The One with Budva & Sveti Stefan, Montenegro


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

After the kids woke up from their nap in Kotor we had an afternoon to play. We talked about various destinations and decided to drive out to the Budva Riviera and take a peek at Sveti Stefan - the highly exclusive resort peninsula, not possible to even visit, but alluring from afar! Off we went!

Montenegrins boast, "Croatia's got islands, but we've got beaches!" Long swaths of coarse-sand and fine-pebble beaches surround the resort town of Budva, just a half hour south of Kotor. This 15-mile stretch of coast, called the "Budva Riviera," has recently become a mecca for super-wealthy Russians staking their claim to this patch of Adriatic seafront. 
The Budva Riviera's Old Town has charming Old World lanes crammed with souvenir shops and holiday-making Serbs and Russians. Loved these outdoor seating cafes. 
Budva's ancient history (dating back at least to the fifth century BC) is arguably more illustrious than Kotor's. It began as an emporium (market and trading center) for Greek seamen and extremely valuable jewelry uncovered here indicates that some pretty important people spent time in Budva.
A huge, giant bell outside the town wall. | Big seahorses attached above the entrance gate. 

Inside the Old Town we went!
The skinny alleys were lined with cute cafes, shops, fancy gates, and homes with pretty potted plants. 
We walked right through town and onto the pebbly beach!
Fox and Jane played at the little park and then Fox threw rocks in the water. 
Resort-lined seafront with an outdoor bar.
Detail shots from Budva.
We walked back into the walled part of town and saw Easter eggs dangling from a tree.
Jane pestering Fox and vice versa. Welcome to my life :)
Monastery; Venetian-style bell tower and Catholic church; Orthodox Holy Trinity Church; something old.
Evans family in Budva, Montenegro on Tuesday May 6th, 2014.
Jay swinging Jane over the Adriatic. Good thing he didn't drop her...!
Part of the old wall.
Churches around every corner!
Apparently there were signs that pictures weren't allowed inside the Holy Trinity Church but I honestly didn't see them and snapped away. No one told me to stop so it's all good!
Gorgeous and colorful Orthodox decorations.
Remember the James Bond movie with Daniel Craig (the best James Bond in my humble opinion) called Casino Royale? It was in Montenegro where he played the big poker games. Sadly, it wasn't really filmed in Montenegro, but happily, it was filmed in the city of Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic which is just an hour-and-a-half away from home! We're planning to visit very soon because that movie is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Anyway, we saw signs for a Casino Royale casino. And check out those sunglasses on the right! Wowza!
We really wanted to gamble just one little time to say we gambled in Montenegro like James Bond. But we didn't. Next time :) 
We took a leisurely stroll back to the car.
Stopped to admire the beachy resorts.
Fox at the top of the stairs of a new hotel.
We got back in the car and drove 10 minutes to Sveti Stefan. Like a mirage hovering just offshore (you can see it on the right in the picture below), the famously exclusive luxury hotel that makes up the resort peninsula of Sveti Stefan beckons curious travelers to come, see, snap a photo, and wish they could actually visit it! Apparently it costs a thousand bucks plus to rent a room! For those caught up in Robin Leach-ian memories of this hotel's glory days, it's worth a pilgrimage.
Once an actual, living town (connected to the mainland only by a narrow, natural causeway), Sveti Stefan was abandoned after WWII. The Yugoslav government developed it into a giant resort hotel in the 1950s. As old homes were converted into hotel rooms, the novelty of the place - and its sterling location surrounded by pebbly beaches and lush scenery - began to attract some seriously wealthy guests. During this resort's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s it ranked with Cannes or St-Tropez as the place to see or be seen on Europe's beaches. You could rent a room, a house, an entire block of houses, or even the entire peninsula. Rooms come with varying degrees of privacy (each more expensive than the last): no fence, small fence, big fence. At the far end is the biggest and most famous suite where guests have an entire corner of the peninsula to themselves. Anonymity was vigilantly protected as the nicest rooms had their own private pools away from public scrutiny, lockable gates, and security guards. Lured by Sveti Stefan's promise of privacy, celebrities, rock stars, royalty, and dignitaries famously engaged in bidding wars to decide who'd be granted access to the best suites: whoever put the most money in a sealed envelope and slipped it to the manager, won. Sophia Loren, Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, and Claudia Schiffer are just a few of the big names who basked on Sveti Stefan's beaches. At the top of the peninsula is a big Russian Orthodox church and a smaller Serbian Orthodox church - though both are little more than hotel decorations today.
By the late 2000s, Sveti Stefan had experienced a dramatic decline. Warfare in nearby places (such as Dubrovnik and Kosovo) kept visitors away, its cachet faded, and the resort grew a bit rough around the edges. Then the Indian company Aman Resorts swept in with ambitious plans to restore the island to its former status as one of the world's most exclusive, créme-de-la-créme resorts. These days, no-neck thugs guard the causeway, letting only guests (no exceptions) cross over into the fantasy world of Sveti Stefan. 

So we peeked down upon this mysterious Sveti Stefan, hoping to spot a withered old celebrity who forgot to go home. We didn't see anyone famous, but we watched from afar and dreamed of going through the exclusive gates.
Budva gets a 7 out of 10, just cuz there wasn't a whole lot to do, and Sveti Stefan gets a 10 out of 10 for leaving me wanting more! 

At this point we were only 2 hours from Albania! Should we chalk another country up? Nah. Too risky... We drove back to our apartment in Kotor then the next day we headed to... KORČULA, CROATIA!
Paige Taylor Evans © // Quinn Creatives DESIGN