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Travel to Montenegro in a VW Tiguan: The discovery of slowness

Gerhard Eisenschink
Travel to Montenegro in a VW Tiguan
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W a few kilometers behind Nikšic, the view meets a huge one , plateau surrounded by two thousand meter peaks. A glacial lake here, a stream there, and in between a dirt road on which not a single vehicle can be seen. The feeling of freedom and adventure arises, combined with the question: 'Is this really Europe here?'

In the VW Tiguan through the Dolomite mountains

The tires of the VW Tiguan crunch over gravel for a while. Then suddenly the pavement is gone and the lane can only be distinguished from the surrounding grass by its color nuance. The jagged dolomite mountains are drawing closer. Glacier tracks can be seen on their flanks, which look like hieroglyphics carved into the rock. Disheveled grasses sway in the wind - the Montenegrins call them 'fairy hair'. A fairytale landscape. The mysterious name of this country prophesied it: Montenegro - the land of the Black Mountains. Only in 2006 did the former republic of Yugoslavia appear on the map as an independent state. A few valleys and mountain ranges, a strip of coast. In terms of area, Montenegro is five times smaller than Bavaria - with a population just equal to that of Nuremberg and Erlangen. It is all the more astonishing that this dwarf from a state structure can teach his visitors what width is. A farmhouse appears, a few sheep, goats, vegetable patches and cow pastures, which are protected against wolves with tapered fences. Only when one building has disappeared in the rearview mirror can you see the next one.

Hospitality instead of McDonald’s

Neighborhood takes on a completely new meaning for tourists from the big city: mutual help instead of ADAC, hospitality instead of McDonald’s. “Fifteen families live in the area,” says Zorica Minic, who runs a small grocery store on the edge of the Kapelanovo glacial lake. But only in the snow-free months, because the winters are long and hard, there is no electricity and little variety. In this living space that has been reduced to the essentials, a Tiguan quickly becomes a superstar. The slope - whether grass or gravel - turns into a catwalk on which the four-wheel drive attracts the looks of children and adults. That wouldn't have happened to him yesterday, because 85 off-road vehicles taking part in the 'Montenegro Trophy Offroad Rally' were pulling across the plateau. Not at lightning speed and fromsurrounded by an all-covering cloud of dust, but nice and slow. Which is why the passing vehicles of the brands Mitsubishi, Toyota, Suzuki and Co. were razor-sharp. The skill rally, which takes place annually in different regions of Montenegro, is characterized by speeds between 10 and 60 km /h. And through many breaks in which the participants can also have a chat with the goatherds.

North: Šavnik and Durmitor National Park

The trail of the rally leads via Šavnik north to the Durmitor National Park, lined with striking two thousand meter peaks. To the south it would be only a stone's throw to the picturesque beaches on the Adriatic coast, which present an amazingly extensive range of sports, wellness and cultural offers over just 73 kilometers. Adventure here, luxury there. It is an unmistakable trump card of the small country that every location can be reached from every corner in a few hours. 'But that's not a must,' says Tane Minic, one of the organizers. None of the participants, explains the professional pilot and passionate off-road driver, wanted to quickly measure the country from one corner to the other. On the contrary: in the skill rally carried out according to the roadbook, you will discover slowness on hardly traveled routes. Just under a third take part in the competition. The rest of the time follows the road book and enjoys discovering a previously unknown, exciting region of the country. The fact that some travel with the whole family is unmistakable: a woman reading a road book in the passenger seat, children and stuffed animals in the back seat. In between, adventurers and tinkerers cavort. While Tane Minic equips his Toyota pickup with tractor tires, a kind of sphinx on four wheels roars by: Land Rover TDi as the base, body from Fiat Campagnola, transmission from Lada Niva, cockpit from Fiat Tipo, console with altimeter, inclinometer and compass from Mitsubishi Pajero. The proud owner beamed, he put the whole thing together in two months. Today's stage starts in the center of the Durmitor National Park, surrounded by two thousand meter peaks: Žabljak. The Tiguan, which has just arrived after a seemingly endless stage of bends via Šavnik, follows for a while. With a view of the snow-capped peaks of the Durmitor massif, it goes down into the Tara Gorge. The superlatives are not long in coming.

Europe's longest and deepest canyon

In the Durmitor National Park, the country's highest peak, the Bobotov Kuk, breaks the 2,500 meter mark. Two corners further is the longest and deepest gorge in Europe. There, the river Tara digs 78 kilometers up to 1,300 meters deep into the rock. Only a few rivers in the world can do this - for example the Colorado in the USA. In this three-dimensionally nested landscapeis ideal for hiking, mountain biking and rafting tours. Or - off the beaten track - experience a first-class off-road feeling. But first, asphalt serpentines wind their way down to the Tara over around a thousand meters. A straight stretch of road seems to offer only the bridge that overcomes the Caribbean green river at 150 meters. On the other side of the gorge, it goes uphill again in almost mirror-image serpentines.

The VW Tiguan digs over coarse gravel tracks

At some point the route leaves the asphalt and the Tiguan digs over coarse gravel tracks. Huge pines peel out of the landscape. Here a lone rider trots across a seemingly endless plateau. There a flock of sheep leisurely crosses the path. Again and again the route twists along the walls of the canyon. Sometimes the hairpin bends are so tight that the car cannot be steered around straight away despite the electrically assisted power steering. Then you have to go forwards and backwards without losing the reference to the time frame specified by the road book: turn right at total kilometers 38.33; Stage kilometers: 7.57; predetermined accumulated time: one hour, two minutes; Time per stage: 18 minutes. The rally drivers taking part in the classification work up a sweat.

Lunch together in Mojkovac

Exchange of experiences, cordon bleu, vocal duo, Hammond organ, synthesizer with turbo amplification. When the rally participants finally head back towards Žabljak for the final stages, the Tiguan heads via Kolašin and Andrijevica to a corner opposite the Durmitor National Park: the Prokletije massif in the east of the country. A - according to Tane Minic - still little known off-road paradise, which he has already reserved for the next event. And indeed: In the mountainous region on the border to Kosovo and Albania, a whole ring of unpaved roads is unfolding, on which the VW climber can crunch over gravel, stir up dust and circle around tight bends undisturbed. The landscape, dominated by saw-blade-like jagged two-thousand-meter peaks, provides a special kick to the area, which has hardly been discovered by tourists - it spreads oriental romanticism. The Ali-Pascha springs near Gusinje make the beginning, followed by the 'Almedina' supermarket and the minarets and crescent domes of old and new mosques in Plav, which seem to compete with the surrounding mountains in their variety of shapes.

When the moon is reflected in the water surface of the Plav lake in the evening and the singing of the muezzin interrupts the concert of the frogs, the traveler feels transported back to the boom times of the old caravan routes. How long it took travelers in the 14th century to travel from the Plav caravanserai via the small one coming from ConstantinopleGetting to Kotor on the Silk Road cannot be found out spontaneously. But one thing is certain: the VW Tiguan circles hour after hour through the wild gorges of the Balkans on the way there. Calm and rhythmic. You can't call it fast. But nice.


Do you also have an interesting travel report for us? - Then take part in our 4wheelfun competition. Exclusive participation in the Wilcze Echa 2010 in Poland for two people beckons. The 4x4 meeting will take place from June 24th to 27th, 2010.


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