Thursday, June 15, 2017

Europe 17 Day 20

You've probably heard of Montenegro. Where is it? Not South America as I thought. Ah, that's Montevideo. It is on the Adriatic Coast with a short Croatian border to its north, then Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia to its east and Albania to its south. Yes, one of those countries. It has a complicated history and was mixed up in the terrible war in 1992 to 1995. It has existed in some form or another for centuries but only became fully independent in 2006 after separating from Serbia.

At home in a local cafe we once received a packet of sugar for our coffees with the country of origin being Montenegro. It doesn't seem like a climate where sugar cane would grow, so I assume it is sugar from sugar beet.

The main town we visited was Kotor, set in the most beautiful bay with the same name. It was just so atmospheric and peaceful.


As usual I was up fairly early to record our arrival. Passengers wasted no time hopping into our tenders to travel to shore. As we do, we managed to be ready by about 10, just as some people were returning the ship, having beaten the crowds.



The ship tour was very expensive. We looked at the hop on hop off bus where we disembarked, but we did not immediately decide. Very near this point was a triathlon event to take place.


We sat and looked at maps after avoiding all the offers of private taxi tours. Along came a tout with good English and the gift of the gab and convinced us that he was a good person for us to take a tour with, for €50 for four of us in a van. He spoke in the first person.....I will take you and show you....etc. We agreed, but all of us were unspokenly unsure about the legitimacy of the tour. Come with me, he said, we will walk. Another younger man joined us and the original older man left us. The traffic is very bad, he said. We can't get the van in close. You don't mind walking? We didn't, though it was quite a hike. Another young man joined us and the second one left. We kept walking. This third one was our guide for the day and he was very handsome, polite, friendly and knowledgeable. We eventually reached the van and off we set, up into the hills. What is to become of us? Will we be held for ransom? Oh, our government will never pay ransom money. We are stuffed.



Walls running up into the hills, many of them.


The traffic heading towards where we had been was at a standstill. Are we at fault, I asked, meaning so many ship passengers descending on a small town. No, it is the triathlon, Igor explained. We have a cruise ship in nearly every day during the summer season. It is no problem.


The road we travelled on was of quite a high standard with lots of guard rails, which was just as well as the hills were very steep. We stopped at a lookout point and wow, the view was mind blowing.


Would you like to stop for coffee, Igor asked. Ok. He pulled into a very nice cafe with beautiful views of the coast and sea. I asked for the wifi password, but Igor said, don't worry. You can use my phone as a hotspot, so we did and he left it on back in the van. We paid for Igor's coffee, at our insistence. Being a Sunday, the cafe was quite busy. Back home, it was Mother's Day. I sent Mother a text message to be automatically read out to her on her landline phone. I scheduled it to be sent at 2am our time, an appropriate time for her in Australia, but by then we had no phone reception. It went at about 6am, still an ok time for her and she received it.


It was quite a long drive before we reached the resort town of Budva, south of Kotor. A lot of construction was underway but we had noticed some along the way had begun and then had been abandoned. Igor explained, it was Russian money coming it but then Russia became upset as Montenegro has decided to try for European Community membership and Russia pulled a lot of money out. Montenegro also already uses the Euro as currency.


Within this very old fort was almost a township of shops, bars cafes and housing.


We can buy opium? Where's my pipe?


On the edge of beach.


A short and very modest pier.


Rampant!


Prime locations for the monied classes up hill.


Igor took a telephone call. He asked if we would like to spend €40 extra to see another special place and take a boat ride. Using a tunnel, the trip back to Kotor rather than the hills was much quicker and through Kotor to the north we travelled to Perast. Apparently his boss did not know what time the road north would reopen after the triathlon. The phone call was to tell Igor that the road was open. We are heading out to these two islands, one natural and one man made over a couple of centuries, I think.



Perast wasn't very large and there were lots of police around. Later we saw an EU delegation on a boat bound for the islands, hence the police.


This is the man made island, with a church and small museum. It is known as Our Lady of the Rocks and has an interesting history.




We didn't realise we could take interior photos as we took a short guided tour of the church, so we went back inside to take photos, but after a large tour group had arrived.




This is the other island, St George's Island, is closed to the general public. The building is or was a monastery.


Back on shore, doesn't this look like a nice setting to dine.


One couple was gorging themselves on mussels, making me very jealous. R and K were worried about getting back to the ship on time, in spite of not having eaten since breakfast and it was now mid to late afternoon.


So this kind of bad parking is not exclusive to Australia.



Igor drove us back to Kotor and left us near our ship tender embarkation point. He was a little disappointed that we could not see the old part of Kotor, but we wanted to get back to the ship. We took photos of him with three of us, changing over so we were all in a photo. He had been a great guide and we rounded the €90 to €100 as a tip and bid him goodbye. He does actually work for a proper and professional company. He said that if they don't have bookings, they go to the ship disembarkation point to find them. Golden Bay Tours.




This gap our ship just passed through to leave Bay of Kotor was no more than about 200 metres wide. Goodbye Montenegro (mountain black). You were an absolutely delightful and stunning surprise. 



This is the last large posts about our holidays, with a couple of short posts to go. 

20 comments:

  1. Absolutely stunning landscape, I'd like to visit there no doubt. You take great photos. Greetings and best wishes!

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    1. Thank you Blogoratti.

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  2. Gee you look like you seen a lot on your trip...Coffee is on

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    1. Dora, we did see lots, but not too much.

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  3. Montenegro and Croatia have become very popular holiday destinations in recent years; also popular as second homes locations. You can see why.

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    1. Cro, yes, I can imagine that they have, hence so much building. Sadly, neither is a shining light of democracy.

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  4. The views are beautiful, actually like the look of that place.

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    1. Margaret, good to have you positive thoughts.

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  5. It looks beautiful, but those two tiny islands look like they'd be swamped in a high sea.
    Was it better being just three with a guide rather than a large group?

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    1. River, it was four plus the guide. You do get a chance to ask a lot more questions when it is a small group and have more personal conversation. The water where the islands are is very protected.

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  6. In 1972, we drove from Greece to Italy via what was then Yugoslavia. The coast and port cities were gorgeous, but it was a sad old country and certainly not equally wealthy en route.

    Now the same route goes through Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. Your photos are superb.

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    1. Hels, yes hasn't it changed so much. '72 and it would have still been semi USSR. Montenegro is a fairly poor country and quite corrupt, I understand. Monthly wage about €250. Thanks.

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  7. I've heard of the place but never imagined it to be so beautiful. You are brave seeking out the cheap tours and lucky to get such a good one. Well done.

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    1. Diane, nor did we and was a wonderful awakening. Remember when Marie in London went to one of those countries and it too was surprising.

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  8. Gosh what a wonderful stopover Andrew, gorgeous scenery and a handsome guide, who could ask for more.. 'rampant' you say ���� How fascinating the man made island complete with much architecture atop!

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    1. Grace, I was going to play with the word rampant but I did not have to in your case. I often wonder how I would view places if it was a dreary and rainy day. We did very well with weather.

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  9. Andrew I think I must visit this place. Looks interesting

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    1. Gosia, do go before is it overrun with tourists and becomes expensive.

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  10. It is very beautiful and so steep! Just stunning.

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    1. CM, we were stunned by it, so to describe it as stunning is quite apt. The settled areas are reasonably flat, with mountains towering over them.

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