As we left Durres behind us we knew there might be some nail biting on the journey to come! Woolly says – I haven’t even got nails so I wasn’t sure what I would be biting...possibly Jo!!! Having spent hours on the net researching the bus routes we appeared to have two options to our next destination, one that involved seven buses one of which was a once a day option and would leave at 1.30pm or and it was a big OR two buses and two taxis but we had to get through the capital to the pick up point for 8.30am.....we went for plan b. First taxi and bus done and as we arrived back in Tirana we only needed the taxi to get us there to make our final bus of the day, this however is Tirana and with traffic above and beyond what we had already witnessed we had to make it through rush hour as well!!! Our man was game and as we got into the thick of it I could see Jo and Zoe taking sneaky glances at their watches, as Jo started to bite her nails I screamed at the driver
to go faster..... He couldn’t go faster in fact he was struggling to go anywhere! Woolly says - .....I knew I should have brought my jeep I would have been cleared in no time! As the clock ticked and Jo’s nails grew shorter it seemed that the three kilometre were going to defeat us, pulling into the side of the road the girls were out and running, I appeared to have no option but to run....I really must put in a complaint, as we sped down the road I could see the bus and having been reduced to a panting heap I have never been so grateful to climb onto anything as the doors closed behind me, we had made it by the skin of my tusks! Luck was with us and with only seconds to spare we could now relax as we sped through towns and our next border. Woolly says – it was time to spread my incredible knowledge with my companions as I told them a little of the country we were now in. In the 9th century there were three principalities on the territory
of Montenegro which separated the country and were fought over by three separate families until it fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire from 1496 to 1878. Before Venice, the First French Empire and Austria-Hungary took over from the Turks in one form or another. From 1918 it was a part of the former country of Yugoslavia until a referendum held on 21 May 2006 when it was declared an independent nation....haven’t they got something like that going on in the UK at the moment!!!!!. Looking out of the window it was proving to be a winner on the view front as we passed through immense lakes covered in lilies and wonderful mountain passes worthy of any picture postcard. As I helped my small friend off the bus the temperatures hit us and even the short walk to the digs for our stay was enough to reduce us all to leaking pools of sweat, showered and refreshed we needed to make the most of every moment and as usual the mammoth was ready with his history lesson as we made our way into the old city of Budva. Woolly says – I can
never tell if she’s being sarcastic or not! Budva is a small town based on the Adriatic Sea and is the centre for Montenegrin tourism. It is credited with being around 2,500 years old, which makes it one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast. The old town was founded in 1615 having already seen the Romans therein the 2nd
century, the Greeks in the 4th
with the Byzantines taking over in the 6th.
In early Middle Ages, Budva was reigned by a succession of Doclean kings, as well as Serbian and Zetan aristocrats, before the Venetians arrived in 1420 and built what remains today. Having already gone through so much it seemed even worse was to come when a catastrophic earthquake struck Budva on 15 April 1979 when much of old town was devastated, there is little evidence of the catastrophe as almost all the buildings were restored to their original form. As our lesson ended we found ourselves entering one of the many gates to the old city and the incredibly beautiful cobbled streets that line this small place. Woolly says – it was pretty cool both in looks and for
being shady! As the girls snapped and videoed away I led them through the maze like wonders trying to avoid the huge tourist quantities that were equally memorised. Our first stop was at the Church of Holy Trinity. After the downfall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, Austria allowed the construction of the Church at the request of the orthodox population of Budva, supported by the Bishop of Montenegro, its construction was finished in 1804. With it’s huge bells hanging high above us we were delighted to find it open. Inside was impressive, ok it was incredibly impressive with it’s beautiful paintings and domed ceiling even I was stuck for words...well for a moment of two. It was a place that exuded complete tranquillity and a we left I couldn’t but help but to keep glancing behind me. It appeared that a miracle was taking place and as Woolly sat looking out at the sea we made the most of the silence to take photographs of the Church Of St Sabbas The Sanctified built into the old walls around the 12th century, as well as admiring the Citadel walls which would be on tomorrow’s agenda. Woolly says – as we reluctantly made our way back to the town square we were delighted to hear the melodic tones of a guitar and seeing a lovely seating area it seemed rude not to sit and listen, not to mention enjoying the beauty that Budva was offering us and a quick snack to keep me going! With the morning dawning with clear skies we retraced our tracks of the previous afternoon to the old city eager to see what else we could find. Woolly says – first on my list was the citadel. Situated on the southern tip of the city it was originally known as the Castle of St Mary, the fortification was continually rebuilt and expanded through the Middle Ages reaching its final form during the Austro-Hungarian rule. Trotting up the steps I was delighted to see that the views would be even better from here than those we had already managed to see, climbing the ramparts the town of Budva spread beneath my paws with it’s terracotta roof tiles showing how small a place it actually was. Having viewed the library area and the tiny tiny museum
and with a wistaful look at the cannons we headed back towards the main square and a quick look into one of the oldest churches in the coastal region which was built, in the 7th century. Santa Maria Church was a Cathedral until 1828, when the Diocese of Budva was abolished. The Cathedral was damaged in the earthquake of 1667 after which it was reconstructed on several occasions, its high tower which we had noticed the evening before was erected in 1867. It wasn’t a patch on the Holy Trinity Church of yesterday although the huge mosaic was worth a look inside. With more of the tiny streets to absorb we found ourselves outside the minute archaeological museum. Housing remains mainly found after the 1979 earthquake it displayed glass, helmets and ceramics dating back to the Roman era. Woolly says – it seemed like a good time for a snack and with the girls starting to flag we sat in the shade watching the many men in speedo’s pass us by....why do men wear these things, you wouldn’t catch me in them! We agreed that a stroll along the harbour and maybe a
sit in the sunshine would be good but as we set off I spied what appeared to be a red submarine coming into dock.....well some things just have to be done! Leaving Jo to pay I clambered abroad and took up my role as Captain Woolly, bobbing out of the harbour allowed us to see the city from the sea but a further delight was install as my new vessel had a glassed area giving me access to the fauna and fish swimming through the warm waters beneath me, I glued myself to the glass and waited expectantly, sand, waving grass and rocks appeared but not a fish seemed to be about, I looked at Jo. His sad eyes broke my heart but unfortuanly I can’t control the ocean bed and with the promise of an ice cream I tried to cheer him up. Woolly says –handing over my captaining duties I had to be content with her offer and having found a lovely cove with a bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer, a symbol of Budva, performing a graceful arabesque as she gazes out to sea I licked my ice cream
and reflected on our brief visit to this beautiful place.
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