In all honesty, my knowledge of Montenegro before I arrived was pretty minimal.
I knew it was small. I knew it was part of the former Yugoslavia, and that it used to enter the Eurovision Song Contest under ‘Serbia and Montenegro’. I’d heard whispers of pumping nightlife from Australians who had passed through on their tours of Europe. That’s about it.
The nice thing about visiting a place you know very little about, is that you can be pleasantly surprised when you get there.
And boy, did this country surprise me. Montenegro had me saying the words ‘wow’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘stunning’ over and over again.
I was taken aback by the beauty of the place, and also by how chic and glamorous it was. Whilst neighbouring Croatia basks in the limelight, Montenegro seems to have been lying under the radar- yet for many years the country was a popular vacation spot for A-list celebrities and VIPs. In its 1970′s heyday, Montenegro’s Sveti Stefan was a playground for famous guests such as Sophia Lauren, Sylvester Stalone, Claudia Schiffer and Princess Margaret. Since the country obtained independence in 2006, Montenegro seems to be making a comeback, and more recently, Hollywood couple Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt paid a short visit.
I had no preconceived ideas of Montenegro, but it definitely exceeded my expectations. After a few days exploring Montenegro’s coastline, here’s what I know now…
Crystal Clear Water
So many places are described as having ‘crystal clear water’ that the phrase starts to lose meaning, but Montenegro really did have crystal clear water. And oh how the sea was sparkly- it looked like someone had sprinkled fairy dust all over it!
From beaches…to mountains
I love the way you can be on the beach one minute, and in the mountains the next. This whole region is incredibly mountainous, providing a spectacular backdrop everywhere you go. Beach bums can spend the day sunbathing, relaxing and swimming in the Adriatic, whilst adventurous travellers can pursue outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and climbing.
During my time in Montenegro I visited two coastal towns- Budva and Kotor. Both had pretty old towns, with narrow streets, Orthodox churches and medieval buildings, ideal for strolling or sitting outside a cafe doing some people watching.
Scenery that makes you go ‘wow’
Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor is known as ‘Europe’s southernmost fjord’ because of its fjord-like appearance, but it’s really a submerged river canyon of the disintegrated Bokelj River. Either way, it’s an incredibly beautiful bay, dotted with medieval towns and surrounded by majestic mountains.
Plenty of relaxation
One of the first things I noticed about Montenegro when I stepped off the plane in Tivat Airport, was how peaceful it is. Taking a boat trip on the Bay of Kotor on a sunny day surrounded by beautiful scenery, was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. It was the kind of day that had me thinking, ‘does it ever get better than this?’
A drop of something warming…
I discovered that the Montenegrin people really like their fire water. At every meal, and even breakfast, I was offered their home grown plum brandy, or Rakia, which is more or less just pure ethanol in a nice decanter. I also soon established that their red wine tastes better than their white!
Since Montenegro faces West, it gets incredible sunsets- the kind that make you want to pull over by the side of the road to take a photo. I’ve taken many photos of sunsets, but this one has to be up near the top.
Enormous food portions!
Perhaps the most prominent memory I’ll take away from Montenegro though, was the food. Half the time I felt like I was in an episode of the TV show Man vs Food, except swap the slightly chubby male presenter for a 5′ 1″ female, and the mile long sandwich for a gigantic platter of seafood.