Montenegro: The New Monaco? Not exactly…

Montenegro: The New Monaco? Not exactly…

The New Port of Cool

In an article by Claire Wrathall, the March 2015 issue of Boat International Magazine asks, once again, is “Montenegro the New Monaco?” Claire has been writing about Montenegro since as early as November 2004 in The Scotsman, so she is certainly a credible witness to the regional transformation that has occurred over the past decade.

Many others have asked the same question over the years: I think it might have been Jack Grimston, in an April 2009 Sunday Times article, who originally inferred that Montenegro was “the new Monaco” (I could be wrong though). The Financial Times labeled Montenegro the New Port of Cool in their Boating Special in the June 26th 2009 issue of How to Spend ItThe New York Times in August 2010 referred to the same comparisonFrance 24 News also asked the same question back in 2010. The Times pondered the idea (again) on July 9th 2011. The Boat Blog raised the question as recently as August 2014.

Port Hercule

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

I think they all didn’t quite hit the mark.

The reason so many began comparing Montenegro to Monaco originates from when one new local marina began to offer superyacht berths about six years ago. Investors, journalists and others all got on the bandwagon.

However, I believe that, if you limit the comparison of Montenegro to Monaco’s Port Hercule with such a tight lense you grossly diminish what Montenegro really has to offer. Yes, perhaps in very specific locations (like the Port of Kotor) and at certain times of year (August, for example), it might somewhat resemble the main port of Monte Carlo..

So, instead of wondering if Montenegro is the “New Monaco” because of the yachting season alone, I think the intriguing question to explore now should be:

Is Montenegro the 21st Century’s Intersection of Eastern and Western Cultures?

Party at Hôtel de Paris Monaco.

A more precise comparison of Monaco and Montenegro, might instead refer to the principality in the first half of the 20th Century. Actually, it is probably better to compare this region to the entire French Riviera of 50-plus years ago. Monaco, at that time, still wasn’t yet a superyacht destination or on the Mediterranean charter circuit, but it was a principle intersection of Eastern and Western Europe societies.

Great families from the United Kingdom arrived and played with their Russian and Eastern European counterparts. It was a marvelous time of cross-cultural experiences and entertaining. Less than a century earlier the region was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, so the Italian influence was also tangible there, as it is here in Montenegro. Before the turn of the 20th Century, the Casino of Monte Carlo opened, and so did the Hotel de Paris. We still don’t have such iconic institutions here, but you know they are on their way.

Economic development in Monaco was spurred in the late 19th century with a railway link to France, much as it will be in Montenegro with the new Bar-Boljare highway project.

Monaco of that era (the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th), was a land that welcomed cultures from across Europe and beyond, as Montenegro does today. Here on any given day, sitting in a seaside café, you can hear languages from across Europe and beyond. Monaco, at that time, had much more to offer than a simple harbour for yachts, as does this enchanting land that sits on the Adriatic Sea. This is a place full of awe-inspiring mountain parks and lakes; flawless natural reserves; spectacular coastlines, significant UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Venetian and Roman historical references, and so much more.

So, instead of wondering if Montenegro is the “New Monaco” because of the yachting season alone, I think the intriguing question to explore now should be:

Is Montenegro the 21st Century’s Intersection of Eastern and Western Cultures?

I think it just might be.

Yachting and sailing, chartering, culture, art, hospitality, education, economies and so much more will be impacted forever if I am right. But, I will leave it up to sociologists, journalists, investors, writers and bloggers to examine the question further!

Tivat: A Tale of Two Cities

Tivat: A Tale of Two Cities

It was a late August evening in Tivat, around 9pm. I ventured out to have dinner with a friend (the same one I wrote about in my post “Two Years Later and Back to School“; who, has made great positive changes since that post) at a local pizzeria called Recoleta in the new Magnolia Square, a new commercial and residential complex in the center of Tivat. He pried me out of my habit of always staying in the Porto Montenegro Village. I had because so lazy over the summer, barely venturing more than a couple hundred meters from home for food, drink, fun, my friends and entertainment.

Porto Montenegro Village

To my surprise (or naivety), Tivat was absolutely packed with people, families and lots of children. It seemed like everyone was out enjoying the warm evening; perhaps savouring the last days of their vacation or the final days before going back to school. The stores were still open; people were getting haircuts and outdoor patios were full of people having coffee, drinks or dinner. It could have been the middle of the day. In the summer, this place, like every other coastal town from Budva to Bar, comes to life, especially after the sun goes down.

Someone said to me the other day that Tivat is like a Tale of Two Cities; one brand new (Porto Montenegro) and the other historic. I think he might be right about that. Another testimony of how all things old and new in this country are (hopefully) woven through my stories in this blog.

What is so fascinating to observe is how the two worlds. co-exist. The historic town blends with the brand new superyacht marina village which occupies the ex naval base that had dominated Tivat’s geography and economy since 1889. Thousands of people wandering the streets; animating the locales; strolling the old promenade and now through the new village at Porto Montenegro which – until so recently a Yugoslav naval base –  full of yachts, shops, restaurants and new apartments.

Life and a country in transformation before our eyes!

The Marina at Porto Montenegro

Jetty One at Porto Montenegro

Perast: The Awe Inspiring Beauty in The Bay of Kotor

Perast: The Awe Inspiring Beauty in The Bay of Kotor

The other day we went to Bajova Kula in Drazin Vert, a beautiful beach club in the Bay of Kotor on the road between Perast and Ljuta. On the way there in a boat with friends I could not help but to be hit by the overwhelming by the beauty around me. You know those moments when you stop and realize how incredible life is.

That day, after a few hazy days from the forest fires in the mountains, the sun was bright; the skies were crisp and clear and there was a refreshing breeze in the air. I looked around in awe, and said to myself I cannot believe that this is where I live!

The amateur photos I take of this place and post on Pinterest, Facebook or here never do it justice. All of our visitors comment on the fact that this place is always much more stunning in real life. Hopefully these pictures capture some of the essence of these historic, UNESCO protected, surroundings which are illuminated by the bright summer sun that radiates down over Montenegro for at least 240 days a year.

 

Speeding past Perast

 

Perast is a very special place. Once part of the Republic of Venice, it even became part of the Kingdom of Italy under Mussolini. With less than 400 people living there permanently and over 30 palaces and churches, it is a breathtaking site at any time of year. Stone houses; pedestrian streets, small boats that take visitors to the Island of Saint George or to the iconic Our Lady of the Rock will enchant you. There is also a great little place called “Pirate Bar” at the North end of the town; perfect for an afternoon beer as the sun sets over the mountains across the bay.

 

Perast House

 

[fblike style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

[google_plusone size=”standard” annotation=”none” language=”English (UK)”]

 

[mapsmarker marker=”2″]

 

Transforming Montenegro: Then and Now; what has changed in Radovici?

Transforming Montenegro: Then and Now; what has changed in Radovici?

Transformation in Montenegro is happening. Sometimes though change can be subtle… you drive by something you usually take for granted, or walk by a familiar place, and have to take a second look; you notice that something small has changed… that happened to me this week. When I first arrived in Montenegro and was exploring the “neighbourhood” around me, I found an enchanting village called Radovici which sits at the top of the Lustica Peninsula; the piece of land that protects the Bay of Kotor from the open Adriatic Sea. At the time, the scenery was reminiscent of the Tuscan countryside; soft rolling hills; old stone houses and church steeples marking the surrounding territory.

On that first visit, I took the snapshot below of the local fire station. At the time I thought it was pretty cool. A relic from another era. It did not inspire a whole lot of faith in their ability to fight fires. The peninsula was large; full of old growth olive groves and single lane roads.

Radovic Fire Station 2009

Driving through Radovici yesterday, on my now habitual excursion to the Almara Beach Club at Lustica Bay, I noticed a their shiny new fire truck in the spot that the 60s era version had occupied before. In fact they now have three and there are firemen manning them! The old one that I photographed has now retired to the other side of the street.

Radovici Fire Station 2012

Expanded Fire Station

When I first began writing this blog, I wanted it to be a journal of the transformation occurring here in Montenegro. So, here is glimpse into the small changes that can sometimes go un-noticed. Brand new firetrucks. Another testimony to the evolution from that was then to this is now.

[fblike style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

[google_plusone size=”standard” annotation=”none” language=”English (UK)”]

 

[mapsmarker marker=”3″]

What does Montenegro do to you?

What does Montenegro do to you?

Coming to Montenegro surprises you. Yesterday I was sitting with some clients who have become friends in the past year or so. They are from Salerno in the South of Italy. Itself a beautiful land which I remember summering in as a young adult. However, notwithstanding their stunning providence, they have become completely enchanted with Montenegro.

They recalled their first visit to the Bay of Kotor last autumn. It was one of those very wet days when the rain pours sideways, assisted by the strong winds that come with our winter storms. They said that, even on what most would consider a dreary day, they fell in love with Montenegro. They were not even sure why. It is difficult to articulate what gets you. I understood them though. It was today, three years ago, that I walked to the end of Jetty One at Porto Montenegro, turned around and looked back at the mountains, and fell in love. As you know, if you have been following my story here, my love affair has continued to this day.

This place grabs you; there is something magical in the air that casts a spell on you. They said that they felt free here. There was, they believed, more liberty to be yourself then back at home. I could understand them. Coming from Italy, which has been undergoing incredible fiscal and political changes recently, the difference in energy is palpable. For example, under this new regime of control, in Italy these days there are dogs at the airports sniffing for cash, not drugs, as you enter and leave the country.

What they enjoy about this place, is that it is not all “baked”. There are not rules and regulations for everything. Yes, things takes more time because there isn’t always a procedure in place, but it really does not matter.

It’s not just hot here because of Vanity Fair, Tatler, the Financial Times or even Fox News (today they finally picked up a story); it is genuinely and authentically magical!

[fblike style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]

[google_plusone size=”standard” annotation=”none” language=”English (UK)”]