One of the most exciting events at the Olympics for me, has to be the opening ceremony when each country parades its colors and athletes proudly. I don't know about you but hearing the name of each country just takes my breath away. They all sound so unique (obviously) and packed with history and culture (and scandals) that set each apart from the other. One country that captivates me with its name alone, is Montenegro ... It just sounds so enchanting and luxurious! I just couldn't help but explore this country, to see if it lives up to the sound of its name.
If you've never heard of Montenegro, or never thought of it for your next vacation - you may be surprised to know that this Balkan country offers all the things that make for an excellent holiday. And I'm not kidding...In Montenegro you can experience beautiful beaches, quaint coastal towns, hidden coves, towering mountains, green alpine spice-scented meadows, breathtaking lakes, good food and rich culture. Interested? Here are some must see, must do, must eat things and places in Montenegro.
First on my list is Budva, a fascinating coastal town of theatre, festivals, beautiful hotels, beaches (8 of which have won prestigious awards for high standards and services) and an amazing Riviera. You definitely must see the walls of Old Town Budva and Sveti Stefan - a hotel island considered to be the most beautiful building on the Montenegrin coast. To say that Sveti Stefan is unique would be an understatement. It's a fishing village turned world renowned hotel island with 118 medieval-like villas surrounded by lush vegetation and the lure of the ocean. Be sure to enjoy a Mediterranean style Montenegrin seafood meal in Budva and breathe in the fresh air...ahhhhhh!
Old Town, Budva
Sveti Stefan, Budva
Durmitor National Park & Tara Canyon
Famous 365 meter long Durdevica Tara Bridge
Crystal Clear water of the Tara River
Impressive mountain peaks adorned with streams and valleys, captivating lakes and peaceful meadows. Tour the park and/or stay overnight in one of 12 bungalows, and try the "natural cuisine" offered at the Biogradska Lake restaurant.
Bay of Kotor
Beautiful Mediterranean coastal town full of rich history and unique architecture, voted one of the 10 best bays in the world. There are several interesting buildings (churches and palaces) to stop by including Beskuca Palace, Drago Palace, St. Tryphon Cathedral, the Town gates and the Main Town Square. Be sure to have lunch overlooking the bay and stop by the markets to see what organic goodies you find.
Unique buildings of Old Town, Kotor
Old Town, Kotor
Old Town and Bay of Kotor
This is surely worth a visit if you are an avid bird watcher. Lake Skadar is not only the largest lake in this part of the world, it is also home to the largest bird refuge in Europe with nearly 280 species of birds.
River Isle of Bojana
Here is where you can watch the Bojana river flow into the Adriatic sea. Great place for windsurfing and water skiing.
If you can survive the hairpin drive to this museum town and the former royal capital of Montenegro, you will get to explore the rich history and culture of Montenegro. A visit here will not be complete without a visit to Njegusi where you can see how cheese, kastradina (smoked lamb) and sausages are made.
Meet the People
Experience true Montenegrin hospitality with a visit to the alpine cottages where the Montenegrin mountain people live. Legend also has it that miracles come true when you wish for one at the Ostrog Monastery.
Now if you know me, you know that I can't end this post without a taste of Montenegro. Montenegrins enjoy fresh organic produce (I love this place!) and traditional cooking involves cooking food in a pot known as a "sac" under coals. Favorite ingredients include sour cream, yogurt, cow's and sheep's milk...and lots of meat.
Be sure to try some of these Montenegrin dishes:
Kacamak - made from barley, wheat, corn or buckwheat flour served with cheese and sour milk.
Peppers in sour cream
Lamb cooked in milk (see recipe here)
Cheese in olive oil (Aged Sheep's Cheese in Olive Oil (In Decorative Can) by La Tienda)
Cabbage stuffed with minced meat and rice
Smoked Cheese (Smoked Cheese Assortment in Gift Box (3.9 pound) by igourmet.com)
Prsuta - smoked ham from Njegusi
Cevapi (grilled food similar to kebabs)
And don't forget to try it all with a good Montenegrin wine (Vranac is a good one to try), the locally brewed beer Niksic, and their famous grape brandy.
So what do you think? Does Montenegro live up to its name?
(Photos thanks to Leo Perunovic)