With so many enticing places tucked into the nooks and crannies of the world the average tourist would be forgiven for scratching their head if Montenegro was suggested as a travel destination. But the smallest of the six nations of the former Yugoslavia offers beauty and hospitality, including a vibrant beach party scene and the serenity of religious piety. For these last two items Budva and Cetinje are excellent examples.
Budva (bood-vah) is sometimes called the “Miami of Montenegro,” and tourism is the engine that drives the local economy. The Budva Riviera is a 22-mile long stretch situated in the middle portion of the Montenegrin coast and the city is reputed to have the best beaches and climate in the South Adriatic Sea. Average (Fahrenheit) temperatures in the summer (June through September) are in the 70s and 80s, with lows in the 60s. Water temperatures during that time range from the high 60s to mid 70s.
Budva’s party continues when the sun goes down; the city is renowned for its nightlife. Bars, clubs, discotheques, and music festivals offer revelers plenty of music and libation to help them dance the night away. Two of the larger music festivals, Top Hill, and the Sea Dance Festival feature top name musicians and they draw tens of thousands of merrymakers to Budva (in 2008 Madonna drew 47,000 spectators to her performance). The continuing addition of hotels and short-term rental options means the summer party scene in Budva is likely to continue to grow.
And to be fair, Budva is much more than just a party town. It has an Old Town that is thought to have been first settled by the Illyrians, who predated the ancient Greeks. The Old Town is an enchanting chockablock of stone buildings, terra cotta roofs, narrow winding streets, restaurants, shops, and cafes. In July and August many areas of Old Town become Theater City where visitors can take in performances – music, literary, and visual arts presentations.
For an entirely different taste of Montenegro, Cetinje (se-tin-yea), about 8 miles north and inland of Budva showcases some of the spiritual history of Montenegro. Cetinje’s population is around 14,000 (compared to Budva’s 55,000 residents). Cetijne is noted as the historic capital of Montenegro, and the Blue Palace is the official home city of the nation’s president. The city was founded in the 15th Century and is the cradle of Montenegrin culture as well as the center of religion for 70-plus percent of the population practicing the Eastern Orthodox faith. (Approximately 19 percent of the population are followers of Islam, with 3.4 percent calling themselves Catholics, just ahead of the 3.3 percent who identify as atheist or agnostic.) The Vlaska Court Church and the Cetinje Monastery are two of the better-known Orthodox churches in Cetijne.
The Vlaska Court Church is a small limestone structure built atop a Bogumils necropolis, a Gnostic sect that came out of the first Bulgarian Empire as far back as the 10th Century A.D. Construction of the Vlaska Court Church began in 1450 and the name is thought to derive from the Vlahs, people who guarded herds of cattle. The church is a simple building that might be considered more of a chapel by modern standards.
The Cetinje Monastery is a much larger facility and is a Serbian Orthodox church and monastery. Construction began on the complex in 1485 and was completed sometime in the early 1700s. But the church and monastery were caught in some of the wars sweeping up from the Ottoman Empire, and then defended by Christians coming to their aid. On days when saints and holy days are celebrated, the church is a beehive of worshippers and priests. In addition to the church, there is a large area where memorial candles are lit by those who want to remember family and loved ones who have preceded them and also to pray for the souls of the living.
There are a few points worth noting about these two cities, the nation of Montenegro, and in general the region that comprises the former Yugoslavia. Like so many cities in Montenegro, Budva and Cetinje are ancient, and they have been won, held, and lost by a series of conquerors, cultures, and empires. Montenegro is an old place, but a young democracy working hard to make its place in the region and the world. And while there are officially six nations that emerged from the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo is a region (slightly smaller in area than Montenegro), within Serbia that has claimed independence and is recognized by a number of countries (including the United States of America and major European Union member countries), but Kosovo struggles to wrest itself free, due mainly to resistance from Serbia and Russia.
All of these factors combine to make the Montenegrin cities of Budva and Cetinje fascinating and beautiful places to visit where the sights you see and the experiences you enjoy will be memories that will last for many, many years.
For more information about Budva and Cetinje, click on these websites: