Balkans 2014 travel blog

The main street down the middle of the Old Town

Lane leading to the Hostel where I'm staying

The yachts of the wealthy anchored in the bay

View from the Citadela

Another view from the Citadela

Today was a lazy day!

After several days of running around Albania, I needed a rest day. Plus, I was getting seriously behind on my journal.

Just like Gjirokaster was an ancient city where the only goal was to imagine its historical past; so too with Budva, Montenegro.

The city of Budva is about 3,500 years old, which makes it one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Sea coast. At one time or another, it was claimed by every major power in the region, including Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans. Later, it was affected by the great powers of Austria, France, Russia, and Germany. After World War II it became communist as part of Yugoslavia. Since 1992, Budva has been part of Montenegro, which is a sovereign democratic country.

What exists today in Budva is the pedestrian-only “Old Town”. Its three main churches were built in the 7th Century, the 9th Century and the 19th Century, respectively. The entire Old Town is surrounded by ancient walls, which needed major repairs after the earthquake of 1979. Today, Budva is the most popular tourist attraction in Montenegro, with over ½ million visitors each year in July and August alone.

None of that crush of tourists is here today. Instead, it's an usually peaceful town with very few tourists. It's fun to just wander the narrow city streets and linger in the atmosphere of this ancient city.

I spent much of the day sitting outside at a town park writing my journal and relaxing. I did visit the “Citadela”, the fortress guarding the bay. Its current form dates back to 1836, making it impossible to visualize how it had looked earlier. There were only 2 other tourists there when I visited, making for a relaxing visit.

I'm often asked what I eat on trips like this. Basically, you can either eat the foods you would recognize or you can eat what the locals eat.

If you want to eat meals that are just like back home, they're available in the big cities but you'll pay a little more than you would at home. Such foods need to be imported. And, they need to be prepared and served the way you would expect them. It's almost always an option to go to a 5-star restaurant (or a restaurant in a 5-star hotel) and order the exact same kinds of foods as you would at home. The only exception is local dietary restrictions (usually religious). For example, don't try to find anything with pork in a predominantly Muslin community.

The next option is to eat fast food. In fact, such places usually have a sign in English yelling “FAST FOOD”. It could be a familiar chain like McDonalds or KFC. The prices will be about the same as back home or perhaps a little lower. A hamburger is about the same everywhere (except India, where they don't serve beef). Around here ,very close to Italy, there's pizza shops everywhere. You can get one slice for $1 or so. The slice is served hot, wrapped in a piece of paper to eat on the run. Or, you can order an entire small pizza for about $6 to eat at a table.

The third option, and my favorite, is to eat like the locals do. A delicious, filling meal can cost half or less than what you'd pay at home. For breakfast, I usually walk to the nearest bakery. It's never far. For breakfast today, I had a large, chocolate-filled croissant (about 7" long) for $1.50. Because we're literally in sight of the Adriatic Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean, most restaurants hear sell fresh seafood. For dinner today, I had a large bowl of tomato and rice soup, then 8 huge, grilled squids and 6 small, grilled octopus, plus white wine from Montenegro. The entire tab came to $18. That would probably be $40 be or more back home, if you could find it back home.

When I eat like the locals, it's ALWAYS an adventure!

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