary and a map of most of the places we visited.
The three countries are very different today, even though not so very long ago they were all part of Yugoslavia. One thing Montenegro and Croatia have in common: truly spectacular coastlines. The blue Adriatic framed by dramatically rising mountains just a few miles inland.
Croatia is very well developed and almost feels like Italy.
Montenegro feels more like the “we came out of communism a few years ago” camp, but that doesn’t make it any less pleasant to visit.
Bosnia still bears the huge scars of the war there. The pictures from Mostar speak for themselves.
Surprises were how different the cultures truly are despite the fact that the languages are virtually the same. In Yugoslavia they were considered one language, Serbo-Croatian. Now, they are Serbian (also used in Montenegro), Croatian, and Bosnian. Serbian can be written in either Cyrillic or Latin letters. Government things tend to be in Cyrillic, commercial things in Latin.
Croatia (the Dalmatian coast) was Venetian and Austrian for a long time, and is Western in its attitudes, music, and cuisine.
Montenegro although never completely conquered by the Turks, (and Serbia, which was from the 1300’s till around 1800) feels very Eastern. Turn on the TV and get very Balkan-sounding music (not far from the Romanian and Bulgarian gypsy bands that Amsterdammers know so well). (Check out my favorite Serbian “turbo-folk” video). The food – more like Turkey – grilled meats, etc.
Bosnia feels far more Eastern – like someone dropped a slice of Turkey – the country, that is, into Europe. Mosques, headscarves, bazaars, and grilled meats. Bosnia was Turkish until the mid-1800s (!!!) and is a very, very different place…