From Montenegro, With Love

The winter season in Macedonia offered a great collection of mountain resorts for day trips and some extended weekends. Now that spring is turning into summer, we’re realizing that in addition to the mountains, there is a great variety of beaches available for even more getaways. Our first trip to a Balkan beach was to Kotor Bay, Montenegro.

The top item on the agenda was a kayak trip to Our Lady of the Rocks. Described as a twelve-ish mile paddle, we were ready for a long day on the water. Unfortunately, we arrived in Kotor a few days before the start of the official tourism season, so the kayak shop was closed unless guests called ahead with a reservation. Divah and I audibled and decided to drive north east to find the local craft brewery, Fabrika .

Image courtesy of Fabrika CB Facebook

Fabrika was hidden away in a small neighborhood next to a hospital that looked straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie. We struggled to find the brewery, but after building up some courage and catching wafts of hot malt and hops, Divah asked some locals, “Where is Fabrika brewery?” We were happy to hear their reply, “That’s us!”

Great flavors from these modest digs.

The beer selection in Macedonia leaves a lot to be desired. Six months of Skopsko Smooth (basically Bud Light) made the flavors in Kabinet’s IPA and Summer Ale taste especially delicious. We weren’t greeted with the beer tasting we expected, the experience was much more personal. The brew masters export primarily to local bars and restaurants and struggle somewhat with acquiring the requisite materials for their catalog of beers. Complicated customs and border regulations mean shopping is not as easy as adding items to your cart on Amazon.

Image courtesy of Fabrika CB Facebook

Moving on from the mini beer-fest, it was a huge relief once the sun set behind the mountains surrounding the bay. The stone buildings of the old city still radiated with heat, but they were easy to deal with in isolation. Inside the walls of the ancient city we did some window shopping and fought off an afternoon nap with coffee and ice cream.

Before leaving Kotor Bay to drive south to Budva, we got our kayaking fix.  We had glassy waters and calm winds the entire trip and hopped in the water to cool off. After kayaking, we spent the afternoon in Perast, the chillest little town you’ll ever find. Water taxis ferried people around as we drank cold beers and iced coffees.

The highlight of Budva was their version of Hawaii, Sveti Nikola Island. Maybe it’s because we were outside of their tourist season, or maybe it’s just the way it is, but Sveti Nikola looked like a hurricane had swept through and no one cared enough to clean up the debris. Lounge chairs, palm fronds, and even deep fryers laid strewn about for what was at least one long winter season.

The deserted beaches offered some great swimming and we picked our way through an overgrown hiking trail until we got tired of bushwhacking through thorn bushes.

We grew up in southern California, where the beach was never far away. Montenegro gave us the salty air we had missed from our home state, but shared a sense of history that you can’t get in Orange County.