After the long and tiresome ride through Bosnia yesterday, we slept in our warm tent for a long time and it takes us some trouble to get out of it in the morning. It is my birthday today, and as a gift I get a new country on my list, because we are going to Montenegro today! I do not mind leaving this overpriced campsite with its dirty toilets and we will see where we end up. Nevertheless, it takes a long time before we reach the border where grumpy customs officers allow us into Montenegro.On the road we run into Bosnian cars or buses now and then, and there is one that reminds us completely of yesterday's traffic: a Bosnian bus full of people taking over up in a life-threatening way. Of course we'll seethe bus again 50 kilometers later at the border, so where are all these kamikaze reactions needed for?
After the border, it quickly becomes even busier on the road. But past Herceg Novi, a super lively town, we drive around a large and strange formed inland sea, the bay of Kotor. Actually it is more of a fjord. The weather has been nicely improved and we can once again walk around in a t-shirt. Around the bay there are several nice places and a lot of churches and monasteries.
The area was hit by an earthquake in 1979 that caused a lot of damage, but it still attracts many tourists. Striking is the large number of tourists from the former Eastern bloc republics and also from Russia. The trip around the lake takes quite a long time, but the views are fantastic, especially now that the sun is shining again.
In Kotor we get out to take a look around. There is a thick rampart that runs up against the mountains and inside it seems to be a perfectly preserved medieval town. It is Saturday and market day. Not only the tourists have come to the scene in large numbers but also the local population is fighting for every parking spot as close as possible to the center.
We are lucky and find a spot near the harbor, a few minutes walk from the center. In the harbor are a few expensive yachts, so also millionaires come here! Vegetables, fruit, shoes and a lot of plastic, that is offered for sale on the market. Almost all of them are women who try to sell their stuff.
Once through the gate we are surprised that the travel guide has not exaggerated, it is indeed a very nice preserved center with narrow streets and cobbled squares where we first sit down for a cup of coffee. Funny is that we can pay here in euros. It was not until 3 June 2006 that Montenegro became an independent state (the 193th in the world, and this for me only the 30th to visit...) by releasing itself from Serbia. Fortunately, this time there was no intervention by the Serbs as they did in the declarations of independence of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.But the euro had been in use in Montenegro for some time (from 2002 onwards, and before from 2000 onwards the German Mark), officially illegal. A new EU country must meet strict requirements before they can enter the euro, but Montenegro is not (yet) a member of the EU and could therefore simply decide to use the euro as a valid currency without any form of consultation with the EU. We think it is useful, but the EU obviously does not like it and it will still be a problem in negotiations to become an EU member. But you can not imagine that the EU is asking Montenegro to first abolish the currency and reintroduce it a few years later.
After the coffee we walk extensively through the alleys and it gets quieter as we are further from the gate. There are many churches in the city that for centuries has been a Venetian colony. Of course, a lot of improvements and restorations have been carried out in the course of time, but it seems that the center is still almost exactly the same as in the 12th century, and that is rare in Europe. Dubrovnik is another such city. No wonder that UNESCO has also placed Kotor on the list of world heritage sites.
It is only a small area but if you want to see everything you roam around for a long time. Here and there people live, but there are also many shops and especially restaurants. After more than 2 hours of walking, it is time for our daily pizza; we have never eaten as much pizza (a piece or a whole) as on this trip, much more than, for example, on our journey through Italy.
We decide not to climb up the mountain, my back would certainly regret it. It seems a nice walk uphill on winding paths and a magnificent view from the fortress over the Kotor Bay. But our visit here was certainly worth it. The market outside the city gate is already being packed up and in a kiosk I see that I have to buy some cigarettes here: € 0.50 for a package! First I try, not healthy, I know, but of course you have to maintain an addiction!
On the way further south it seems to become even busier. And we see a lot of accidents, mostly small collisions. The police are also checking in several places with a laser gun (and yesterday in Bosnia we have already seen a number of flash cameras!). So it looks pretty modern here! And yet more than 25% of the workforce seems to be unemployed. But as you can see, things are doing well here with tourism, so it will probably become a new economic engine. Budva is also one of the famous seaside resorts along the coast, but we are now passing by.We have already stopped at several campsites to find a place but most are very dirty (especially the toilets), there is no hot water and you never actually come close to the sea and the beach. There is not a lot of beach either, which is mainly close to or in the coastal villages. Just before Budva we see a large campsite along the beach but it is totally full. In some places bulldozers are creating more beach, because after all that means more space for tourists, more money and more employment.
A few kilometers south of Budva we have a very nice view of Sveti Stefan (St. Stefan), a village on a peninsula where you can only enter for a fee. Fifty years ago, this fishing village was transformed into a kind of Adriatic Monaco; it is a hotel village complete with casino.But despite all the beauty we see we still do not have a place to sleep. We plan to stay here for a day or 3, so we start checking out some hotels. In Petrovac we drive first to the beach and we are surprised to see that it is still full at 6 o'clock! Chair to chair, towel to towel. No beach for us so the next few days, this is real mass tourism! But the boulevard is very nice with its many restaurants and shops. We also notice that the tourists are still fully present when we visit several hotels: everything is full. Well, a manager says: holiday here is until November! Well indeed, it looks like it...
After going back and forth a lot, we finally find a room in a hotel that offers a nice view over the sea. For around € 60 a night we have a spacious room with a large balcony. Prices that we did not expect here, but on the whole Balkan it is more expensive than you might think. It is no longer the low-budget area that it used to be. And we do have a beauty of a free sunset! A nice ending for my birthday.