Hurrying through Herceg Novi

We got the same taxi driver in the morning to the airport only this time it was her husband, he offered us all sweets and gave me a packet of pretzel sticks.

He dropped us off and the others went in to departures, I hung about for Sarah to arrive and our taxi driver was there waiting for the horde of Brits to arrive and require taxis. After a weird conversation with him and then his wife on the phone, we managed to understand each other enough to organise a taxi to Herceg Novi for around 40E. As there were no buses for ages this seemed like the best bet. 

I met Sarah off the flight, relieved that she had finally made it and we waited for Nickola to get the car, we caught up on the way, enjoying the scenery and the ferry. Arriving at Herceg Novi we bade farewell to our driver. He had been so nice to us and even with limited communication had really tried and succeeded in being helpful. Something we noticed all people from the Balkans would be like. 

Herceg Novi is another coastal town in Montenegro with fortified walls surrounding the town.  It was a bit of a rush visit as we were continuing on to Dubrovnik from here but we had a few hours to sight-see. 

We had a wander round the town, aiming to head towards the coast and find somewhere to eat. We walked through the old gate and down some steps and came upon the main part of the fortifications. 

We walked past an impressive looking church and down to the sea, here there were lots of people wandering up and down a promenade with lots of restaurants lining it. We stopped off at a pizza place and had super cheap pizza in a place called popeye’s. 

After our food we wandered up the promenade past beaches and big concrete expanses which I’m not quite sure what purpose they had. After walking for a while we decided to stop and sit on some rocks looking out over the gorgeous scenery and look for fish, crabs etc 

After sunning ourselves for a bit we wandered for a bit longer but it began to turn into resort type hotels so we turned back, grabbed some ice cream and sat on the beach enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Since we had walked one direction already we decided to head off into the opposite direction. Here we discovered loads of old ruins and parts of the walls that had slipped into the sea. 

It was really cool and we loved exploring the old ruins, the rest of the promenade looked uninteresting in that direction so we wandered back up the steps….after lugging our backpacks in the hot sun we needed a drink so we stopped at a little place on the way back up to the main road and got a beer and some water. 

Timing was perfect so we relaxed for an hour then finished the journey back to the main rd, bought our bus tickets and then stood anxiously waiting for the bus. I had a feeling it would be late but it was always in the back of our mind that it was one of the many buses that had sped past or wasn’t going to turn up. 40 minutes later it turned up and we had a nice journey, saying goodbye to Montenegro, a gorgeous country with dramatic vistas that i would definitely go back too. 

Border control took a while, and it was weird to see how they treated the Albanian and Turkish guys on the bus. After a bit of a nap we emerged from the mountains with the coast in front of us and Dubrovnik was round the corner. It had taken us around 2/3 hours on the bus and we were finally there! 

Unfortunately the bus sped past the old town and another 5-10 minutes later we were at the bus station. Luckily it was easy to grab a taxi for 10E. Dubrovnik is such an incredibly beautiful place, lots of pristine white walls and passages, the floor stones shine from the use they’ve had. 

Our accommodation was based right at the top of the walled town, easy to find as we just headed up the steps, downside was having to go up and down those steps everytime. Though it was good for our calorie count! Our lovely little Croatian host at Kazerma hotel showed us to the room, which was basic but clean and the shower was great. It was also very cheap…and lucky for us it was also right by Buza bar…a well rated place to watch the sunset from. 

We managed to bag ourselves a seat looking right over the coast, ordered a couple of beers and sat watching swallows dip and glide around us. It’s amazing to sit there and watch the horizon change colours and see boats trundle past. 

Once the sun had gone down it was getting cold so we nipped back to the room to grab some warmer clothes and descended into the city. There are a few nice looking churches dotted around the place but I think that the whole of it is really pretty, we were on the lookout for food and discovered that by going out of the walls and onto the marina, we saved a tonne. 

We stopped off at this little place that did a fish platter and grabbed a couple of beers while we waited. 

It was a lovely setting and the food was ace, huge prawns, swordfish, mackerel, squid and mussels. It all tasted delicious although the whole baby squids were a little difficult to navigate without just throwing the whole thing down your neck (which is what you’re probably meant to do). 

Once we had finished every last bit off we walked around the marina which was nice and we continued to wander round the city, going back through one of the gates. 

We were knackered from the busy day and decided to go back to the hotel ready to see as much of Dubrovnik as possible the next day. 

Birthday hangover in Budva

The next day there were definitely some sore heads in the morning but we ploughed on through and the taxi driver from the first day picked us up to take us to Budva. It’s another place on the Adriatic coast with a walled town and this one had nearby beaches. The sun was shining and the taxi was 50 euro for return trip between all 6 of us. 

The beach had an old metal walkway out to a little island which was really cool. The views out over the sea were great too.

We wandered around the old town, which has a different vibe to it than Kotor, more stuff going on and a bit fancier. There was a big fortress and some nice little squares dotted around the place. With a lovely little walkway out to the beach. 

We headed down through the town to the marina and headed down a promenade looking for lunch. We found a place with tables out on the beach and had some traditional food, I had Cevapi, little kebab like sausages which I would see (and eat) all over the Balkans. 

Once we had finished our food it was beach time! The sun was out and it was lovely and warm, for us Brits anyway. We walked to the far end of the little Budva beach and around the cliffs on a walkway. Stopping to see the ballerina statue. 

We arrived at a stony beach with lovely views out over the sea and found our spot. There were a few locals sunbathing but no one in the water. I paddled in a bit and it was pretty cold, but I dived in and a few of the others joined me. We managed to stay in for a while and had a bit of a swim, then a few other people arrived on the beach and jumped in. The water was crystal clear and actually quite refreshing. 

We went back up onto the beach and warmed up a bit, enjoying the sunshine. Then a few of us decided to walk to some cliffs at the opposite end of the beach. It was fun although flip flops maybe weren’t the best choice of footwear to navigate the rocks. We had to go through caves and once we got to the end we were rewarded with a big water cave and deep pools between the rocks. 

The sun was going behind the cliffs at this point so we walked back to find the others and went along the walkway looking out at Budva, we decided to stop and get a drink at the Astoria looking out over the Adriatic as the sun was slowly sinking.  

We met up with our taxi driver and went back to Kotor, going over the mountains instead of over and round hairpin bends to add a little excitement to a now sleepy group of people.  

It was the last night and we all had to be up early the next day, Sarah was finally flying out and we were continuing on to Croatia and the others were flying back.  So we had an early dinner at the Astoria in Kotor eating comfort food before heading back and everyone passing out. 

Birthday boat in the bay of Kotor!

Waking up we were off to climb to the fortress overlooking Kotor which you can see from most parts of town. The weather was a little cloudy but I was optimistic it would clear up. You find the main path by going through the North gate into town and taking one of the small side streets up the hill. As we walked up the path we soon found ourselves overlooking the town and the red tiled roofs. 

The views were already stunning and we were less than a third of the way up. As we walked up there were interesting old buildings and a lovely old church. We passed the church and continued to walk up the steps with lots of pretty mountain flowers growing from the rocks until we made it to the base of the fortress, here there were lots of stairways and routes you could take and really explore. 

One route led through an old window onto a goat path to an abandoned village with a little church, but due to a suprise we didn’t have the time to go down. We had also heard a rumour that you could walk in the opposite way and find yourself at the house of the goat man, where you could eat home made food including his own reared animals. However I can’t authenticate these rumours. Anyway, we continued on up and across an old suspect looking metal bridge but we safely navigated our way over it before we reached the top and it was incredible, the town now looked tiny below us while we could see the whole of the bay spread out in front of us with mountains dominating the horizon. The best thing was that the sun had come out! 

We basked in the sunshine, had a swig of whiskey from my flask, took lots of pictures and explored around the top of the fortress, even the views behind us of the abandoned village and mountains was spectacular. 

We soaked it all in and when everyone was ready we headed back down, it’s definitely not an easy walk but there are lots of places to stop and relax before continuing and it’s all steps that aren’t too steep. 

On the way down it was pretty uneventful apart from a couple of nuns who had been visiting the church and the now obligatory cats waiting at the bottom for us. So now we had lunch, but just stopped off at a supermarket and bad fast food place in the shopping centre. The best part of this was my first taste of Burek, a local balkan dish of spinach and cheese in a pastry. I’d find out later that the filling was very important depending on which country we were in. 

Now it was time for the surprise, everyone brought drinks with them and I was told to bring something. We walked down towards the old town and marina where we met mickey who had a boat waiting for us! It was so great to have my own private boat trip around Kotor bay and such an amazing surprise from everyone. 

We set off and we were all excitable as we charged off over the water with the sun shining. There was loads to see as we sped past little towns and took in the views all around us. Montenegro scenery is dramatic and we were utterly spellbound by it’s beauty. Our first destination was our lady of the rocks, a man made island with just a church and a lighthouse built on it. It was really beautiful and interesting and we got some great group pictures there. 

The next stop was Perast, an old picturesque town built right down onto the water, so we walked along the sea front looking at all the different fish and the large clusters of mussels lining the walls. The water was so clear you could see right down to the bottom. We saw the old church and a few other buildings before getting back on the boat and heading back. The sun was now going down behind the mountains which left an orange glow over the mountain tops in front of us. 

It’s such a beautiful place and the landscape is really something, very scenic and peaceful. Definitely recommend taking some kind of boat out as it’s great to get a different perspective from the water. 

We arrived back after a lot of laughing on the return journey and quickly went back to the apartment to get ready and go out.  We had heard that on a Friday places were open till 1am which gave us a bit later to enjoy ourselves. There’s a club in the town somewhere but we weren’t sure where abouts.  

We stopped at a restaurant and had the usual pizza, pasta fare instead of typical Montenegro food, although the Venetians ruled this area once upon a time and built many of the old towns so maybe Italian was okay. 

The best part of the meal were the free drinks after we had paid. The people in Montenegro are so friendly and helpful it’s really welcoming. We learnt a few words such as thankyou etc which I always think helps. 

Meal over with it was back to the square pub where we sat and drank and watched a live Montenegro band perform various popular local songs (I presume anyway) before it was suddenly 1am and we made it back to the apartment through the winding streets. 

The famous cats of Kotor…and a little rain. 

Everyone was up and getting ready the next day when a few of us went to the local supermarket to pick up breakfast stuff for the next few days, some booze for the apartment and a few other nibbles and bits.  The market had loads of interesting stuff but mainly Mediterranean fare like cheese, bread, sliced meats etc. We noticed while we ate that a couple of huge cruise ships had appeared overnight in the marina. Not sure how they even fit there and wondering if the old town would be packed out we went out to explore the old town properly in daylight. 

The weather wasn’t meant to be so great but as we passed over bridges with the clearest rivers I’ve seen running beneath them and through the north gate into the town the sun was shining. I noticed steps up onto the walls surrounding the town so we walked up and were greeted with amazing views over the bay of kotor and the marina, including the huge cruise ships looming over us. 

It looked like there may be a bar/cafe up there in summer but we pretty much had the place to ourselves and it certainly wasn’t teeming with tourists. We continued our journey round the old walls looking out over the town rooftops and exploring the old ruined parts of the fortifications. After a while we had managed to walk the whole length of the walls and found ourselves on the opposite side, so we walked down some steps and entered the old town once again. 

After a few minutes of souvenir shops and staircases heading steeply up towards the mountains that cut Kotor off from the rest of Montenegro the rain started. Not really dressed for the wet weather we stopped at a bar, sat under the umbrellas and ordered beer and coffee I had a lovely dark version of their Niksicko beer.

We were in quite a nice square but the rain started getting heavier and heavier and we soon had waterfalls streaming down the steps towards us. It was actually quite fun but the promised thunder storm didn’t arrive, and the rain eased off a little so we went im search of lunch and found a little winery where we had more beer/wine and some incredible bruschetta. The place was really nicely decorated but we had plans, and seeing as it was a bit wet and cold we decided to do some cultural museum stuff. 

So we walked round to the cat museum, paid our 1E entrance fee and wandered around the 3 small rooms that were filled with pictures of cats. It was hilarious and it had loads of funny pictures of cartoon cats, angry cats and ladies posing with cats. They believe that the reason there are so many cats in Kotor is all the ships passing through the city throughout it’s history and cats would end up staying here. 

There are lots of little boxes around town you can chuck your change in to donate for food etc. As a cat lover I really enjoyed it, especially as it’s so cheap. We left and the weather had got marginally better so we tried to find all the places we hadn’t yet seen like a few more churches and squares, on the way we got super cheap but tasty ice cream. 

Finding ourselves on one of the main squares it was late afternoon so we stopped for another drink at the square pub, I asked the others to get me a beer and went to the toilet, when I came back there was a huge 2.5L self serve pitcher on the table. It was fun to pour our own beers and the music was great in there. Our plan was to go back to the apartment after this and get ready, chill out a bit and head out for dinner. 

We tried to find some good restaurants online but it was difficult to find actual menus for many of them so decided to chance it and find somewhere nice out in the town, as it happened we ended up in the main square and sat down before realising we were only a stone’s throw from last night’s restaurant. This place was comfy though and had less cat smell, the waiter told us what some of the traditional Montenegran dishes were and we all went traditional with seafood risotto, pork stuffed with meat and cheese and squid stuffed with the same. It was all incredible and tasty, especially the pork and squid, and it was nice to get a taste of the region. 

Once dinner was finished we went back to the square pub for a few more drinks but 11pm soon came along with the arrival of the police. Unfortunately Liz had got us all a shot of absinthe and when we got back decided to play heads up, a charades type app which kept us up till late laughing and drinking….not the best idea when we had a mountain to climb the next day. 

Zdravo! Montenegro….

It was time for birthday celebrations, destination; Montenegro! Planned by my friends for months we arrived at the airport in Manchester and had the obligatory beer and breakfast. Getting on the plane we suddenly got a message from two of our friends that the flight was overbooked and they wouldn’t be able to make it. One friend was traveling on with me in 5 days but the other completely missed out. We were all gutted and easyjet customer service was really poor. Won’t go into it too much on here but it was a massive shame. One of them was heading onwards with me for a trip around a dew of the other Balkan countries but would now meet me in a few days when the others flew back. 

The flight was otherwise uneventful and we landed in Tivat mid-afternoon though we had great views of Budva on the descent. When you leave the airport there is a mass of taxi drivers all trying to get your business. We went in two cars as there were 6 of us and the journey to Kotor was 15E per car. The best part was going deep under the mountains through a tunnel and emerging out over Kotor. The views of the bay were amazing and the old town walls really cool. 

We met our host by the only shopping centre and she showed us to our apartment. With views over the bay, the old town and the fortress high up the hill it was stunning. Once we had all decided on our rooms and had a quick freshen up we wandered down to the marina and entered Kotor old town through the sea gate. It’s such a cute and pretty old town. It’s not huge but you can definitively get lost wandering through the small side streets, past churches and little squares. Kotor is famous for it’s cat population and there were no end to our feline friends following us around. 

It’s actually pretty funny as they have souvenir shops full of cat themed trinkets and even a museum dedicated to cats….but more on that later. As night fell we decided it was time for some food and were tempted by an offer of meat from one local place. The food was really good with some of us having pizza and the others indulging themselves in the meat plate. 

A meat theme that would continue throughout the holiday. Beer and food was well priced at a couple of euro/pounds under what you’d expect to pay in the UK, although we had travelled to Kotor for birthday celebrations we weren’t sure what kind of nightlife it offered, certainly mid week the answer was little. 

We had walked past a small pub on one of the many side streets and headed there after our meal, it was small and basic but in a cool way and we sat upstairs with a small window open overlooking the dark Kotor streets we chatted away until around 11pm when we asked the barman what time he would close, his reply of 5,10,20 minutes was rather vague but we soon realised why as the majority of people had left the pub when the local police turned up! 

Ensuring the place was adhering to an 11pm curfew, we had to finish our drinks quietly and were then ushered out. It was the first night but it soon became apparent that Kotor wasn’t going to be a big party place, but I actually think it’s really great to avoid the old town turning into complete mayhem. With that we headed back and relaxed for a bit before heading to bed.