Montenegro: Land of lakes, sea, rivers … and Olympic water polo players

When you have one of the most stunning coastlines on the Adriatic, the longest and deepest canyon in Europe, lovely lakes, and the beautiful Bay of Kotor, it is no surprise that Montenegro excels at water sports.

They first competed in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, and their water polo team came fourth. At London 2012, they have beaten favourites Hungary, drawn 11-11 with Serbia, but sadly missed out on a medal.

Most villages along the coast and around the Bay of Kotor have water polo areas marked out – and it’s a great evening’s entertainment in the summer watching the local teams. Restaurants and cafes set up on the quays, providing a perfect viewing platform to drink in the action and watch the sun setting across the water.

Even if you are an armchair Olympian, you can have your own slice of the action. “The luxury of swimming in warm sea water, surrounded by beautiful scenery, is great,” says Hilary, a keen sailor from Norfolk, more used to involuntary dips in cold English rivers. She and her family have just returned from two weeks in Orahovac, a waterfront village on the Bay of Kotor.  “We particularly loved the boat tour round the fiord and thought it excellent value.“

Boats of all shapes and sizes come into the Bay of Kotor, Europe’s largest inland fiord. Cruise ships slip in overnight and disgorge their passengers into the medieval walled town of Kotor, at the head of the bays. Tivat (home to Porto Montenegro, a sumptuous marina oozing affluence) is the base for the enormous pleasure boats. At Perast, for centuries the centre of Montenegro’s maritime heritage, small launches run out to the picturesque island churches.

Each July, local people row out to Our Lady of the Rock, carrying stones in their boats which are thrown into the water around the base of the island. The tradition dates back to the 1600s, as penance for past misdemeanours.

Could this waterborne projectile practice perhaps explain their present proficiency in water polo?

For information on accommodation, and a free guide to Getting the Best from Montenegro, see www.montenegroapartment.euImage