Only in February 2003 did the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia become two new nations -- Serbia and Montenegro, one a turbulent Balkan country and the other a pint-sized state bordering the Adriatic Sea, both undergoing economic upheaval and profound political change. Though still suffering the aftershocks of civil war and NATO bombing, the tourist industry is slowly coming back, although there is unrest in the Serbian province of Kosovo, where travel is still not advised.

There is much to see in both provinces, and for the traveler with a sense of adventure it's worth the effort. With its vast mountains and plateaus, it is a scenic land of great grandeur with rivers flowing north into the Danube. Its only coastline is the Montenegrin coast, stretching for 93 miles (150km). The splendid Tara Canyon in Montenegro is the largest in Europe, and the Bay of Kotor is the only real fjord in the south of Europe. In Serbia, Belgrade, the capital city, is lively and vibrant, though lagging far behind the other capitals to its west.

Because of the varied terrain the climate is very different in certain regions. In the north, with its fertile plains, a continental climate prevails, meaning hot and very humid summers with bitterly cold winters. To the southeast, moving toward Montenegro and its mountains, an Adriatic climate prevails along the coast, with hot, dry summers lasting until October and cold winters with lots of snowfall inland.

North American citizens don't need a visa. Note: It is generally safe to travel to Belgrade (the capital of Serbia), and that city is the major rail terminus from other international destinations.