The Montenegrin Adventures: Part 1

For those of you that don’t know, the Philosophical Bear is currently on assignment in Montenegro assisting Alexandra Sexton with her research into sustainable tourism. By assisting, a more apt description would be “sitting eating pizzas and ice-cream”, which are both so well made here that they cannot be ignored.

The first stop on the adventure has been the beautiful coastal citadel of Kotor, a humble town with white stone buildings and narrow cobbled alleyways that are all dwarfed by the powerful mountainous landscape. It has all the tokens of European culture that makes the heart tingle with romance, from the delicate terracotta flower pots that adorn balconies, to the numerous church bells that echo far out to sea every hour scattering pigeons from the red rooftops. The people hear are warm, relaxed, and prone to the cigarette break and life seems to have the freedom to wander by at a very sedate pace.

Life in Kotor can be hard work

It is a shame, then, to be here for the purposes of business and not pleasure, and it would be easy to forget the small matter of collecting data. But Alex has been focussed for a long time on this task now, and her determination has led to the printing of hundreds of questionnaires that would have left Green Templeton printers very thirsty. Speaking from experience, however, getting people to fill out questionnaires is a very difficult thing indeed, especially without an incentive. As a result, Alex and I have had to resort to covert means in setting up our operation.

The city of Kotor is dwarfed by the surrounding terrain

The hustle works like this: we scout out an area, usually a public square, listening for signs of the English language. When we have isolated a mark, we report back to each other so that we are both in the know. Then, we inch nearer and wait for a lull in conversation, before sliding in and asking smoothly for our picture to be taken. The mark always obliges, Alex and I smile for the camera, and then we offer to take one in return. Regardless of their answer, Alex then steers the conversation towards her objective, “So, what made you choose to come to Montenegro…” and before they know it, the mark is answering questions that correspond to the questionnaire. After they leave, we write up the results and the mark is none the wiser at having been surveyed.

Ok, in all seriousness we only did this the once. As far as ethical research guidelines go, this may be a little off the beaten track. I know that in psychology this kind of practice (not revealing the true extent of the situation/failing to acquire consent yada yada) is discouraged. However, the whole purpose of our mission is to gauge the real attitudes of tourism, and this cannot always be done if participants have to go through the unnatural process of completing forms beforehand. It is a question of research validity; the answers they give in natural discourse will be closer to the truth than if they were always approached in an official manner. (Please don’t sue the Philosophical Bear!)

Anyway, moving on from this a few things struck us as slightly odd about this walled city when we first arrived. Firstly, there are an uncommon amount of young people here. It seems Kotor hasn’t experienced the same demographic fossilisation as other citadels (Sienna springs to mind) where the young and ambitious are forced to move away to an area of growth where there are more opportunities. The second curious feature is the style: people in Kotor are very glamorous. I am no expert on female attire, so here is how Alex describes the situation: “Lots of heels…erm…lots of leg…tanned leg…very vibrant and colourful dresses, often with sparkly jewellery, and very well groomed hair. It’s kind of like Italian, I think. A bit like what you might expect in Milan, or Rome…Brett? Are you typing this whilst I’m speaking?”

The mystery of these two points began to unravel when we got chatting to a local student. It seems Kotor along with the other southern coastal towns is where all the wealth is, with tourism being the biggest factor in the local economies. The north however is a different story, where there is high unemployment and less financial investment in developing its regions.

Therefore, tourism throughout the country looks like it is developing into quite a complicated issue and will require more data to be gathered. So now we are about to drive north to discover another side of Montenegro that lies outside of the traditional tourist route. The game is afoot!

Check colourTOMB for part 2 of this adventure!



  1. Granny

    Am enjoying both your blogs. Looking forward to future episodes. Enjoy yourselves. Granny xxx

  2. Pingback: Part 3 – KOLAŠIN « The Philosophical Bear

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