SWMBO visits three beaches in one day!
In 2005-2006, we lived in Petrovac Na Moru, a beautiful town of 3500 situated between Budva and Bar on the Montenegrin coast. In Petrovac, we were spoiled for beaches. There were many beaches within a few minutes drive but we stuck with the three we could easily walk to and we referred to them as Beach #1, Beach #2, and Beach #3.
We arrived in Petrovac in September, just as the tourist season was winding down and we stayed until the spring so we never experienced the town in the high season. We heard stories of how packed the beach was, how crazy the parking and traffic were and how booked the accommodation was. This year, we came back in July and are seeing for ourselves how busy it is. The weather in Europe this summer has been “catastrophic”. Cold and rainy. Even in places like Croatia and Montenegro that normally experience hot, sunny weather all summer. Tourism is way down so it must really be crazy here in good years.
There are a lot of tourists here but most of them are Serbian. Serbian, Croation, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Slovenian are all essentially the same language. In fact, Montenegro was part of Serbia until 2006. It is rare to hear anyone speaking English, French or German on the beach.
The air and the water were warm today but the sky was overcast and hazy. Not ideal for photos but perfect for spending hours at the beach in mid-summer without the slightest sunburn. If you want to see beautiful photos of the beaches of Petrovac, check google images or come over to my house and look at my old school print photos from 2005. I prefer to capture the true nature of Montenegro as I experience it in less picturesque, more quirky, shots.
When we lived here, almost all the cafés, restaurants and boutiques were shuttered until next summer. There were no malls. The one indoor hotel swimming pool that was used by locals in the winter was under repair that year. All the books in the tiny library were in Serbian. The only organized activity for children was soccer. You had to be 8 years old to play so only Firstborn was old enough at the time. But you had to be a boy so too bad, so sad, your dad. The only thing for us to do was go to the beach. So each day, we would decide whether to go to Beach #1, #2, or #3. Then we would do a bit of schoolwork, have lunch and head to the beach. Onlyboy spent months damming the cold, clear water that ran down from the mountains to the sea.
I consider myself to be a beach connoisseur and I know that I am fussy when it comes to beaches. I look for clear, turquoise waters and fine yellow sand. There should be beautiful scenery. The water should be warm enough to walk into and stay in for hours. Ironically, I hate swimming so beyond that, I don’t have any criteria for the actual water, per se. There should be shade. Washrooms (clean) and showers are a nice touch but not necessary.
I prefer my beaches unspoiled and crowd-free. I don’t need water taxis, bouncy castles, hair braiding, someone walking around selling doughnuts. I don’t even need chaise lounges or umbrellas.
The beaches in Montenegro in general, and Petrovac, in particular score pretty high. It is unusual to find sandy beaches in the Mediterranean and the beaches in Montenegro are typical. They tend to be pebble beaches or coarse red sand. Farther south towards Ulcinj and in Albania, the beaches are sandy. The large beach near Ulcinj is gorgeous.
Beach #1 (Petrovac): A nicer city beach I don’t think you’ll find anywhere. The coarse sand beach is medium-sized and the beach is demarcated by a Venetian fortress at one end of the bay and a nightclub at the other end. In between is a seaside promenade lined with 400-year-old Venetian buildings and trees dating from the same period. You can sit at one of the many cafés and enjoy a cappuccino or a glass of wine and a bite to eat while you watch the kids in the water. The water is crystal clear and the perfect temperature.
Your view is of two tiny islands that from this vantage point blend together to look like one. The icing on the cake is the cutest little church set atop one of the islands. In the summer, there is a great buzz and vibe to the place. The downside of this is that you have to look at a series of inflated monstrosities in the water, and the beach is lousy with humans. In the winter, you have the whole beach to yourself unless you count the three feral dogs. The beauty of the place in the winter and the peace are restorative but the water is darn cold. Beach #1 has a convincing veneer of sophistication and class. But look closely and you’ll see some Montenegroisms. For example, every lifeguard stand was abandoned, mid-day, high-season. This was the only one with anything in it:
Beach #2 (Lucice): Less than a 10-minute walk from Beach #1 is #2. In the summer, #2 is lined with beach stands selling drinks, fruit, pizzas and fast food. In the off-season, there are no shops or services. Beach #2 scores really high for scenic beauty. At each end of the bay are dramatic geological formations topped with beautiful trees. From Beach #2, you have a nicer view of the two islands and when you are in the water and look to the land, you see dramatic mountains. The water in beach #2 is just as great as in Beach #1 (I guess not surprising since they are so close to each other).
In the winter, Beach #2 is a beautiful beach to hang out all day and not see another soul. It’s also the best dam-building beach in Petrovac. At Beach #2, some of the real Montenegro starts to show through. Like the homemade tollbooth where a guy sits all day and manually lifts the arm whenever he wants to let a car through. Like the chaotic parking. Like the ancient socialist water slide that costs 1 euro for 5 trips down. But you don’t get tokens or tickets or a band or anything. There are a million kids running up and sliding down and a guy sitting up at the top who randomly decides whether you’ve had all your turns or not. Beach #2 was the beach we went to the most.
Beach #3 (Buljarica). This beach is 950 metres from Beach #2 and involves a hike on a paved path up and over a big hill. The first part is smelly and garbagy but then it gets pretty nice. Getting more authentically Montenegrin as we go.
Once you get up to the top of the hill, you start a really steep descent. Hold onto your little ones because you will see guard rails not attached to anything, crazy barbed wire, cliffs, mean dogs as well as many other crazy sights and inventions.
You will be caught by the breath-taking views but achtung! Danger is ever present. At the bottom of the hill, turn right and pass the derelict factory. Make sure you stay on the paved path because there is a drop on one side into a levy and a lot of rusty barbed wire on the other side. It is tricky to stay on the pavement though because of all the cars driving to the beach and back. Suck in your gut, walk sideways and hold onto your kids.
Beach #3 suffers from its neighbours. It would be considered a great beach if it were located elsewhere but with Beach #1 and #2 in the picture, we rarely came to Beach #3. In my opinion, the feng shui of the beach is not in order. I suggest you walk over, look around and walk back. Which is exactly what we did today.
Happy Double Birthday – Venice and Fahbio!