- Picturesque Montenegro first emerged as an independent state in 2006
- It offers a real variety of coastal escapes – from pure luxury to cheap-as-chips
- Highlights include the town of Budva, which has lovely medieval fortifications
There’s a word for those who share his view.
There was bog-standard nightlife and exotic foreign luxuries, such as fiery slivovitz plum brandy, which gave you the mother of all hangovers; and Yugo cars for taxis, which made East Germany’s Trabants seem like Ferraris.
It’s different now, as each of the former Yugoslav states strive to come up with new and inventive ways to attract tourists.
The marina complex of Portonovi, on a 60-acre site on Boka Bay between Dubrovnik, in Croatia, and the Montenegrin coastal town of Tivat, might just be the glitziest of them all when it opens next year.
An emblem of luxury: The gilded Sveti Stefan resort sits on a small promontory of its own
At the other end of the scale is Ribarsko Selo, a rustic fish restaurant with just a handful of guest rooms, tucked away on the Lustica Peninsula between Miriste and Zanjice beach, where a bottle of the local Savina white wine costs €15 (£13).
Those in the know book the restaurant’s solitary harbourside apartment, with its own small pool, said to be a favorite with visiting oligarchs in need of privacy. At just €150 (£133) a night for two, it’s a bargain.
But there is also much in between these extremes in Montenegro, which borders Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north-west, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the south-east.
Its 620,000 people are fiercely proud of the independence they gained following the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1992, when the country became Serbia and Montenegro.
After a referendum in 2006, Montenegro declared itself independent. The town of Budva, for example, once with a whiff of mass-market Spanish Costas about it, is now filled with atmospheric bars and restaurants in the shadow of the ramparts, and there’s a superb crescent-shaped beach, too.
Even more spectacular is Kotor, with its high city walls, tiny alleys, churches and Italianate mansions, all a reminder of Montenegro’s Venetian heritage.
Visit in the early evening, after the cruise ships have rounded up their passengers, order a glass of something at an outside cafe, and bask in its beauty.
For real luxury, try the island of Sveti Stefan, once home to fishermen, whose atmospheric houses now serve as guest rooms for the Aman Sveti Stefan hotel, reached by a pedestrian causeway.
Away from the world: Some sections of the coast, like the village of Lepetane, have a quiet feel
Following local advice, I check out the resort of Herceg Novi, just along the coast, where the modern beach-side Palmon Bay Hotel and Spa provides a good base from which to explore the coast and the black mountains.
Service is slickly efficient — not always the case in this part of the world — and rooms are excellent, if a touch clinical.
Heaven knows where Montenegro is heading. I sense that it doesn’t know the answer to that itself. For the rest of us, there’s a lot to be said for visiting a place that’s in such dramatic transition.