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Feature 08 Aug 16

A Belgrader’s Guide to Montenegro

Each Belgrade set has a favourite summer hangout in neighbouring Montenegro. Where is your crowd headed?

Srdjan Garcevic
BIRN
Belgrade
 Ada Bojana. Photo: Flickr/Sima Dimitric.

Montenegro and its coast have become hugely popular summer destinations for Belgraders, particularly after the wars of the 1990s brought the annual exodus to the Croatian coast to an end.

Montenegro, the smallest of the ex-Yugoslav states, stuck with Serbia the longest, until June 2006, due to strong cultural, historical and ethnic ties. Although many Belgraders have recently begun to visit Croatia again, or holiday in Greece or even further afield to escape the summer heat, there is still a strong sense of Montenegro being a kind of Belgrade-on-sea.

This is especially true as Belgrade dwellers of all social groups desert the smouldering city streets to sprawl out somewhere along Montenegro’s dry and rocky 293-kilometre coast or explore its impressive, mountainous hinterlands.

Thus, if you find your favourite bar in Belgrade deserted in July and August, here is a little guide to help you track down your crowd in the bijou wonderland that is Montenegro.

Savamala hipsters blog away at Ada Bojana

Savamala hipsters prefer Ada Bojana. Photo: Flickr/Jovan Nedeljkov.

Located at the border with Albania on the river Bojana, Ada Bojana is an island famed for its long sandy beach, great surfing waves and a nudist camp that was immortalised in the 1986 cult film Ljepota poroka (The Beauty of Vice) starring Mira Furlan of The Lost fame.

The vibe is very relaxed. Days are spent in the chilled tavernas on stilts that line the cool, clear waters of the Bojana, while nights are reserved for bonfire-lit beach parties.

When not instagramming the seemingly endless sandy beach that stretches to the significantly less fashionable city of Ulcinj, or discussing your latest media project with the hip kid you met at Belgrade’s Grad culture centre, you can go kite surfing or just relax in the shallow waters.

Dedinje power set descend on Sveti Stefan, Milocer and Przno

Sveti Stefan is adjacent to a luscious former royal park and summer residence at Milocer, which includes Montenegro’s best beach, Kraljicina plaza (the Queen's Beach). Photo: Flickr/Dave Pinter.

Sveti Stefan used to be a fortified fishing village before it was turned into a luxury resort in 1955. Since then it has hosted many a glamourous celeb, most notoriously the chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer. His 1992 visit caused a bit of a stir for breaking UN sanctions on the former Yugoslavia.

Sveti Stefan is adjacent to a luscious former royal park and summer residence at Milocer, which includes Montenegro’s best beach, Kraljicina plaza (the Queen's Beach). Next to it is Przno, a lovely old fishing village, now swarming with the Montenegrin and Serbian political élite trying to catch some sun.

Splav-fiends party on in Budva

Budva is well-known for its pumping nightlife. Photo: Facebook.

The largest town on the coast, Budva’s peculiar urbanism has become so famous in the region that it spawned the term “budvanisation” to denote an investor-driven chaotic approach to development. Although most of the new buildings range from mediocre to barbarically ugly, Budva is famed for its lovely Venetian old town, as well as its pumping night life which makes it a magnet for Belgrade party-fiends, mostly of the teenage and student variety.

Beton Hala beauties flaunt it in Porto Montenegro 

Porto Montenegro - a symbol of Montenegro’s attempt to capture the attention of the global elite. Photo: Facebook.

A newcomer to the formerly industrial town of Tivat, Porto Montenegro is a luxury marina situated on the site of an old military arsenal. The marina has become a symbol of Montenegro’s attempt to capture the attention of the global elite. To lure the gilded Belgrade set, the development includes outlets of their favourite Belgrade haunts, such as Moritz Eis and Supermarket. So you are sure to find many botoxed faces carefully inspecting your every move in this lovely resort.

Dorcol bohemians hang out in Kotor 

Kotor. Photo: Flickr/Vince Traveller.

It is difficult to say if the ancient UNESCO-protected city of Kotor is more beautiful for its location in the stunning Bay of Kotor or for its scenic, sleepy cobbled streets. Its beauty draws in a more mature, cultured crowd, who also attend its many festivals, including Bokeljska noc (the Bay of Kotor festival) in August, as well as its famed carnival in February.

Everyday Belgraders relax in Herceg Novi

Herceg Novi appeals to the average, run-of-the mill Belgrader. Photo: Flickr/Felix Montino.

Herceg Novi offers a nice balance of all the best things Montenegro has to offer: a quaint old town with a whiff of belle-epoque charm, the amazing Jadran water-polo club, great views of the Bay of Kotor, nice lidos and varied night-life. It also offers many opportunities to explore the coast by boat, including the nearby fishing village of Rose, Montenegro’s best kept secret. Thus, it is no surprise that it appeals to the average, run-of-the mill Belgrader, who is equally fond of turbo-folk, good DJs and people watching.

Adrenalin junkies rush to Durmitor and the Tara river gorge 

The Durmitor national park. Photo: Flickr/Aleksandr Zykov.

The 1,300-metre, UNESCO-protected Tara river gorge is the deepest in Europe. It is perfect for rafting, which ranges from somewhat risky between April and May to just exhilarating between June and August. Many agencies offer rafting trips combined with a few nights stays in the secluded and very basic camps at the bottom of the gorge. If rafting does not give you enough of an adrenalin rush, you can also zipline over the nearby Djurdjevica Tara bridge, whose elegant arches, dramatically soaring over the gorge, were one of the greatest feats of engineering during the inter-war period in Europe.

Finally, to relax, you can hike and enjoy many lovely glacial lakes in the Durmitor national park, a favourite of Belgrade’s small but committed outdoorsy crew.

No one at Lake Skadar

A perfect refuge from Belgrade’s hustle and bustle. Photo: Flickr/oranges and lemons.

Probably the most underappreciated region of Montenegro, Lake Skadar possesses a kind of otherworldly beauty, lent by the dry skeletal mountains that emerge from its shores and are reflected in its waterlily-strewn waters. A short drive from the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica and shared with Albania, the lake and the town of Virpazar offer visitors the chance to experience a deep, if a bit musty, calm, far from the crowds on the coast orthe excitement of Durmitor and Tara. It is a perfect refuge from Belgrade’s hustle and bustle, and there will be no nervous, flashy Belgraders in sight.

However, in case you do start missing them, the Ada Bojana hipster paradise lies just a short distance downriver.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy. 

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