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Published: October 4th 2009
I left Kotor in the rain, forgetting to visit the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, and also forgetting to take any pictures of rain and gloom. This time the views from the bus were broader, of the wider sea, not of closed-in bays. This time the bus driver really excelled - adding smoking to his multi-tasks of phoning and driving. It was another modern bus, unlike the one next to it at the bus station, which was being repaired by a man covered in grease. By the look of his tools and materials it appeared like he was repairing it with string and pieces of wood. When he closed the hood a piece of metal came off in his hand. On board my bus there was an overhead switch for a light, a switch for airconditioning, and a button with a picture of a hot cup of coffee on it. I refrained from trying the latter out, and probably saved my head from being scalded.
We passed through some small industrial villages, in amongst the omnipresent beetling mountains that give Montenegro its name. We stopped briefly in the larger seaside towns of Budva and Bar, both of which seemed unremarkable. I was never quite sure if we had arrived at my stop of Ulcinj (pronounced OOL-sin) or not, as the signs were fairly infrequent. When we did arrive one particularly persistant accommodation tout tried to convince me to take a taxi to view his rooms. I said I wanted to walk into town, which I gathered would take about 20 minutes, and he began to walk with me. After about ten metres he said, "Here's my car - I'll give you a lift!" I wonder how many tourists help out his taxi-driver friends to the tune of 5 euros with that little stunt. Not withstanding that the room was spacious and clean, had a balcony with good rooftop views, and in good hearing range of the local mosque's call to prayer - the first of I expect many hearings. And I was given a gratefully received cup of tangy turkish-style coffee.
Ulcinj is quite different from further-north Montenegro and certainly Croatia. Mosques seem to outnumber churches, and fewer people seem to speak English or Italian. I had the feeling that I was the only non-Balkan tourist in the place. The main attraction is the beach, which I stood on alone until the rain increased and I was encouraged to enter a very cool looking cafe, built at the edge of the beach over the water. I was the only one on the wide balcony, in among the brightly-coloured sofas and club chairs. The barman brought me a small local beer, and I watched the rain and the waves. After a while I realised I should have asked how much the beer cost. Foolishly I was sitting on the prime terrace, in the trendiest cafe in a touristy beach town, with waiter service, drinking half a litre (yes, that was small) of some very exotic-sounding beer. I braced myself for a ten euro bill, justifying the expense because the following day would be my birthday, and I would no doubt spend the day on a series of rattly old Albanian trains - which actually sounds quite exotic to me. I did give him a big tip when he told me it was only 1.10.
I wandered the streets deciding what I would eat that evening, based on what I could see the locals enjoying as I looked through the windows of the streetside restaurants. Beer and cigarettes it was to be!
Later that evening, when I was reading on the balcony my host brought me a bowl overflowing with delicious ripe figs and green and red grapes. He said that they had been grown by their next-door neighbour. Then he offered to drive me to the bus stop at 5.30 the next morning so that I could catch my bus. I felt that made them pretty good hosts.
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