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By its geographical position, Montenegro belongs to the central Mediterranean, mapa.jpg (17493 bytes) that is Southern Europe. Together with the Republic of Serbia, its northern neighbor, Montenegro constitutes the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On the southeast, it borders with Albania. On the south, it is separated from Italy by the Adriatic Sea, whereas its western neighbors are the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The distance between the Montenegrin capital Podgorica and Rome is around 500 km by air, from Paris and Berlin it is around 1,500 km, from Moscow almost 2,000 km, and 2,500 km from New York.

The name of Montenegro (Black Mountain) was probably derived from the thick "black" forests, that in the mediaeval times had been covering Mt. Lovcen and other alpine areas of the "Old Montenegro". This name was first mentioned in 1276, after which it has gradually replaced the former names for this geographic and administrative area - Duklja and Zeta. Italian sources also record the names of Montagna Nera, Montenero, or Monte Negro - wherefrom Montenegro was incorporated into the West-European languages.

Geographic regions and contrasts

That the observation of the Italian botanist Baldaci about "the poetic and the pathetic characteristics" of nature in Montenegro was not a lyrical overstatement is supported by the fact that Montenegro is both a seaside and continental, mountain country. There are four climatic types with a variety of microclimatic changes and variations. Being in the middle between the subtropical and sub polar regions, the air currents from Africa going north and the polar fronts moving towards the South replace each other over Montenegro.

There are 40 lakes in Montenegro, and eighty percent of the territory is comprised of forests, natural pasturelands and meadows. The 2,833 plant species and subspecies that grow on the mere 0.14 % of the total surface area of Europe which belongs to Montenegro, make almost a quarter of the European flora.

Montenegro is the country of natural rarities which is shown throughout the four clearly differentiated geographic regions within its small area.

Seaside

The Seaside presents a striking contrast to the other three regions, and makes the Mediterranean "facade" of Montenegro.

The width of the Adriatic Sea is greatest between Montenegro and Southern Italy (around 200 km), and that part of the Adriatic is at the same time the deepest (greatest depth is 1,330 m at the point 120 km south-west of the Bay of Kotor).

The length of the coastline is 293.5 km, of which 52 km are beaches. The Montenegrin seaside is a very narrow strip of land (2-10 km wide), separated from the inland by high and steep limestone mountains of Rumija, Sutorman, Orjen, and Lovcen. The coast is very indented with numerous bays and coves. The largest, and most impressive is the Bay of Kotor, which is the world's southernmost fjord.

Rocky tablelands

A special geomorphologic region in Montenegro is the picturesque limestone area, that is in complete contrast to the Seaside, which it literally overhangs. Plants and animals are scarce here, and patches of fertile land can be found in karst depressions - poljes - and crater-like hollows - vrtaces.

Limestone easily drains, so even the heaviest annual rainfalls have little effect here. An interesting fact is that it is in this area, in Krivosije above the Bay of Kotor, that the annual rainfall is around an average of 480 mm/day, which makes it the rainiest area in Europe. This creates a paradox: heavy rainfall, but almost none water for people.

Situated in this region is Lovcen National Park.

Central Montenegrin depression

Lake Skadar, the fertile Zeta plain with the Zeta River valley, and the Niksic field (polje), comprise the third geomorphologic region of Montenegro. This is a lowland and the only plain area in Montenegro.

The average altitude of the Zeta plain is 40 m in its northern part, whereas the Niksic plain, that in terms of space makes part of it, is 500 m higher.

The fertile lowlands along the river valleys are the ideal place for human settlements, so that the Zeta plain, the Zeta River valley, and the Niksic field record the highest concentration of population in Montenegro. The two largest cities in the Republic - Podgorica and Niksic - are situated here.

In this area, there is the Lake Skadar National park.

High mountains

The north of Montenegro is the area of high limestone mountains. From the tablelands and plateaus of 1,700 m in altitude, rise vast mountain ranges and ridges of over 2,000 m (Durmitor, Bjelasica, Komovi, Visitor). These mountain ranges are rich in pasturelands, forests and numerous mountain lakes, of which there are 29 in Montenegro. The rivers Piva, Tara, Moraca, Cehotina and their tributaries have cut deep narrow steep-sided channels in the limestone - the canyons, whose beauty and size are unique. In its size, the canyon of the Tara is the second largest in the world.

In this region there are two magnificent national parks - Biogradska Gora and Durmitor.

 

Climate

The contrasts in the land (topography) are related to climate. While the Mediterranean climate prevails at the seaside, in the closest hinterland, only few air-distance kilometers away, the dominant climate is continental. The Dinaric range of mountains (Orjen, Lovcen and Rumija) rises steep above the coast, and just like a gigantic backdrop largely prevents the penetration of the Mediterranean climate into the inland. At the seaside region the average July temperatures are between 23.4�C and 25.6�C. Summers are usually long and dry, winters short and mild. Along the valley of the River Bojana, over the basin of Lake Skadar and upstream the Moraca, waves of intense heat penetrate to Podgorica, making it the warmest city in Yugoslavia.

In central Montenegro, in the regions of Zetska and Bjelopavlicka plains, July temperatures are 26.4� (in Podgorica), and 25.4� (in Danilovgrad). The absolute maximum can sometimes reach 40�C. The average January temperatures are around 5�C, with the absolute minimum of -10�C.

In the region of high limestone mountains, the climate is typically sub alpine - with cold, snow-abundant winters and moderate summers. While along the Montenegrin seaside and in the basin of Lake Skadar snow is a rarity, on Mt. Durmitor it can fall up to five meters. In the northern parts of Montenegro, and particularly in the high mountains, due to low evaporation, the snow remains for several months and sometimes even over the whole year.

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