Thursday, May 26, 2011

A bit about Montenegro

A bit about Montenegro: It’s known through the Balkans to have the most crime and corruption. It has a higher EU status than Serbia and uses the euro. A few Montenegrins have guesstimated it will become a member state in four or five years. Montenegro is known through the Balkans as being the least sympathetic to minorities (LGBT, Roma, etc). Driving through makes it seem like a lot of untouched land. It was the first ecological state in the world. Montenegrin language is really similar to Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian; if you’re familiar with Russian or other Slavic languages the lj-nj-pj-mj sounds are used more often than in Serbian, but we didn’t have many difficulties communicating. Crna Gora (black mound) is how you say Montenegro in Montenegrin/all Slavic languages. I’m not sure where the word Montenegro came from or why that’s what we call it in English and when I asked a couple of Montenegrins they both laughed it off saying we westerners don’t bother to get our facts straight in the Balkans.

Podgorica is the capital. It’s more like a town than an industrial epicenter but given the rest of Montenegro that we saw it’s not surprising that the capital isn’t booming and that you can always see the sky. That’s probably what I liked the most about it: everywhere we were, you could easily see the sky since no building appeared more than 12 floors, most were less than four I’d guess. The city center is a couple of blocks with an open square surrounded by many cobblestone streets and old street lamps. It’s a sweet town and considering Montenegro’s relationship with nature it is appropriate that the capital is no metropolis.

The true highlight of our excursion to Podgorica, however, was the tear-gas incident. Yes, you read that right, our group was amongst a crowd driven out of a concert by a nefarious gas. We were invited to a concert of a popular Croatian indie-pop group but we weren’t informed that the purpose for the event was to protest the nonexistent rights of Montenegrin’s LGBT population. Ljubav je stav, love is an attitude, was the gathering’s header. A few women who pulled attention to themselves by dress and behavior at the concert were reportedly beaten later that evening. The event was to be a sort of trial performance for the Gay Pride Parade scheduled a few weeks later. Because of what transpired at and due to the concert Montenegro has canceled what would have been their first Pride ever. There were police at the concert and there would have been some police at Pride but most say there weren’t going to be enough to stop the expected rebellion against it. In Serbia’s Pride Parade last fall there were 5,000 police for 1,000 Pride-ers and still the hooligans wrecked havoc. And get this, the reason the police gave for canceling (read: refusing to defend the scheduled Pride because of what happened at the concert) was that there are no gay people in Montenegro. How twisted is that.

Here are some pictures of Podgorica
Town plaza

The concert

Traditional clothing

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