11 September 2014
The Balkan Coast - Europe's Best Kept Secret
I had seen the pictures. Endless coastlines dotted with beautiful coved beaches. Picturesque jagged cliffs plunging into the sea. Otherworldy lakes. Charming old walled cities buzzing with an air of rediscovered glory. Last and certainly not least, uncrowded and affordable. The Balkan coastline absolutely delivered.
After a harrowing descent down the side of a cliff face in pitch black (the most frightening drive I have undertaken, enhanced by the fact that I was behind the wheel of a Chevy Aveo stuffed to the brim with people and bags), we rolled into the seaside town of Budva, Montenegro to find we were perhaps the only non-Russians and non-Serbs in the entire city. It was freeing to feel like the only language-incapable guests. Like we were totally incognito in a very backwards way.
We had dinner in the shadows of the old city walls listening to fantastic local singer belt out western diva classics that culminated in a sultry slow rendition of Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind. It was totally surreal.
The next few days were spent lake and beach hopping, interlinked by gorgeous country drives and - despite it being the business month - fairly few crowds save for on the sand itself (which looked like a patchwork of leathery sunburned human flesh). The lakes! The beaches! The vistas! And of course, Sveti Bar - a little island connected to the mainland via a thin spit of sand that forms one of the most stunning coastline views I have ever seen.
From Budva it was northward to Dubrovnik via The Bay of Kotor, which felt like stumbling upon one of Europe’s best kept secrets. It left me torn as to whether I should tell people about it so they can visit or keep it all to myself. It was just stunning!
We completed our coastal adventure in Dubrovnik which is without question the most beautiful town in Europe. The external walls are perfect. The uniform red roofs are perfect. The tiny lanes, draped in people’s washing lines and dotted with cute street lights and al fresco dining were too adorable to feel real. In fact, that was the general feeling about the entire town - like we were enveloped in our own little fairy tale of perfection.
On our last day we rented a boat piloted by Captain Sarah French Brennan and spent from dawn to dusk island hopping along the Dalmation Coast. It was, at times, all a bit too incredible and borderline overwhelming. There were endless “pinch me” moments and I just can’t wait to get back.
Did I mention it’s wonderful?
A few gorgeous pics:
Lake Skadar, Montenegro
Lanes in Dubrovnik
Swimming Outside Dubrovnik's City Walls