In 1974, when I planned my first trip across the ocean, I thought visiting the Soviet Union would provide major insights for my class on Contemporary Issues. Failure to obtain a Soviet visa in Vienna, as promised, was a deep disappointment. However, my son and I drove south into Yugoslavia, hoping to make the best of things.
At Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast, we feasted on the beauty of the sunbaked buildings overlooking the blue sea. At a place where the road ran only one or two feet from the water, we could not resist getting out to wade. Not a good idea. We had not previously met sea urchins, and the encounter was painful for some time.
Our guidebook said tourists seldom visited Cetinje, the old capital of Montenegro, because it is deep in the mountains. That remoteness and the description of two museums there whetted my curiosity. Driving over a crumbling mountain road that left me breathless with fear, I understood why no sensible tourist would venture there. We saw only four cars that day—all Yugoslav.
Pat on the road to Cetinje
However, Cetinje was worth the trip. We visited the palace of King Nicholai and the museum dedicated to the partisans who fought the Germans in World War II. In the museum, we saw pictures of victims of German atrocities more terrible than anything I had ever seen. We planned to stay in Cetinje that night but there was only one old hotel, and the water was shut off for some reason, so we went on to Titograd.
The drive through more mountains to Titograd was not so daunting, and we were surprised to find a very modern city with shopping centers and bright new houses. The next morning we learned that this was, in fact, a new city, built on the ruins of another city that was totally leveled by the Germans. Bits of rubble no more than three feet tall were all that remains of the former city. In 1974, nearly thirty year after those events, the presence of World War II permeates Yugoslavia. Every mile or two, we noticed monuments, often very small, to someone who was killed or executed there. Fresh bunches of flowers decorated these memorials, emphasizing the living memory. Below: Two of many memorials to partisans killed by the Germans.