Budva & The Budva Riviera, Montenegro

 

“Budva, the Montenegrin Miami, may be the place to come for a thumping all-night Adriatic Coast party come the summer months, but even through a hangover I suspect one will still appreciate the town’s compact walled Stari Grad (Old Town, yes of course Budva has one of those), its beaches and its picturesque setting on Montenegro’s stunning 30-kilometre-long Riviera coast.”

 

Image || The Dancing girl statue, its meaning not truly understood, on the coastal-hugging promenade/path to Mogren Beach in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

Montenegro

I won’t lie; first impressions of Montenegro were not good. It was bucketing down when taxiing to the terminal of Podgorica Airport. I almost didn’t want to subject myself to it. It was early. It was glum. It was cold & I was tired, a consequence of having spent the previous night trying – and failing miserably – to sleep in London’s Stansted Airport, the only way I deduced that I’d guarantee making the 06:55 Ryanair departure to the Montenegrin capital, one of the few direct flights from my corner of Europe to this corner of Europe at this time of the year. I had limited time in Montenegro so I was hoping the conditions would improve, and fast; with the scenery on show in these parts you really need good weather to do the country justice. The weather did improve – on and off – and I found myself leaving Montenegro some days later for neighbouring Kosovo wondering why it had taken me so long to point my camera at this particular Balkan gem.

Approaching sunset by the walls of Stari Grad (Old Town) as seen from Old Town Beach in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

Approaching sunset by the walls of Stari Grad (Old Town) as seen from Old Town Beach in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

Montenegro Overview

montenegro_globe_with_flag_256Montenegro

Region – Southeastern Europe/The Balkans (dMb tag: The Balkans). Capital – Podgorica. Population – 680,000. Official Language – Montenegrin. Currency – €uro. GDP (nominal) per capita – US$6,630 (80th). Political System – Parliamentary republic. EU Member? – No (as of April 2017). UN Member? – Yes (admitted June 2006). G20 Member? – No. Size – 14,000 km² (Europe’s 10th smallest country, slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut, or about two-thirds the size of Wales). Topography – Varied. Mostly mountainous interior with a narrow coastal plain. Formation/Independence – 2006 (following the peaceful dissolution of the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, itself formed in 1992 following the breakup of Yugoslavia). UNESCO World Heritage sites – 4. Tourism Catchphrase/Slogans – Breathtaking Beauty; Wild Beauty. Famous For – Being Europe’s baby, its newest country; historic walled old towns, scenery; the azure Adriatic; partying. Highlights – The Bay of Kotor; the Adriatic coast; Durmitor National Park. Montenegro Titbits – Officially Crna Gora, Montenegro is the country’s better-know Italian name (which translates into English as ‘Black Mountain’); the country’s 294-kilometer-long azure Adriatic coastline boasts 117 beaches. Montenegro Observations – The roads are tight; as in most of the Balkans, unfinished construction projects are everywhere & blight the otherwise stunning landscape; most essentials – coffee, beer, meals out, a hostel bed, parking – are very economical, petrol not so much; everyone seems to smoke everywhere including in cafes & restaurants; the locals are, for the most part, very welcoming & friendly; you’re never far from a church or monastery (or from anything in tiny Montenegro); coffee is served with a straw. You don’t have to use it of course but it’s a somewhat bizarre accompaniment to an espresso.
Old Town Kotor, Montenegro. April 19, 2017.

Trg sv Luke (St. Luke’s Square), Stari Grad (Old Town) Kotor, Montenegro. April 19, 2017.

Visits – 1 (April 2017). Where I went/What I sawThe Bay of Kotor (Perast, Kotor & Porto Montenegro); Lovcen National Park & the Njegos Mausoleum; The Adriatic Coast (Budva & The Budva Riviera (Sveti Stefan)); Lake Skadar National Park & Podgorica.

Budva & The Budva Riviera

Assuming the medieval walled Old Town delights & scenery of the Bay of Kotor and the mountain highs of Lovcen National Park don’t get your Montenegrin pulse racing, there’s always Budva to fall back on. Coastal Montenegro’s bustling holiday hub, if Montenegro was to do tacky resort towns, this would be the tackiest of the lot. Of course Montenegro doesn’t do tacky resort towns. Budva, the Montenegrin Miami, may be the place to come for a thumping all-night Adriatic Coast party come the summer months, but even through a hangover I suspect one will still appreciate the town’s compact walled Stari Grad (Old Town, yes of course Budva has one of those), its beaches and its picturesque setting on Montenegro’s stunning 30-kilometre-long Riviera coast.

Budva as seen from the walls of the Citadela Fortress. Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

BUDVA || Budva as seen from the walls of the Citadela Fortress. Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017. || Picturesque 2,500-year-old Budva, one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast, has developed around a small rocky peninsula on which the orangish-roofed walled Stari Grad (Old Town, right) is situated, an inviting and compact area of narrow and winding lanes hiding a multitude of historic buildings, ancient churches and inviting squares. The most crowded and most popular tourist resort in Montenegro, in the summer months the town’s bars, nightclubs, theatre plays and performances, music events and various entertainment programs attract a mix of mostly domestic, Russian, Serbian and other Eastern European tourists. You’ll rarely have the place to yourself, but visit out of season, when the air is that bit cooler, the crowds lighter & prices lower, and you’ll almost feel like you do.

In the tight Venetian-built lanes of Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

STARI GRAD (OLD TOWN) || In the tight Venetian-built lanes of Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017. || Budva’s pedestrian-only Stari Grad (Old Town) follows an irregular pattern, its many piazzas & buildings connected by narrow streets lined with restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops. Extensively damaged by not one but two earthquakes in 1979, Budva’s main attraction underwent an 8-year restoration, traces of the damage hardly noticeable today almost 4 decades on.

Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

Residences in Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

Citadela Fortress, Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

STARI GRAD – CITADELA || Citadela Fortress, Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017. || Although thought to have been initially built on the site of Budva’s ancient Greek acropolis, Old Town Budva’s present Citadela dates to a mid-1930s, built by the Austrians who occupied Montenegro following a First World War invasion. Independent again following World War II, this was one of only two periods which proudly independent Montenegro was under foreign rule.

Looking over the rooftops of Stari Grad (Old Town) Budva towards Old Town Beach from the walls of the Citadela Fortress in Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

STARI GRAD – CITADELA || Looking over the rooftops of Stari Grad (Old Town) Budva towards Old Town Beach from the walls of the Citadela Fortress, Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017. || Although it houses a museum & a stately library, the highlight for many of the well-presented Citadela Fortress are the views it offers down over Budva and its stunning coastal location; located at the highest point towards the seaward end of Stari Grad (Old Town), the perch atop the Citadela walls is hard to beat for eye candy. Budva’s mostly-rocky Old Town Beach, although conveniently located and thronged in summer, is average at best, there being much better beach options along the coast either side of Budva itself.

Outside the walls of Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

Slovenska Obala, outside the walls of Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 21, 2017. || Although confined to the walls of Stari Grad (Old Town) for most of its history, Budva started significant expansion into the adjacent Budva field in the 20th century, especially with the development of the tourism industry. Running parallel to the western wall of Stari Grad (Old Town), this is Slovenska Obala, a pedestrianised promenade lined with cafes, bars & restaurants and ending on the fringes of Old Town Beach.

The Dancing girl statue, its meaning not truly understood, on the coastal-hugging promenade/path to Mogren Beach in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

STATUA BALLERINA || The Dancing girl statue, its meaning not truly understood, on the coastal-hugging promenade/path to Mogren Beach in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017. || Across the sweep of Old Town Beach from Stari Grad (Old Town) and perched on a rock all Little Mermaid of Copenhagen like, this is something of a Budva curiosity. Commonly called the ‘Ballerina Statue‘, the ‘Dancer of Budva‘ or the ‘Ballerina of Budva‘, it’s a statue of a topless girl frozen in a graceful yoga pose. Definitive information on this is hard to come by; both its date of erection and its meaning is something of a mystery. Some people say it’s a statue of a young girl who drowned in the area, others contend that it’s just a statue. Whatever it signifies, this unofficial symbol of Budva proved rather photogenic on this particular evening silhouetted as she was against the striking cloud formations overhead and with the Stari Grad (Old Town) walls bathed in late afternoon light across Old Town Beach providing a nice backdrop.

Outside the walls of Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

The walls of Stari Grad (Old Town) and the towering spire of the 7th-century Catholic Church of Saint John, Stari Grad’s (Old Town’s) tallest structure, as seen from across Old Town Beach in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

The walls of Stari Grad (Old Town) & the Citadela Fortress in Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017.

STARI GRAD (OLD TOWN) WALLS || The walls and towering ramparts of Citadela Fortress in Stari Grad (Old Town), Budva, Montenegro. April 20, 2017. || While this region has been permanently settled since the Roman era, most of the existing city walls and buildings were erected during the Venetian rule of 1420 to 1797. The entire Stari Grad (Old Town) is encircled with defensive stone walls, fortifications that are typical of the Medieval walled cities of the Adriatic and complete with towers, embrasures, fortified city gates (4 in total in Budva) and a citadel, its towering sea-facing 160-meter-long ramparts, seen here & offering the town’s best vistas, intricately connected to the rest of the city walls.

Budvanska Rivijera (The Budva Riviera) & Sveti Stefan
The region’s 30-kilometre-long Budvanska Rivijera (Budva Riviera) has been called, by whom I’m not too sure, “The Riviera of Sandy Beaches“, a valid call given the 35 mostly pristine beaches found along this stretch of azure Adriatic coastline south of Budva. While I’m not one for beaches, especially in chilly Adriatic April, I was interested in checking out in the what is billed as the Riviera’s most swish accommodation option, albeit from the side of the road, or about as close to the fortress resort island as mere mortals can realistically get.

The uber-plush 5-star fortress resort island of Sveti Stefan as seen from the coastal-hugging E80, Budvanska Rivijera, Montenegro. April 21, 2017.

SVETI STEFAN || The uber-plush 5-star fortress resort island of Sveti Stefan as seen from the coastal-hugging E80, Budvanska Rivijera (Budva Riviera), Montenegro. April 21, 2017. || An old 15th-century fishing village fishscaled with orange roofs, hand-restored on a massive and lavish scale in the 1960s and now cordoned off as luxury accommodation, Sveti Stefan, a tiny all-inclusive resort island a few kilometres south of Budva, is a celebrity favourite and seemingly the most luxurious tourist complex in Montenegro. The multi-award-winning resort, open seasonally between October & May, is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus separating two sandy beaches. Although the resort, managed by Sinagopore-based luxury resort operator Aman Resorts and boasting 58 dwellings, is strictly off-limits to non-guests, the beaches are accessible to the public and throwing down €50 to access the North Beach, see here to the right, might just see you rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sophia Loren, Claudia Schiffer & Sylvester Stallone, all past guests.

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