Aug 26, 2010

Traveling the Coast of Montenegro

In June 2007 the people of Montenegro voted to be independent from Serbia. It was considered a bold move. They are hoping tourism will lead to prosperity. Once Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia, but the country was divided into several countries.

From Albania John and I took a bus across the border to Ulcinj, a pretty town on the Adriatic Sea. It was one of easiest border crossings we have ever made. All they did was to make sure we were the same people pictured in our passport. The mountains of Montenegro become hills that end at the shore so there were a lot of steps from our hotel, Hotel Mediterran, to the beach and up to the walled city, but it also meant the views from our balcony were wonderful. The walled city is high on a cliff surrounded on three sides by water. We wandered the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, which was founded in the 5th and 4th century BC. Along the coast are a lot of little coves so the area was a favorite hideaway for pirates. At one time there were as many as 400 pirates in Ulcinj. From the 14th century to the 18th century pirates would attack ships on the Adriatic Sea, steal their cargo, and then sail off to their hideaways. It is hard to believe that this peaceful, pretty bay and walled city was once filled with dangerous pirates. A city has grown beyond the walls and today people enjoy the beach and strolling through the quiet walled city. While walking along the beachside promenade a blue Bentley bearing a New York State license plate drove by. Interesting!

Another bus took us to Becici, also on the coast, where we spent a couple days at the Queen of Montenegro Hotel enjoying the infinity pool with great views of the Adriatic. The food in this part of the world is excellent with plenty of fresh fish and vegetables. Chef Jovo Medin offered to show us how to cook some traditional recipes – muckalica and Njeguski steak. Our favorite dish was the muckalica, which is a delicious stew of meat and vegetables. A shuttle bus took us to Sveti Stefan, another walled city connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is the iconic image of Montenegro but someone has purchased the entire place and is turning it into a luxury resort so it was closed off. We continued on the shuttle to Budva, where there is another walled city. It was featured in the James Bond movie, Casino Royale. Budva was founded by Phoenicians in the 6th century BC. The current walls were built in the 14th century. While we were walking down the narrow streets we heard singing. We followed the sound to a garden restaurant where we listened to a group of women in costumes singing traditional Montenegro songs. From our hotel we could walk down to the beach where we enjoyed strolling along the beachside walkway, dining at a waterside restaurant, and watching the sun set.

There are many lovely beaches along the Montenegro coast so the area is popular with tourists. Someone told us, “In the middle of the summer you can’t see the sand on the beach – just tanned bodies.” Many of the signs are written in the local language, English and Russian. Montenegro is a favorite vacation spot for Russians.