17.06.2013 - 23.06.2013 46 °C
Before we get onto the beautiful Montenegro we have to explain the journey of actually arriving there. We never knew how hard it was going to be to get out of Italy’s boot. Our original plan was to fly to Croatia from Sicily and make our way down to Montenegro but after finding out flights cost nearly 400 euro each the trip accountant discarded that option pretty quickly. After staring at the map for a while a brilliant idea occurred- lets fly to Tirana, Albania’s capital and then get a train or bus down to Montenegro. On the high of this decision we found super cheap flights and booked them immediately forgetting to check one: if we needed a visa to fly to Albania and two: if there were trains /buses that easily journeyed between these countries. The visa issue was brought to our attention by Andrew’s wise well-travelled brother and luckily for us, as of recently, we did not need a visa to travel to Albania- phew. The train and bus issue proved to be more of a headache. After extensive research from what we could tell this option was feasible but stressful involving bus changes, taxis and a bribed border crossing. Luckily for us in one of our Google searches we stumbled across a hostel in Montenegro that offered transfers from Albania to Montenegro in a private van for 35 euro each. We felt even luckier when we found out that the only day they could do the transfer was the day our flight landed at Tirana airport- winning. When we landed in Tirana we were met at the gate by a lovely Serbian man holding a sign for “Corey and Emma” which was hilarious although Drew didn’t seem to think so. This lovely man drove us 6 hours navigating the crazy Albania traffic, the beautiful Montenegro mountains and the guards at the border getting us over safely for a small sum. The only downside to this journey was staying in the hostel afterwards. We were told they were undergoing renovations (we think this was an understatement) and the real clincher was the one bathroom (worse than a pre-Renehan renovation bathroom) that was meant to service the two floors of six six-bed dorm rooms. The most awkward part of our trip so far was trying to leave the next morning to walk the two streets to the nicer hostel we had booked as soon as we arrived. Use and abuse.
Moving onto the beautiful Montenegro we began our stay in the gorgeous old town of Kotor. Apart from the immense heat, humidity and mosquitoes it really felt like we were in a fairytale. The scenery of little alleys, fortified walls and the huge Kotor bay back dropped by the mountains was just so magical. We felt like we were staring at a painting.
Em's View versus Drew's View
From Kotor, we also got to explore the little villages along the shoreline of the Bay including the beautiful Perast which is famous for the Church on a tiny man made island in the middle of the bay.
At our new improved hostel we met a local man Slavko who organised his own tours of Montenegro through the hostel because he use to work in a tour office and didn’t like the way tourists were being “ripped off”. We did two of Slavko’s tours on two consecutive days and by the end of it felt like we had seen the whole of Montenegro. The beauty of Slavko’s tour was that it was a no frills tour with true local knowledge and a real sense of pride whenever he talked about his amazing country. He crammed us into his basic Volkswagen van and just drove as far as he could in a day talking non-stop the whole time. Because Montenegro is such a small country his tours were the best way to experience what this beautiful country has to offer and they definitely made us want to come back to further explore the areas we loved the most.
This tour consisted of the: old fort gorazda; national park loycen; black mountain (Mount Lovcen); old capitol Cetinje; monastery and old town Budva. For us the two highlights were no doubt the view from a long time abandoned old military fort over looking the Bay of Kotor and the town of Kotor itself which was said to be the perfect position to defend Kotor should there ever be an attack from the sea. The second highlight was Mount Lovcen not just for the 360-degree views but also for the mausoleum of Petar Petrović Njegoš (the Prince-Bishop thought to be responsible for the secularization of Montenegro). It was his last wish to lay to rest here as it is where you can see 90% of Montenegro and also all its neighbouring countries (Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania). It is said that on a good day you can see the shores of Italy; however, even though the day we were there was a very clear day we didn’t get a glimpse of the Italian shores we had just previously come from. This guy surely knew where the best spot to rest was– a true Boss.
As always the best way to show you all these places is by the photos we took.
Whitewater Rafting Tour
In this tour we got to experience salt lake; zabljak; the Dumitor national park and black lake and most importantly we got to raft through the amazing Tara Canyon with an awesome bunch of people. As we hadn’t done white water rafting before we were pretty excited to see what this was all about and we were not let down. As this was part of Slavko’s tour, I am pretty sure he took us to his mates rafting company as it was such a backyard operation which had Emma a bit worried but I was just finding the whole situation funny. It was such a basic set up, we didn’t even need to sign any insurance paperwork in case something happened in the rapids old mate Slavko just told us it was all taken care of in the cost of the day which was already super cheap for what was included. Sticking with Montenegrin rafting tradition we got merry on shots of Rakia right before the rafting adventure. As the locals say you need one to fill up each leg and then one more for one leg because it didn’t fill up the first time (we don’t get it either but Drew as the man had to do all the shots and then steer the raft- good god). So basically we were going to be steered down the second biggest canyon in the world by a blind drunk Drew thanks to all the Rakia “forced” upon him (he wasn’t complaining).
Once we were all kitted out in oversized wetsuits (yes, the water was fresh from the mountains and only about 5 degrees), booties, and a life vest (bonus!) we jumped into the van and headed off down to the Tara River to get the show on the road. The first visual of the river was its immense colour and secondly the volume and speed of water flowing- just amazing. The rafting was an awesome experience although Slavko liked to joke to the boys about throwing the girls out of the raft (and van I might add) this was probably mentioned 10 times on the journey down Tara Canyon “anytime you want, just say the word and gone… I just joke I like you…but seriously you say the word”. The rafting experience was captured on the GoPro but unfortunately we haven’t figured out how to edit movies as yet during our trip but we will no doubt post it at a later stage. We have viewed the footage and its brilliant, all one hour of it. So a big shout out and thank you to Hacer Group for the GoPro, it has been well used so far on the trip – so much footage!
After surviving the rapids, we had the most amazing post rafting lunch all organic as the cool kids say (just look at the photos) with more Rakia. Drew was feeling well jolly by this point until one hour later when he felt quite ill not helped by the fast driving by Slavko down the mountain on the way back to Kotor. It was faster than usual (apparently) as we had to get Jess a Canadian girl back to the bus station in order to get her onto her bus to Serbia thanks to our tour running over time leaving only 20 odd minutes to get her bag and get to the bus station.
In addition to steering the touring party down the rapids, it turns out Drew was a hero that day as well. Jess had organised for the hostel to bring out her bag to a meeting point near the bus stop in order to save time but of course they brought out the wrong bag. As Albert and Ronald were left with her bag we knew straight away that this bag was wrong, so in order to right this wrong Drew didn’t hesitate, he got up and bolted for the hostel, threw the backpack over his shoulders and bolted back to the van to save the day. It must be noted it was 40 °C and100% humidity that evening. Drew = hero. Yes, Drew wrote this section – so excuse the exaggeration and lack of humility.
Budva can be summerised in a few words – Russians, Photo Posing and Russians. This place was definitely not what we expected (Kotor definitely has the stick on this place) but for what Budva lacks in its magic, it makes up for in its humour thanks to the huge presence of Russians who love to holiday there – it’s basically their Las Vegas. Don’t get me wrong, Russians have always been a favourite of ours but they are just so odd and so entertaining to people watch. Too many times we could be walking down the street and you would come across a whole Russian family posing around a random plant smelling its flowers – all waiting for their turn in front of the camera. We must add that they always seem to be wearing what they think are glamorous clothes in these photos whether it’s a long dress or a very small bikini. The bikini photos were our favourite as they would love getting amongst the water kneeling down with the small waves knocking into them, arms and hands up in the air behind their heads ever so slightly leaning back waiting for the husband to take the money shot. Hilarious. All in all our Budva experience was not what we expected after the charming Kotor but funny either way. We also discovered a lovely little beach here away from the main tourist beach that was an awesome place to relax away from the crowds in the afternoon.
Our main highlight in Budva was the place we stayed - the very cool Freedom Hostel where we met some lovely people. The two young Montenegrin owners, who were awesome and very funny, cooked everyone dinner (Montenegrin specialties i.e. meat and more meat) every night for only five euro a head. After dinner mini concerts were put on with some very entertaining singing. Everyone seemed to either know how to play the guitar or sing - except Drew and I which coupled with us only speaking the one language made us feel quite inadequate. This hostel was a very basic hostel (it was 5 bedroom house which is converted into a make shift hostel during the summer) but the reviews were amazing so we thought why not and it turned out to be the best hostel we have stayed in purely based on the entertainment and welcoming factor. These guys were just too funny, every night they brought the whole hostel together around the dinner table with plenty of drinks on offer and the broken English conversations flowed until the early hours. So if you ever head Budva way, head to this place for some quality random times.
And so a week later we left Montenegro the same way we arrived, through Albania. Thanks to the lovely Kiera who was staying at the hostel in Budva where the transfers to Albania were organised we once again wrangled ourselves onto the van transfer with this time a lovely, humorous albeit slightly crazy Montenegrin driver. This guy had connections in all the right places so we got across the border extremely efficiently. If you were a Montenegrin, he would be a good friend to have if you needed to get out of a driving fine or any fine really– in fact, he took a couple of these calls from friends during our drive. What we didn’t know was that it was election day in Albania when we were arriving which had us slightly nervous as we were told the public in Tirana could be a little hostile. This was heightened when we stopped in the square to pick some people up who were heading back to Montenegro and Drew stepped out to talk to the Driver and got quickly escorted back into the van – “let’s get back in the Van, I hate this place”. This coming from a bloke who is well over 6 foot in height and could bowl anyone over didn’t do any thing to calm our fears.
Luckily Drew and I had splurged slightly (by our trip standards) and booked a hotel away from the centre of town right at the airport. At this hotel we met the nicest man ever who only knew one word of English “please”. Every time we said thank you he said please with a big smile on his face - this has now become a long running joke on our travels.
Thank you all for reading. Please.
Next stop GREECE!
Top 5 Observations of Montenegro
1. The most beautiful country and landscape we have seen in Europe so far
2. The locals are super lazy, even they laugh about it… ‘We just don’t want to do anything’. Slavko bought Emma a postcard with the 10 Montenegrin Commandments that prove this point here are a few of those gems– “if you see someone resting, help him” and “Do not work, work kills”. We have posted a picture of the postcard below so you can all enjoy them.
3. They have no doubt the best quality water to drink, on our tours we stopped at several random points where we could fill up our drink bottles with fresh ice cold spring water from the mountains – it was dam good H2O!
4. All Montenegrins are hilarious and super tall
5. They LOVE their meat
Drew: 3 (too god dam hot to be carrying around a 25kg bag)
(The mathematics are being checked on this statistics because this seems ludicrous)