As far as the "typical" tourist track in Montenegro goes, I was doing it completely backwards. The standard route is to come down from Dubrovnik in Croatia, hit up the coast for a day or two, and then head back into the confines of Montenegro's more-traveled northern partner. Maybe if they are lucky, their cruise ship will pull into Budva, but the farthest inland most tourists get is the former capital of Cetinje. I was all turned around, and the border guard at the Kosovo border let me know it.
Climbing the narrow road that ascends from the plains of Kosovo nearly 2,500 meters towards the Montenegrin border, I could tell that this was definitely the road less traveled. When I finally reached the border, at the absolute highest point in the mountains, only one other car was ahead of me. It had Montenegrin plates and was parked in front of a small log-cabin, I soon learned that this Lincoln-log style house was the border station.
I pulled up and a guy leaning out the window of the cabin motioned for me to approach. It was the start of summer, but up here in the mountains it was near freezing, and the border guards wrapped themselves in army-issue parkas. When I reached the window a border guard gave me a huge smile and a dobar don (good day). I responded in kind and then handed over my American passport. He looked at it, laughed, and gave me that look I had gotten used to. "What the hell were you doing in Kosovo!" He asked. "Tourism," I told him.
The guard shook his head, "Well I think you'll find that Montenegro is much better for that!" He told me and then proceeded to ask where I wanted to go in Montenegro. I told him I wasn't sure and asked if he had any suggestions. A large smile came over his face, "Budva," he answered, "you have to go there! The women in Budva are the best in the world!" I smiled back. Having traveled plenty as a single young man, I'm used to hearing local men tell me how beautiful their women are. The guard noticed my unimpressed smile, "I'm serious," he said, slightly offended, "all the best looking women in Serbia and Montenegro go to Budva. They're young, tall, and want to find men, especially a nice American like you." He winked; I blushed. "Well, then I'll definitely head down there," I told the guard as he nodded in approval.
I had been in Montenegro no more than 15 minutes and I could already tell that I was going to like it. The border guard and his enthusiasm was just a small sample of the overall pride and love was to discover that Montenegrins had for their country, and by the end of my trip, I started to feel the same way. The warmth, the hospitality, the natural beauty...all of it left a special mark. I can't wait to go back.
And since most border police don't like you taking pictures at the border, enjoy more pics of Montenegro.