We’re in Montenegro, one of Europe’s newest nations, and the road we’re climbing clings to the steep limestone mountains overlooking the Bay of Kotor. With every bend (or serpentine, as our guide aptly describes them) the views of the bay become increasingly breathtaking.
On the eighth hairpin the coach comes to a grinding halt as a couple of cows and a hefty bull plod up the hill in front of us; but we don’t mind – it gives us time to soak up a bit more of ‘that view’. The bovine roadblock pulls into a convenient passing point and we’re off again – onwards and upwards.
It’s the ‘Grand Montenegro Tour’ our first excursion on our Celebrity Cruise and when we stop at serpentine number 25, a mighty 850m above sea-level, we can see our ship ‘Silhouette’ sitting centre stage in the beautiful bay. The Gulf of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), despite often being called the southern-most fjord in Europe, is actually a submerged river canyon and from this height we can see the route the river would have once taken. This morning I woke, as the ship edged into Kotor, to see a backdrop of green covered mountains plunge into the bay behind small monastery islands set in the deep, still waters. Mistakenly I thought that would be the best view of the day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We tear ourselves away from the vista and head back to the coach for our next stop, Njegusi, which is even higher up the mountain at 1100m. Njegusi is famous for its local cheese, ’sir’, and ‘prsut’ a smoked dried ham; we sample a generous portion of each with a huge beaker of very drinkable red wine in Kadmi Ethnic Village. It’s not even midday but, well….! The restaurant is cosy inside and reminds me of a ski chalet with its hide covered benches, gingham curtains and copper fire hoods but today is warm so we head back outside to enjoy the views of Mount Lovćen.
Our next stop is Cetinje and we head off along the road from Njegusi which winds through a grey, rugged area of Mount Lovcen known as The Stone Sea. The view is stark but softened with splashes of autumn colour.
Until 1946 Cetinje was the capital of Montenegro, before Podgorica took over the mantle, although the small town still remains the country’s cultural and royal capital. It’s a pretty place with a quiet air about it dotted with small embassies and museums – so much nicer than Podgorica – but then I’m slightly biased as a few years ago my luggage went walkabout in Podgorica…
We visit the State Museum, on King Nicholas’ Square, which is the former residence of Nikola Petrovic I, king of Montenegro. The palace is set out with beautiful period rooms as they would have been when the palace was in use. I loved the Princesses’ bedrooms and it would seem little girls liked pink just as much then as they do now! Displays of uniforms, medals, flags and weaponry fill the building but photography wasn’t allowed. If you’d like to know more check the museum’s official website where you’ll find a virtual tour and photographs.
We leave the peacefulness of Cetinje for the thirty minute drive to the coastal town of Budva where we’ll have lunch and a wander. As the sea comes into view so does Sveti Stefan in the distance, an exclusive holiday hideaway only accessable nowadays to the rich and famous.
Budva’s a pretty little fortified town and worthy of its own photo tour so for now I’ll just leave you with a taster…
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Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises UK for hosting my first cruise. As always views and opinions; good, bad or otherwise are entirely my own.