Sunday, October 18, 2009

Budva, Montenegro

There is a certain look of desolation in Montenegro's off season which exposes the communist 1970s Tito hangover it still can't shake.  The promenade to Budva's Stari Grad, the old town in the centre of the Montenegrin Adriatic coast, is bounded by impermanent single-storey aluminium and concrete shops and weed-strewn lots.  The pedestrianised street is paved with concrete blocks, and a cracked basketball court next to a fibreglass waterslide held up by rusted scaffolding is used as a go-kart circuit.  Half the shops and most of the bars, tacky ones in the shape of pirate ships between palm trees and dead neon signs, are closed due to the off season.  "Fisherman's Pub" is decorated with the typical pastiche of hanging lifesavers, floats and fishing nets.  Though trite, these are used and faded objects taken from actual fishing boats; it's an authenticity that deserved recognition thirty years ago but which is now an eastern bloc curiosity.

Past all this, moored next to the walls of Stari Grad is a bank of expensive cruisers. Inside the old town of 17th-century walls it's suddenly upmarket with expensive watches and jewellery, cafes and restaurants... yet it's a bit like a shopping mall.  There are almost no residences.  Compare this to Split, Dubrovnik, and Kotor, further north on the Montenegrin coast, where the character difference is distinct; they are still residential towns, and there is a life buzzing around the tourists.

Apparently, Budva in the summer high season of July and August is a different thing entirely.  The swarms of bikini-clad girls and crazy nightlife every night are enough to distract one from, well, everything else (including perhaps a good night's sleep).

No comments: