20 Sep Montenegro – The Hidden Jewel of the Adriatic
Nikola K. vividly shares his memorable trip in the jewel of the Adriatic, Montenegro.
For those who have never visited or heard of Montenegro, it is a small country located on the Adriatic Sea. A former Yugoslav Republic, today it borders Serbia and Croatia, and across from Italy, where the foot of the mountains kiss the surface of the sea. A unique natural setting, especially if approaching from the sea, to view such momentous mountains rise out of the water. Hence the name of the country Monte-Negro (Black Mountain) or as it is called in its native language Serbian, Crna Gora. Montenegro has several towns scattered along the coast, such as St. Stefan, Kotor, Herceg Novi and each town has its own story and history. However today I will focus on the vibrant town of Budva which is known for its extravagant nightlife and is the main tourist hub in the country. Besides Budva, I had the privilege to visit the Bay of Kotor, one of Europe’s southernmost fjords.
Throughout the past 15 years Budva has grown each year, with more hotels and apartments, however, the center still very much revolves around the old town, a well preserved medieval walled city. Most of the city walls that are standing today were built during the Venetian rule from 1420 – 1797. Inside these walls, one can easily get lost in the labyrinth of small streets that intersect each other and you are never too sure whether you will come across a bustling café, bar, souvenir shop or a bakery that runs from the early morning till the midnight hours. There are several small town squares nestled in between the walls but perhaps the most charming one is in the north of the city where you can find all three churches; St. Ivan’s, the Holy Trinity and the Santa Maria in Punta. From there you can also climb to the top of the walls to have a view of the tranquil sea and the island St. Nikola situated right across from Budva.
At night a number of chic bars and lounges open just outside the city walls, where one can encounter locals and tourists craving to be seen and noticed by the passing crowds. However, the nightlife spots inside the city walls offer a more casual hedonistic experience full of intriguing stories that travel from ear to ear and seem to linger for years within the stone walls. For those looking to pursue their night into the late hours and perhaps find better luck, there is always Top Hill a pulsating nightclub located on a hill overlooking Budva that plays from Progressive to Deep House music. Of course, if you are keen to try something more ‘indigenous’ there is the ever famous Trocadero which hosts famous Serbian and Montenegrin singers every night. A slight warning for foreigners, what you will witness will probably be one of a kind experience and not just from the music and the singers but also from the emotional crowd which will shift from joy, to tears, back to bliss all in a matter of minutes, depending on the song that is being played.
If you are looking to sit back, relax and catch some sun there are several beaches near Budva, for example Mogren Beach which is right in front of the imposing Avala Hotel. Not too far from Budva, you have Becici beach where you can get taken away by Stefan Braun’s beats, a lounge on the beach. For someone who is looking for something more secluded and away from the crowds you can visit St. Stefan’s beaches or head towards Boka where you can come across pure waters with the only sound heard is that of crickets and the waves breaking against the pebbled coast.
Bay of Kotor
The Bay of Kotor, or more commonly known as Boka is located in Southwestern Montenegro and was once called Europe’s most southern fjord. A ria of the disintegrated river Bokelj which ran from the mountain plateau of Orjen. Venturing into Boka can be done either by boat or car and both offer a memorable experience. If traveling by car you pass by towns that seem as if they can be a setting for a new James Bond movie. One town that is of keen interest was the old town of Perast which lays beneath the St. Ilija hill. Like most towns on the Adriatic, the buildings in Perast were built using its famous white marble stone and one can see the Venetian influence on the architecture. Perast is also well known for its close proximity to the two islets of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks. St. George’s islet is a natural island and has an Orthodox Church, while the Our Lady of The Rocks is a manmade islet that was built by the bulwark of rocks and by sinking old ships filled with rocks. To this day, the local residents of Perast have a ritual of throwing rocks in the sea every year on 22nd July. Contrary to the noise and rush in Budva, Perast is much more serene and offers quite a different experience, almost as if time stopped and you are secluded from the rest of the world. Yet from time to time Perast does get its publicity for example when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited in 2010 or with the news that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Johns bought a house nearby, hence you are never too sure who you might run into in this quaint village.
Due to its proximity to the sea, there is a wide variety of seafood specialties with local and Mediterranean flavors. At the same time, one cannot ignore the traditional Balkan flavors from Montenegrin and Serbian specialties.
Fish – Most common fish are goatfish, mackerels, seabass and seabream. Usually prepared on the grill (gradela). Before grilled or cooked the fish is seasoned with aromatic spices and herbs, particularly rosemary. It is accompanied with garlic marinade, parsley, and olive oil. Another traditional style of preparing fish or shellfish is ‘a la buzara’ which means they are intensively roasted with wine, oil, spices, and vegetables, served with polenta orchard.
Kacamak (read Kachamak) – A weighty dish consisting of mashed potatoes, corn flour, and wheat, served with cheese and milk. Usually served during breakfast and is a great source of energy.
Njeguški Pršut – A prosciutto that has a dry consistency and has a rich red color.
Barbeque – Throughout Montenegro, you can find a number of restaurants and fast food outlets that have a side variety of grilled meat. ‘Cevapi’ (kebab) and pljeskavica (grilled meat patty stuffed with onions) are the most common meals. Usually, you will find meat stuffed with a number of different spices such as paprika or chili.
Basic Facts of Montenegero:
Government: Parliamentary Republic
President: Filip Vujanovic
Population: 621,800 (2014)
Languages spoken: Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian