Ritzy Balkan rival to the Cote D’Azur

Posted on October 18, 2017
Archive : October 2017
Category : News
  • Daily Mail
  • by Jeff Mills
S R E N R O C 4 : e r u t c i P
Toast of the coast: The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro

My Montenegro guide was animated. ‘you should have been here when this was part of yugoslavia. It was a fine country and tourists loved it,’ he said. there’s a word for those who share his view. they are ‘yugonostalgics’, and they remember Josip Broz tito as a great leader, who ruled the country with a benevolent air and a successful public relations campaign.

‘I, too, remember yugoslavia,’ I told him, without elaborating. My memories of pre-1980 yugoslavia run more along the lines of cheap and nasty, concrete- clad, massmarket hotels aimed at eastern Bloc tourists, unimaginative food and undrinkable wine.

there was bog- standard nightlife and exotic foreign luxuries, such as fiery slivovitz plum brandy, which gave you the mother of all hangovers; and yugo cars for taxis, which made east germany’s trabants seem like Ferraris.

It’s different now, as each of the former yugoslav states strive to come up with new and inventive ways to attract tourists.

Montenegro is right up there, with a curious mix of flashy superyacht marinas and glitzy hotels, combined with cheap-as-chips seaside resorts.

the marina complex of Portonovi, on a 60-acre site on Boka Bay between Dubrovnik, in Croatia, and the Montenegrin coastal town of tivat, might just be the glitziest of them all when it opens next year.

Look out for luxurious apartments, available for both sale and rent, as well as a yacht club, spa and a new one&only resort hotel, the first in europe.

At the other end of the scale is ribarsko Selo, a rustic fish restaurant with just a handful of guest rooms, tucked away on the Lustica Peninsula between Miriste and Zanjice beach, where a bottle of the local Savina white wine costs €15 (£13).

those in the know book the restaurant’s solitary harbourside apartment, with its own small pool, said to be a favourite with visiting oligarchs in need of privacy. At just €150 (£133) a night for two, it’s a bargain.

But there is also much in between these extremes in Montenegro, which borders Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north-west, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the south-east.

Its 620,000 people are fiercely proud of the independence they gained following the break-up of yugoslavia in 1992, when the country became Serbia and Montenegro.

After a referendum in 2006, Montenegro declared itself independent. the town of Budva, for example, once with a whiff of mass-market Spanish Costas about it, is now filled with atmospheric bars and restaurants in the shadow of the ramparts, and there’s a superb crescent-shaped beach, too.

even more spectacular is Kotor, with its high city walls, tiny alleys, churches and Italianate mansions, all a reminder of Montenegro’s Venetian heritage.

Visit in the early evening, after the cruise ships have rounded up their passengers, order a glass of something at an outside cafe, and bask in its beauty.

For real luxury, try the island of Sveti Stefan, once home to fishermen, whose atmospheric houses now serve as guest rooms for the Aman Sveti Stefan hotel, reached by a pedestrian causeway. Following local advice, I check out the resort of Herceg-novi, just along the coast, where the modern beach- side Palmon Bay Hotel and Spa provides a good base from which to explore the coast and the black mountains.

Service is slickly efficient — not always the case in this part of the world — and rooms are excellent, if a touch clinical.

Heaven knows where Montenegro is heading. I sense that it doesn’t know the answer to that itself. For the rest of us, there’s a lot to be said for visiting a place that’s in such dramatic transition.

TRAVEL FACTS

FLY to Dubrovnik (just over the border in Croatia) from about £120 return, britishairways.com. The luxury apartment at Ribarsko Selo is from €150 (£133) a night, ribarskoselo.com.

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