27 August 2006

Where in the World is Cerna Goro?

The cement has barely dried on the new sidewalk. The new bridge is spectacular and stands almost as a piece of art dedicated to a city in the newest micro-state in the world. Elections are 2 weeks away and all the work must be evident to the electorate so that the powers that be – the politicians – remain in favour, in office, and in power. I am talking about Podgorica in the country of Cerna Goro which in English is pronounced Montenegro. It only dawned on me recently why the abbreviation for Serbia is SCG – Serbija Cerna Goro. I cannot be blamed for not knowing this since Serbian isn’t my language. Turns out that now that Montenegro is a free country, they also have a new language called CernaGorska or Montenegrin. This is similar to the way three languages are spoken in Bosnia – Serbian, Croation and Bosnian. It all represents the further Balkanization of the Balkans.

Anyway, Podgorica is very different from Skopje. First, everything is either new or being refurbished here in Podgorica. I don’t have a clue where the money comes from – I guess the politicos saved it for a rainy day and, if so, it looks like its been raining for a while. There are buildings here which remind me of California architecture. In fact, we could be in Santa Barbara, San Diego or Huntington Beach and see similarly built structures with lots of glass, round winding curves and the wide array of the bright California color schemes.

It is different here also because the roads are being fixed up to look very nice. There is little refuse floating about on the side of the roads and the people certainly seem upbeat, more so than I witness in Macedonia on the whole.

The other, and most significant difference, is that this newest micro-state of 660,000 people has a coastline and might I say WHAT A COASTLINE. I have apparently now seen 90% of that coastline from the road which travels along the sea and what I saw was quite beautiful. The “Gold Rush” for land is on now that statehood has been assured by the popular vote to secede from their union with Serbia in early July. I hear that Russians and Brits are buying up all the best properties and that pricing are increasing by 5% per month. I have been asking whether it is too late to find a bargain and have been told that they are still out there but you have to search for them. That is the Gold Rush!

I had the joy of visiting a town called Kotor which sits on a large bay fed by the Adriatic Sea but seemingly miles inland. This town was a traditional walled city from the late 900’s and part of the Croat Kingdom. There was a church inside the walled city which celebrated its 1,000 year anniversary in 1926. The wall to this city snakes its way up at least 1500 feet to the top of a small mountain overlooking the bay and walled city. Apparently this city is a sister city to Dubrovnik which lies about 60 minutes north along the coast. The port of Kotor allows for large Cruise ships to visit deep into Montenegro through this vast fjord. I am certain that as Montenegro grows as a nation-state it will attract more people and more cruise ships. I imagine that the way of life in Kotor will change as it becomes addicted to a more viable tourism industry.

I am in Cerna Goro to see whether the work I did in Macedonia can be replicated here. This brings up the other differences between Macedonia. In terms of development years that Macedonia is about 3-4 years ahead of Montenegro. For all of Macedonia’s faults, it has adopted new telecom laws which made the creation of Macedonia Connects much easier to accomplish. Here, most of the laws, as far as I can tell, have been put in place to provide support to the elite few who have had money, controlled imports, and protected the few businesses capable of surviving in a small nation-state – one of which is the telecom provider.

In 5 years Montenegro will be well on its way to being invited to become a member of the EU. It will endure many political and regulatory reforms during this period of time in order to gain entry into the EU. People will spend millions if not billions of dollars transforming this country from an isolated dot on the map to an Adriatic hot spot frequented by the type of people who are attracted to the new and unexplored. Visit here soon before the simple qualities of what they have now are gone. Money and greed have a way of destroying simple pleasures in favour of the gaudy.

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