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Phespirit goes to Serbia and Montenegro
Budva     September 2005

AROUND MONTENEGRO

Map of Serbia and Montenegro

1 Budva

Three places of interest in Budva's old town:

  • The Citadel, boasting a permanent exhibition of antiquarian maps and books, including English language titles such as The East End of Europe (Allen Upward); Fighting the Turk in the Balkans (Arthur D. Howden Smith); and Ferdinand of Bulgaria - The Amazing Career of a Shoddy Czar (Anon). It also incorporates a maritime museum, a gallery, a theatre, and a restaurant-café-bar.

  • The Archaeological Museum, filled with various small items representing over 2,500 years of inhabitation. Phespirit was particularly impressed by an Illyrian-Greek helmet dated to the beginning of the 5th century BC.

  • The Modern Art Gallery, which was a disappointment.

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2 Jaz

Slovenska Plaza, the town beach of Budva, is rather crowded and commercialised even in mid-September. Further around the riviera to the east, Becici beach is highly rated by still a bit too cluttered for Phespirit's taste. Mogren beach is more compact and is just a short walk to the west of Budva old town, but can only be reached via a footpath requiring a toll payment of one Euro. No chance.

So Phespirit went to Jaz beach - the next one along from Mogren. It's either 10 minutes drive from Budva along the coast road out to the north, turning left at the Trsteno/Jaz sign, or about 25 minutes by private water taxi. Phespirit hired the latter; a tiny vessel with a furiously buzzing engine and a weather-beaten old skipper.

All for about six and a half hours of peace, quiet and sunshine.

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3 Sveti Stefan

The up-market hotel 'island' of Sveti Stefan is visible from Budva at the far end of the long, curving Budva Riviera. In brochures it looks picture-perfect: authentic, historic and exclusive. Both from Budva and from close-up it looks small, closed-in, remote and soulless.

Phespirit was happy that his budget chose Budva for him.

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4 Kotor

A badly eroded, treacherously slippery path of broken stone leads from the old walled city of Kotor up into the Fortress of St. Ivan. It took Phespirit three quarters of an hour to reach the top, sweating furiously even with his shirt off.

On the far side is St. George's Chapel, reached by sliding through a breach in the lower fortress wall. The chapel, like the fortress, is deserted and ruined, but is padlocked nonetheless. It is built on a promontory in the middle of a U-shaped gorge. On one side is the fortress and to the rear is the Ladder of Cattaro.

Phespirit hiked back down to Kotor via the Ladder, first passing a little house with a madly barking, snarling mongrel terrier chained up outside. Had it not been for its chain the beast would have torn Phespirit's throat out without the least hesitation.

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5 Cetinje

One of the most venerated icons in Montenegro is the Madonna of Philermos. This small, faint, tarnished painting was once on show in Cetinje Monastery, but is now to be found in the Art Museum of Montenegro. It has its own dedicated chapel with just the gentlest of blue lighting to provide illumination.

The museum was deserted when Phespirit visited it. Nonetheless, the Madonna's glass casing remained thoroughly smudged by the days-old kisses of previous admirers. Holy, if not hygienic.

Phespirit's tip: visit the Art Museum and admire the Madonna but also be sure to check out the works of Dimitrije Popovic.

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6 Podgorica

Of all the places Phespirit visited in Montenegro this was the only city to have the familiar bleak concrete uniformity of a Communist utopia. Hardly any fragments of historic character are to be found standing in bricks and mortar.

An abundance of trees in many varieties offers gentle respite from the otherwise overwhelming greyness of the city. River banks and main boulevards are particularly verdant. In the heart of Podgorica, a Green Woodpecker swooped down to a tree trunk less than ten metres in front of Phespirit - an unexpected thing in a city.

Despite walking around with an open mind, after a couple of hours Phespirit was forced to conclude that there is little or nothing here for the casual visitor. A pity, really.

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7 Biogradska Gora

Having been legally protected since 1878, Biogradska Gora is the oldest of four national parks in Montenegro. Over eighty percent of its 5,400 hectares is unspoiled primæval forest.

Phespirit visited a park camp and started his day with a breakfast of local produce: light, moist bread; two types of crumbly cheese; a fried muffin/dumpling; blueberry jam and honey ..... Mmm. Local specialities sometimes have to be politely endured but all of these things, generously served, were glorious without exception.

Post-breakfast: a 4WD tour of the peaks across rough tracks and grasslands. Temperatures were well down on the high twenties of the coast. Thunder sounded the right time to retreat. Rain and hail slapped down while, back at the camp, Phespirit wolfed fried eggs and bread for lunch (having declined the lamb and potatoes). After a brief huddle and shiver around a warm stove ..... time to go.

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  1. Budva
  2. Jaz
  3. Sveti Stefan
  4. Kotor
  5. Cetinje
  6. Podgorica
  7. Biogradska Gora
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Budva Jaz Sveti Stefan Kotor Cetinje Podgorica Biogradska Gora