Just because your break to Montenegro is on hold, it doesn’t mean your wanderlust has to be. This selection of essential music, books, recipes and virtual experiences invites you to discover this small but culturally rich Balkan nation without even leaving the house. Exploring Montenegro (known as Crna Gora in Montenegrin, which translates to “Black Mountain”) takes in a drone flight over the country’s stunning coastline, some stellar Yugoslav pop music and a masterpiece of Montenegrin poetry. Wash all this down with a generous helping of local wine, and a plate of a meaty Montenegrin speciality.
For a taste of Montenegrin pop with a folk twist, tune into local legend Sergej Ćetković’s ‘Moj Svijet’. With its title meaning “my world”, this emotional but fairly upbeat ballad represented Montenegro at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. Despite not returning home victorious from the competition, Ćetković is worth a listen both to get a sense of the Montenegrin language, and to enjoy the picturesque scenery that provides a stunning backdrop to his music video. Look out for the charming coastal towns of Ulcinj and Bar, and the wild beauty of Lake Skadar, which lies on the border of Albania and Montenegro.
Now, throw it back to the Yugoslav era and a triumph in catchy (if kitschy) 1980s pop. Montenegrin-Croatian singer Daniel’s “Đuli” (Julie) features elements you simply don’t see enough in music these days: yodelling, choreographed dancing on the beach and accordion solos. This track saw Daniel claim fourth place for Yugoslavia at the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest in Munich, and went on to become a hit across Europe. Look out for one of Montenegro’s most iconic landmarks, Sveti Stefan.
Montenegro might not spring to mind as fast as Bordeaux when it comes to organising a vineyard tour, but the country’s fertile soils and plentiful sunshine have made for a long tradition of winemaking, with most vineyards set in the southern and coastal regions. Montenegrin wines are primarily made from grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and the indigenous Krstač and Vranac grapes. Among the most famous and widely available wines in the region are those produced by Plantaže – the largest vineyard in Europe and the only winery making Krstač wine, known for its dry yet rich palate.
While many classic Montenegrin dishes require locally sourced ingredients, The rolling hills of northern Montenegro have a long tradition of sheep rearing. As a result, lamb forms a staple of many traditional dishes. Among the most beloved of these is brav u mlijeku, which sees lamb slowly poached in milk with the addition of garlic, potatoes, carrots, parsley and fennel seeds. The dish is traditionally made in a shallow sač pan over coals, but the crucial tip for recreating the dish at home is using high-quality hill lamb.
For a vegetarian culinary voyage to Montenegro, try your hand at making blitva – swiss chard (silverbeet) sautéed with garlic and potatoes.
A world away from the dulcet tones of 1980s pop wonder Daniel, The Mountain Wreath provides a powerful (if less catchy) historical portrait of Montenegro. This play, written in verse, was penned by Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrović-Njegoš in 1846, and centres on the three powers and cultures present in the land at the time: patriarchal Montenegrin society, the Western European Venetians, and the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Exploring the themes of justice, freedom and dignity, the epic poem-play incorporates rich depictions of Montenegrin life, including traditions, feasts, folk beliefs and the struggle against Ottoman oppression. Though not exactly light reading, The Mountain Wreath offers deep and captivating insight into the history and culture of Montenegrin society.
Just because you can’t fly to Montenegro right now, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to enjoy a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the country’s most awe-inspiring scenery. The Russian filmmaker known as Alex Drone uses (you guessed it) drones to capture Montenegro from above. The short film takes in some of Montenegro’s biggest draws, including the UNESCO-protected port of Kotor, surrounded by Venetian fortifications; the Ostrog monastery, carved into a cliffside; Durmitor National Park, home to the deepest gorges in Europe; and the islet and exclusive resort of Sveti Stefan island, the most photographed place in Montenegro.