The Kotor - Constantinople Express
For centuries, the tiny Montenegrin statelet was sandwiched uncomfortably between the Ottomans and the Venetians. However, as Elizabeth Roberts points out in her history of Montenegro, this was “not always detrimental to Montenegrin interests”.
For example, Montenegrins often acted as couriers, maintaining a link between the Ottomans and Venice despite long periods of warfare. Venetian merchants needed to be in constant communication with their agents in Constantinople, and entrusted their despatches from Venice to Montenegrin messengers who secured their safe passage through Ottoman territories by means of guarantees and protection paid for by Venetian gold. The route, from Kotor to Pristina, crossed the mountains of Hercegovina but with the passage of time this route was felt to be too slow and in 1612 a Venetian from Kotor, Marino Bolizza, was charged with developing a new route.
Messengers would then travel from Kotor to the former Constantinople now Istanbul, crossing the territory of the warlike Kuci and Klimenti tribes along the mountainous borders of Kosovo, and on through Pec to Pristina, Phillippopolis1 and Adrianople, taking only eighteen days to complete the journey. Ultimately this route was found to be too insecure with the result that the couriers returned to the older, slower route. But this change was only made after many costly incidents; mostly the service continued in spite of war. A sixteenth-century traveller, Fynes Moryson, writing from Dubrovnik, (Ragusa) in 1595, recalled: "When we inquired of the war from Raguza [sic] to Constantinople by land, all the Postes and Messengers passing that way told us that the warre of Hungarie made all those parts full of tragedies and miserie."
Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. Elizabeth Roberts. 2007.
[pp. 111-1 / Hurst]