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Published: November 13th 2008
on the descent from mountains into Bar
Belgrade to Bar, Montengro was a long, lonely overnight train - lucky I was asleep most of the night except for another border crossing and the last wonderful early morning bit coming down through the mountains, glorious. I discovered that it is possible to grab passport, roll over hand, get back, roll back and resleep with minimal fuss. Just takes a few weeks on the road to redevelop the sleepability away from the comforts of my own bed. The overnight trains are wonderful if you book a sleeper car - the ultimate luxury of being able to climb into bed and sleep horizontal means the train get's my vote over a bus anyday. I don't care if they take an extra couple of hours (and in this part of Europe they are quite slow) I'll take sleeping comfort anyday.
So, arrive in Bar 'all by myself' (sing along if you know the tune!) and managed to transfer my individual status to one of 'group' after approximately a 200m walk. Saw a friendly looking couple of random strangers (ok they were looking at an English language Lonely Planet) in a local bus stop and decided to overwhelm them with my presence
by suggesting I tag along to Dubrovnik. They looked only slightly scared, but recognised me from Sofia (I seem to make an impression on people - go figure) and decided splitting a taxi to Budva to connect to the bus to Dubrovnik and saving a few euros was worth the gamble. I'd like to say that by the end of day 1 their plans became our plans and Jonathon and Joy became my companions to the very end of my trip.
The coastal drive from Bar to Budva and indeed all the way up the coast is just stunning. The road tends to hug the coast and winds around the shore of all the inlets and towns in this area. While on the other side of the road are mountainous ranges rising almost straight up from the water itself. Makes for some pretty dramatic sights, especially when you throw in dark, atmospheric clouds - well worth it. Anyhow made Budva, chilled for a while, food, internet then a bus to ancient Dubrovnik. Miss Jane's #1 tip for Croatia ... buses are like budget airlines - you pay extra for baggage in the hold!
Finally made Dubrovnik and then
had to run the gauntlet of the accommodation brigade at the bus station. Pretty much everywhere in Croatia, when you get off the bus there are a dozen or so little old ladies thrusting accommodation options into you hands. Private accommodation is huge and somewhat confusing, but generally it works out ok. I'm not good when I wake up and having had a nap on the bus, was not quite up for the deluge. The place we chose was the one who backed the hell off, but hung around and before they knew it they had a room rented.
1st up was showering as I none of us had had a proper shower in a couple of days (hmmm travel so fragrant) then it was a lift into the old city of Dubrovnik to find dinner and experience our first taste of this beautiful jewel of the Agean. I've wanted to visit Dubrovnik for years, I think I saw my first pictures of it during the serbia/croatia conflict after the break up of the former Yugoslavia. The images of this town encircled by city walls, perched next of the ocean was so enticing and luckily the reality lives up
to the pictures. We visited the first night and then came back the next day to enjoy it properly.
Visit if you get a chance and if you do you must, must, must do the City walls walk including the informative and often hilariously dramatic commentary. It's supposed to take about 2 hours to do the whole thing, I think it took us about 5. We hired one guide and took it in turns to learn about the city which rose like the pheonix from the ashes
following it's heavy 1990s bombings. This is one place that has been attacked, invaded and coveted by most of the fine civilisations of the past - the Ottomans, Venetions, Romans, Austrians, Greeks and of course the Serbians and their Montenegran lapdogs! A beautiful city with a rich and sometimes tragic history and a cracking commentary.
Food and sight seeing led to a bar on a series of terraces carved out of bedrock between the city walls and the sea for beer and the joy of watching the sun set into the ocean (sigh). Back to accommodation to cook, enjoy a bottle of the finest (cheap) croatian vino before bed to hit
the bus again for the trip to Split (nothing like a lightning tour of Croatia!).
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