Monastary on Island
On the way to Kotor
Our departure from Dubrovnik was fairly easy. After being dropped off at the bus station, we proceeded to buy our tickets for the bus to Kotor which runs twice a day. We were glad we arrived early, by the time we got on the bus it was all sold out. There were a mix of cultures joining us, Australians, Europeans, Americans, and locals as well. The well air conditioned bus departed on time and we were off to the border. It took only about 45 minutes to reach the border stations into Montenegro. And the border crossing process was quite easy.
Montenegro is a country that I don't believe had ever really crossed my mind before meeting some friends that were from there. A former Yugoslavian country, it was integrated into Serbia and Montenegro and just recently, in 2006 regained its internationally recognized independence. Montenegro's history doesn't start there though, it has a long history as an independent nation before its consolidation into Yugoslavia. However, it now holds the title of the newest fully recognized sovereign state in the world. The country uses the Euro, which confused the heck out of me, but it is not actually part of the
The view from old town up the mountain to the fort!
EU. According to some people I talked to, they were originally on the Deutschmark back in the day.
So, enough history, we passed the border crossing and set off down the coastline of this small but gorgeous country. Along the way, we made friends with our neighbors, most of which had been traveling the area for a while. The coastline took us through some beautiful terrain and small cities. We even saw a monastery out on an island in the bay of Kotor. I loved that the mountains soared up from the water, my idea of perfection.
The bus dropped us off a couple hours later at the bus station in Kotor. We were a bit out of the old town, so we hauled our suitcases in the direction of the small city wall and attempted to find an internet cafe so we could try to get a hold of our friend. Unfortunately after trying repeatedly to reach him, we decided to go ahead and find our own accommodation. Justus headed back to the bus station to see if he could find a nice person to take us in and I manned the fort in the old town.
Streets in Kotor Old Town
Justus was successful in finding an older lady that had a room for the two of us in the old town, and I actually got a number from a different host, just in case the first fell through. The quirky older lady, who spoke no English, met Justus and I at the Post Office and took us a mere 15 minutes to her place, which was impressive. From there though, the situation went downhill. We arrived and were offered some strange juice concoction while she ran around us showing us pictures and trying to communicate. She kept hugging us and was just well, a little too in my face. The sleeping room itself was quite decent, but when we found out that she would be sleeping on the couch in return, that was the last straw. That in addition to the fact we had no key to our room, the bathroom looked fairly dangerous, and well this lady was just plain crazy.
As soon as we escaped, I was a little worried we wouldn't at first, we headed out to find the room that I had located earlier. Thankfully it was still open and we happily rented the 4
They were everywhere!
bed room for 20 Euros a piece for the night. There were two other rooms in the upstairs "hostel" this lady had created and it seemed decent enough. It even had a small air conditioning unit we could use. We dropped our stuff and happily set out to explore the city for the first time. The old town was much smaller and quaint compared to Dubrovnik but we enjoyed maneuvering our way through the winding streets an back alleys. Along the way we ran into a concert at a church in town which seemed to be the place to be. When that was finished we ducked into a small store to get some snacks and a large bottle of beer and headed back to our place. We sat out on the terrace and enjoyed our snack while talking with some of the other tenants of the house, an older couple from Austria. They were very nice and provided good conversation until we all noticed that we somehow had ended up in the middle of many bars and clubs, which had just pumped their music up for our enjoyment. This went on for hours, as we tried to sleep, and finally
There were about 1500 stairs on the way up to the fort in Kotor
quit around 2 am. I am told that it continues till 4 am on normal weekend nights. Guess sometimes it isn't the best thing to be in the thick of it.
About halfway through the night I woke up because the air conditioner had stopped running, and got up to check it out. Turns out the power decided to go out, which apparently is quite common around the area. (it happened the next day in the internet cafe too) I gave up and went back to sleep, very warm. The next morning I went to use the restroom and well, guess what, the water wasn't running IN THE WHOLE CITY! This was, well quite normal as well I guess since there were water jugs placed outside for our use. Very interesting...
Anyways, we woke up the next morning very early, because we wanted to hit the gates to the fort that towered above Kotor as soon as it opened. It was nice to finally get a chance in the daylight to take a look at the beautiful city. The wall of the city continues up a mountain to a small for that takes watches over the city. There
Church on the Hill
This church was about 1/3 of the way up to the fort above Kotor
are different accounts of how many steps actually exist on the way up this mountain, but I am going to just say...its a lot. The views however, are worth every step. About a third of the way up is a small church that we couldn't go in, but it was quite beautiful. We were smart this time by going early in the morning, learned our lesson after Dubrovnik, it didn't take long to heat up. I took multiple stops to take lots of pictures and "enjoy the scenery". The view from the top was unbelievable. You could see below the walled city and extended neighborhoods and then the Bay of Kotor with the towering mountains surrounding it. Really beautiful.
After taking multiple pictures, we made our way down the mountain and crossed the path of many eager tourists. We realized at the bottom, we had made it so early to our climb, that we missed the locals charging money at the bottom, that's one way to save money! It was agreed since we couldn't find our friend and had a long way left on our journey down the coast to Albania, we grabbed our stuff and headed to the
Different Perspective view of Bay of Kotor
bus stop to make our way further down the coastline. There aren't many accurate accounts of how to get from Croatia to Greece, and we used all the internet knowledge we could, but its still quite a trick to figure out. We looked at all the bus schedules and decided to take the chance on taking a bus to Budva and trying to hitch a ride with a random tour company to Tirane, Albania the next day.
The bus ride to Budva was pretty quick, about 45 minutes and cost 3 Euro. The bus wasn't quite up to par with the one we took out of Dubrovnik, but it was sturdy enough. It continued on all the way to Ulcinj, the direction we would need to head the next day, but we took a chance and got off. At the station we found a nice guy who said he would rent his studio condo to us for 20 Euros each for just one night. So we grabbed a ride with him and dropped our stuff off.
Budva sports a very large beach and is popular place for local tourists to head, so we threw our swimsuits on and
At the Top
Me with the view of the Bay of Kotor!
decided to head that direction and get some stuff accomplished while we were in town. We walked about 10 minutes to reach the "boardwalk" and went in search immediately for a tour company that would be able to take us down to Albania the next day. Unfortunately the tours were only running on Fridays, which put a huge kink in our plans since we had to make a mini-bus in Ulcinj by early afternoon and there weren't any corresponding buses in the morning out of Budva that would get us there in time. We started to contemplate new plans on ways to get across the border, but decided to take a dip in the ocean before making our way back to the bus station, since we had already rented a room for the night. The beach left a little to be desired, especially after the beautiful rocky beaches of Croatia. This was sand, very crowded and a bit dirty. But we none the less enjoyed some time in the sun and surf.
We picked up some stuff to cook dinner on the way back to the condo and Justus, being a fabulous chef, created a wonderful dinner for us.
We had decided that we would have to take a bus to Podgorcia, the capital of Montenegro and cross the border at a different spot than originally planned. I was very concerned about this new route because I had no idea what the logistics were, it was nothing we had researched prior, but we just agreed it was our only option. The next morning, we made our way to the bus station and bought our tickets, but as I sat there I looked at the schedule again and saw an earlier bus that would take us to Bar, where if we were lucky enough, there might be a bus to Ulcinj. It was a gamble, but we decided to go for it and returned our tickets.
The bus that we boarded was well...interesting. I enjoyed just observing people on the bus, this time mostly locals. The ride cost us 4 Euros and took about 1 hour. The air was stuffy, no air conditioning actually worked (the bus stated it was air conditioned haha) and there was a clock stuck at 10 am...but we arrived safe and sound at the glorious and small bus station in Bar. This is where
Some of the ruins of the fort
many ferries leave from to head to Italy, so we ran into a few English tourists headed to the port. We immediately headed to the ticket window and were eternally relieved when we realized there was a bus we could take to Ulcinj that would allow us to meet our Mini-Bus to take us over the border to Skhoder, Albania. The rest of the trip to Tirane was like magic. We enjoyed a cold beverage with the Bar locals and then boarded an even smaller and hotter bus to Ulcinj which was another 3 Euros and it took another hour.
Upon arrival in Ulcinj we set off on foot in search of the mysterious minibus that will leave twice a day "in front of the post office". Needless to say we wandered around for a while, and honestly I am not sure we ever found the post office. But we did find a minibus that said "Skhoder" on it. The people that run it also own a restaurant, so of course we were directed to the restaurant to enjoy some food and drink, we tried some more of the spicy sausages that they love and then were asked to
fork over our passports and the 5 Euro fee. This made me very nervous when the lady didn't return immediately with them. I guess one just has to trust the process sometimes though, and we just relaxed until it was time to head over the border and I had not seen my passport in quite a while. We were shown the pile of passports however after asking and were told that the driver just had to keep them for the border purposes. As long as I was in the same car with it, that was fine with me....so there began our next adventure.
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