Montenegro: The Country that Stole my Heart

If you visit Montenegro, you’ll understand why I love it so much.

Montenegro: Budva and Sveti Stefan

Whilst in Budva we took a trip to Sveti Stefan, a gorgeous island off the shore of one of the beaches. Unfortunately, the whole thing is privatised and you can’t go on it unless you are staying there, which of course we weren’t because it’s way over our budget and was closed during low season. But we looked and marvelled at it as we walked along the beaches and watched the sunset over the sea.

 

Gorgeous Sveti Svan island
Gorgeous Sveti Stephan island

We weren’t sure how long to stay in Budva but our minds were quickly made up when the woman at our hostel said that Kotor was hosting its annual carnival the next day and we should go and see it. So the next day we headed to Kotor, home to the stunning Bay of Kotor.

Bay of Kotor

The carnival itself was random but excellent. What made it excellent was that it was such a local thing, it was February so not tourist season yet; we were there watching (not understanding) and enjoying ourselves. The parade consisted of different groups (schools, drama groups, dancing groups), doing various performances/dances as they go down the main street – there was music and somebody introducing them all, the local media taking photos and what we think were some judges. The performances ranged from young girls twirling batons, large floats pulled along by cars, people dressed as crayons, chess pieces, mimes, doctors, all clapping and singing. The last piece of the parade was a giant 20ft witch, very strange we thought to ourselves, however, after some speeches which we didn’t understand and some photographs with what we assumed were the winning acts, they then put oil on the witch and set her on fire, she burned and everyone cheered, then of course, mass drinking began.

 

Performances
Performances in the rain

The ceremonial burning of the witch represented burning or getting rid of evil and good prevailing, a very good metaphor although I imagine if I made the witch I would be very upset to see my hard work go up in flame.

It was very fun to watch and great to see the town packed with locals and celebrating something which I’m sure your average tourist would not get to see. The evening was full of drinking and merriment in the old town, which naturally we joined in with.

Apart from the stunning bay, Kotor has an old fortress on the top of a hill overlooking the city and sea. It’s safe to say we’ve seen and climbed many forts on our trip, but, I may be so bold as to say this was one of my favourite. The sheer height of it and the view is incredible, by the time you get to the top it’s worthwhile the sweat and water consumed. The view over the bay is amazing, and the amount of the fortress that is still preserved is incredible.

Not quite at the top but a much needed break to take in the view
Not quite at the top but a much needed break to take in the view

If the time ever comes in my life to find somewhere to sit down and write my novel (which I keep saying I will do), I would like to do it in Kotor. I don’t know if I can quite explain why, it has a charming, calm feel to it – a feeling which may be lost in high season with lots of tourists teaming about, but in February, when theres wind, rain and some sunny intervals, it’s gorgeous, and I would live in the old town and feel at peace with the world.

The old town is beautiful to stroll through

Alas, we had to keep moving, as this is what backpacking involves (and at this time we’d just arranged some volunteering work in Budapest so for the first time on our trip we had a schedule to be somewhere by). We weren’t quite done with Montenegro yet, though.

Perast

Perast: A population of about 350 people, streets have no names and when we visited, of the 11 restaurants, only 1 was open. It can easily be done on a day trip from Kotor but it sounded so charismatic in our book that we decided to stay there for a night.

Stunning Perast
Stunning Perast

The main attraction in Perast is St George Island and Our-Lady-Of-The-Rock Island, both small islands in the bay. You can get a boat there and back to take in the stunning scenery. The village is so small that when asking the girl at our guesthouse how we can get there she said ‘Oh yes I will find the guy for you.’ Low and behold, she found the one man hanging down at the bay with a boat to take you there. We thought there would be more than one man with one boat but in low season he is the only guy so we hoped in his boat and he took us to the island. While we strolled around and admired the gorgeousness, our boat driver sat in his boat and drank a beer, it was a lovely day so we can’t blame him. Upon returning to Perast, we also got a beer and sat by sea, as should be standard for any sunny day.

View from the boat

We decided not to eat in the only restaurant open as it was quite expensive, so we cooked in the guesthouse and watched StarWars (because there was really nothing else to do in this village on a February evening). As I drifted off to sleep I could hear nothing but the sound of Mitch’s breathing; it was so peaceful.

We didn’t go inland but I’m sure I would have been in awe of the beauty awaiting me. The next day we left for Croatia, but part of my heart was left in Montenegro.

I’d go back in a heartbeat

For more on my love of Montenegro, check out my previous post here.

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