Euro Trip 4 – Montenegro
Keen to see more Yugoslavian spomeniks Keith and I were very interested when Martin suggested Montenegro as a summer holiday destination. Obviously we didn’t want to bore Martin and Ash with our quest too much and thought we could tick a few off the list pretty easily as the country is very small. This is the story of our holiday.
Thursday 18th August 2016
There are not many flights from the UK directly to Montenegro. The best option for us was to fly to Dubrovnik in Croatia, hire a car and drive across the border.be
To get through the departure lounge at Stansted you have to scan your boarding pass, sounds simple. Keith had taken screen grabs of all the passes and sent us a copy so he didn’t have to pass his phone back to all of us as even when we’ve done it with just two of us in the past it’s been a right hassle. So Martin, Keith and I were all through but Ash was stuck on the other side, his wouldn’t work! Turns out Keith had gone through as Ash so Ash had to be Keith!
The flight was about 2.5 hours and pretty smooth, also Easy Jet seem to have new slim line seats which give you a little more leg room which was nice!
After picking up the hire car; a Ford Focus estate from the Sixt office and a bit of confusion finding the exit we headed for the Montenegro border, a short drive from the airport
The border crossing was quick with only a couple of cars in front.
The queue for the crossing back into Croatia was at least half a mile. We would have to take this into account on our way back.
We’d made it into Montenegro.
Our first destination was the coastal town of Ulcinj on the southern coast, it was the furthest away. On the map it looked like an easy drive along the coast road.
In fact it took us about an hour longer than the original eta due to the amount of traffic, pretty much all holiday makers. The road goes through every resort. I’ve never seen cars from so many countries in one place. Lots of different plates including German, Serbian, and Russian even some from the USA and UK.
Finally we were in Ulcinj. Now we had to locate the hotel. I had put the coordinates into my sat nav so it should have been easy. The sat nav was trying to take us up a really steep hill which didn’t really look like much of a road. I didn’t fancy risking driving up in case I had to reverse back down so we tried to do a loop and park up nearby so we could go for a walk.
We continued along the road until the sat nav rerouted. I followed the sat nav and it took us up an even steeper hill! When I say steep I mean steep! Then we noticed the road turned into a footpath before it reached the top! We were screwed! Ash got out to make sure I didn’t hit anything while I reversed all the way down the hill. I got pretty stressed out during that experience!
Eventually we parked up near the original hill and took a walk up it. The temperature outside was still really hot and the climb up the hill got us pretty sweaty! Right at the top of the hill we spotted our apartment ‘Alvanita’ (3 single beds, 1 double bed £92 for 2 nights). Martin and Keith started to check in while Ash and I moved the car.
We had two two bed rooms. These turned out to have a double and a single bed in each. The only problem was that there was no mattress on one of the single beds! The lady owner and her daughter didn’t speak English. To start with they didn’t seem to understand we wanted another mattress. They left us in the rooms, we tried to come up with solutions, the lady eventually came back and in her broken German tried to explain to us what was happening, luckily Martin knows German. She gave us some random sweets and said that they would sort it out while we were out.
To get to the bay of Ulcinj we had to walk back down the steep hill.
We made it down to the promenade and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in such a small area!
It was very touristy but seemed like a nice place. After a snack and a bit of a walk we decided to head back and check on the bed situation. Luckily it was sorted, we each had a bed.
Friday 19th August 2016
The rough plan for the day was to explore Ulcinj, catch some rays on the beach and for Keith and I see if we could find somewhere to buy local sim cards so we could get some Pokémon Go action under way.
The temperature outside was already really hot. The apartment owner got us to sit down, gave us some apple juice and some chocolate bars while she finished copying our passports.
We set off down the steep hill and headed a slightly different way in the general direction of the beach in search of a cash machine.
On our way we stumbled upon the monument which sits on the edge of the mountain looking over Mala Plaža (small beach). Searching the internet to find what it is in honour of doesn’t really come up with anything concrete but it seems to be dedicated to Montenegro’s war times specifically the Yugoslavian air force.
After finding a cash point we bought a snack from a bakery for brunch and headed for the beach. The beach was absolutely packed but we managed to find a bit of space to put down our towels.
Keith and I went in search of sim cards, there were a couple phone shops on the promenade. It was €5 for 5GB for 2 weeks (technically it was for 10GB but after 5GB the speed is capped).It was incredibly cheap; EE would have charged £5 for 5MB!!!!!
I got a text while in the departure lounge at Stansted from EE saying that the phone was now unlocked but I wasn’t sure if there was something else I needed to do like connect it to iTunes. I told the man in the shop I wasn’t sure if the phone was unlocked and he said he’d try a sim for me. After initially thinking it didn’t work he connected it to his wifi, I then put in my apple log in details and it worked!!
Having data to be able to browse the net at any time and not have to search for wifi made so much difference! It would have made previous trips so much easier!
That was the start of Ash getting annoyed with us for being Pokemon obsessed.
We spent some time on the beach soaking up some rays before exploring the old town. There were some nice views of the bay.
After freshening up we headed back to the monument for sunset. We got there slightly too late.
For food we decided to go to a fish restaurant. They wheeled a trolley of fresh fish over to our tablet and asked what we wanted then took them to be cooked. They gave us complementary shots.
We went to a few bars starting in one where we shared a Shisha.
Saturday 20th August 2016
After checking out of the apartment we headed in the direction of Podgorica Montenegro’s capital city. Before actually going the Podgorica we wanted to go and see a nearby monument.
Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of Lješanska nahija in Barutana.
The monument was; like most others we’ve visited kind of neglected and overgrown but still impressive.
We headed to the hotel (Hotel M, 1 quadruple room which had 2 adjoining twins £111 for 2 nights), it was pretty nice but unfortunately it was on the outskirts of the city.
Wanting to explore the city we made the long walk in to the centre. (about a half hour walk). It was like ghost town, there were hardly any people around, I don’t know why, it was a Saturday afternoon, maybe it was siesta time.
We came across a derelict swimming pool, the other side of the building was in use so we didn’t fancy a proper explore inside though would have been pretty cool.
A man approached us and said he was from Syria trying to get enough money to get to Serbia, we wanted to help so gave him some money but we had some reservations on whether he was being truthful.
It is the smallest capital city I’ve visited in former Yugoslavia, the city centre seemed very small. We didn’t see that many shops. There is a shopping mall but was nothing that interested us inside.
On the walk back to the hotel we saw a tortoise walking in the street that we initially thought might have been wild until a man picked it up and put it back in his garden.
After a shower and brief chill out we walked back to the centre to get some food. It seemed like a different place, there were now lots of people about.
Pokémon update – we caught our first Mr Mime!
There is a street full of busy bars with tables outside; we decided to have a couple of drinks before the long trek back to the hotel. A few cars kept driving past with some guys hanging out of the windows waving Serbian flags and shouting, not sure what that was about.
Sunday 21st August 2016
I think breakfast was included in the accommodation cost either that or Martin had added it on for a cheap price but it was a nice bonus. It was pretty basic with cereal, bread, meat etc with the choice of omelette or fried eggs cooked to order, the fried eggs were pretty good but Keith was not fan of the omelette!
Today we were planning to visit 2 monuments and some sort of national park.
On journey to Kolašin we stopped at national park. Or at least it was supposed to be a national park according to the signs, there was a lake and a restaurant but didn’t seem to be any way in to the park. After consulting his guide book Ash was pretty sure we missed the turning to the best part of the park.
Wanting to fit a lot in to the day we didn’t really have enough time to waste searching for a way in so decided to sack it off and move on.
We arrived in Kolašin and were able to park right outside the town hall which we had come to see. Kolašin town hall seems to be on a lot of those futuristic Yugoslavian monuments/spomenik websites but as far as I can tell, where all the others are monuments dedicated to events/battles/ people during WW2 this seems to purely be the town hall. Although it some of it looks abandoned I don’t think it is, in fact the door was open and the man inside let us have a look round. Peering through a crack in a door we could see an office with a desk and lots of Serbian flags – the Serbian embassy maybe?
After some getting some phots and Keith breaking a bench we left Kolašin.
We stopped off to have a look at a quick look at a rope bridge (it was steel rope but still quick rickety).
The next stop was the Tara River Canyon. At its deepest is around 1,300 meters deep. It is the deepest canyon in Europe. It was pretty amazing.
There are two zip lines that go across it. The longest is 824M (152m high) and costs €20 and the shortest 350M costs €10. I used to be quite scared of heights but thought I’d man up and do the long one. Keith did it too.
The man didn’t do the carabiners up very tight so when he looked away I tightened them!! It was great. It didn’t seem very fast but kind of felt like you were flying and seeing everything coming at you like a 360° 3D HD camera!
Martin opted for the shorter one.
The bridge is 366m long.
After the excitement of the zip lines we headed for Nikšić where the final monument was located.
Monument to fallen patriots, Nikšić
It honours the 32 patriots from Nikšić Monument to fallen patriots, who were executed by Italian fascists during 1942.
Most of the monuments we have visited have been very remote and we’ve barely seen a soul around, this one is not quite as remote. There is a path that runs in front of it where we saw joggers, people walking dogs and kids hanging around.
Instead of waiting until we were back in Podgorica we decided to get some food in Nikšić, after a quick look on Trip Advisor for nearby restaurants we headed to one. Somehow we gained a couple of dogs for the walk, they followed us all the way to the restaurant which was located above a supermarket.
We drove back to Podgorica, before we went back to the hotel we drove to the top of the nearby hill to have a look at the Dajbabska Gora Tower which had caught our eyes the day before. It is a radio communications tower.
While we chilled in our rooms we discovered the weather forecast for the next day was not good.
Monday 22nd August 2016
After breakfast we checked out. The weather started out good but it changed as we drove to Budva – thunder, lightning and rain.
Listening to local radio in the car I happened to notice that the chorus of the song playing sounded very similar to the name of one of our travellers – Ash Collins – Have a listen and see what you think! We had a laugh about it! (1:33 in).
We arrived in Budva unsure of where to park. The sat nav took us to the street where apartment was. Traffic on the street was bad, cars were pulled out into the road blocking our side because the queue wasn’t moving. It was still pretty early so apartment man couldn’t meet us for a few hours.
Budva has a waterpark which opened this year, so we thought what better place to spend a wet rainy day than a waterpark! Keith has suspicions about this plan so rang the waterpark who said they were closed because of the weather! It left us no choose but try and explore Budva in the rain.
There were no spaces on the street so headed to find a carpark. The one we found very close to the old town. It was still hammering it down but we didn’t want to waste the day. We sheltered under the canopy of a restaurant along with a lot of other people.
There were some good Pokemon around so Keith and I were happy.
The rain finally stopped, the sky was still pretty grey but were keen to explore. There weren’t many people out and about in the old town. We continued along the sea front past the port where there were lots of luxury yachts, we passed restaurants and gift shops and bars.
Budva seemed like a nice place catering well for tourists. It would obviously be a lot nicer with better weather. Gradually that happened and by late afternoon it was hot and sunny once more.
We met the apartment man at 3pm. The apartment (Apartment Martinovic, 3 single beds, 1 double bed £92 for 2 nights) was at the top of the building so lots of stairs to lug the cases up!! Martin moved the car and although a pain in bum he managed to park it near the apartment.
The best part about the apartment was the roof terrace. Ash and I were catching some rays on the terrace, I was laying down and Ash was leaning over the side. Suddenly the whole building shook for a second. What the hell was that? we wondered. Was it an earthquake?? When we got home Ash did some research and found “BUDVA TREMORS: Small earthquake shook the coast, no greater damage” “The strength of the earthquake at the epicentre, which was at the depth of nine kilometres, was 3.4 units on Richter scale”.
We headed out to get some food and chose a restaurant in the old town. There was a stray cat walking around scrounging for food and attention. Someone walked past with a dog which scared the cat who ran up in to a tree. It couldn’t get back down. Keith stepped in and rescued it.
Ash inadvertently made us all laugh when he ordered a “čokolada” (or chocolate) ice cream, just how he said the ‘cock’ part.
The first bar we went to was in the old town. There didn’t seem to be many bars in the old town so we walked along Mediteranska, a touristy pedestrianised street. There are a few bars on this street. They all play music incredibly loud and I mean loud. We went in one and were escorted to a table. The music was so loud the waiter couldn’t hear us and we couldn’t hear him, somehow we managed to get a drink! In my opinion there was no need for it to be that loud, I like loud music but that was just ridiculous. We just had to stand there soaking up the atmosphere as there was no way we could talk to each other!
We tried to find a similar bar with the volume dial turned down a little but couldn’t so braved the loudness.
Suddenly the music stopped. It was 1pm, apparently the outdoor bars have to stop the music at this time so if you want to carry on partying you have to go to an indoor club. We debated it but we were shattered and fairly sober still so called it a night.
Tuesday 23rd August 2016
It was time for a chill out day on the beach. We walked past the old town around the bay to the beach, it was very small and mega crowded! There was literally nowhere to put our towels. I thought Ulcinj beach was crowded but this was another level. Keith got annoyed and walked off. Martin and Ash found a space just about big enough to fit our towels. It was very hot, we sun bathed, went in sea. Martin and I went to get a drink from the only place on the beach, it was impossible to get served, they seemed to ignore us not sure if this was deliberate or not but eventually we were hydrated.
The sand was hot and stoney, so painful to walk on! We met Keith back at the old town; he had been Pokémon hunting all day!
The others went back to the apartment to chill out but I decided to do a couple of Pokémon laps of the old town. Budva seemed to have interesting and varied Pokémon, a lot better than we were used to in Norwich, so good that we kept running out of Pokeballs.
We went to a restaurant (Mozart ) on the outskirts of the old town; I had truffles for the first time very nice but quite rich.
After an ice cream we had a drink at a bar in old town.
The problem with bars in Budva:- (this goes for almost all the bars we visited) in the old town there are a couple of bars, you have to sit at the table you are showed to, you can’t really move around of stand up away from the table apart from to go to the toilet. In one bar in the old town we were made to get closer as we were apparently taking up two tables. I find this quite frustrating. In the newer part of town are the really loud bars, these are far too loud, you can’t relax, you can’t hear anything and you have to stand where they want you to, it’s just a bit weird really. In only one bar the night before we were able to move around freely and get our own drinks from the bar!!
We ended up going to a bar in front of the shopping centre near our apartment for a quiet drink before retiring for the evening.
Wednesday 24th August 2016
Keith and I went on an early morning Pokémon hunt.
When we got back it was time to check out, the apartment man turned up to collect the keys.
‘Apartment Martinovac’ was pretty nice, only a couple of issues the first being that the tile on the floor are loose between every room causing a bit of a trip hazard, there is no WIFI and there’s only air conditioning in main bedroom.
We set off for the waterpark which was only a short drive out of Budva up the mountain.
Aqua Park Budva costs €16, lockers were about €3.
They searched my bag and confiscated my drink which was a bit annoying but said I could have it back when we left.
We all made the mistake of putting our stuff in a locker of our choice. When you scanned your wristband it told you which locker to use so we had to move our stuff.
The slides were really good. The view of Budva was good too. Keith and I decided to get a snack so went to the café, I asked for chips which were shown on the menu, I was told I had to go upstairs to get hot food. So I ordered my chips, I was then told to pay at the end of the counter so I tried. After a lot of confusion it turns out you have to top your wristband up with money then scan this to pay for your food. You get any change when you hand your wristband back when you leave the park. Keith suffered the same confusion. If they had told us this when we entered the park it might have been a bit easier!
After a bit more sliding we decided hit the road again.
I got my drink back on the way out and it was colder than when I arrived so pretty good after all.
On the way to Herceg Novi we stopped at Kotor for a quick look round the old town. It was similar to Budva but bigger, quite picturesque.
There was a weird bearded woman with rock, she kept throwing it down. No idea what that was about.
Martin always has to send a postcard if we go on holiday.
On road again we tried to stop a couple of times for a photo of the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks; a church on an island near the bay of Kotor but every wherever we stopped we could not find a good angle for photos.
Arrived at the Novi Apartments which were up a dirt track (1 night in a 2 bed apartment – 2 singles, 1 double, 1 sofa bed – £45). It was nowhere near Herceg Novi, it was actually in Igalo – 1.9 miles from Herceg Novi old town this meant we didn’t have time to visit the old town.
The apartment was really nice though the aircon was only in the living room and there was no shower curtain meaning the whole bathroom got soaked including the toilet and was a bit of a slip hazard.
We walked to find somewhere to get food. Ash did not like his cheesecake.
After the meal we walked along the promenade for miles. The highlight for me was seeing some impressive mullets on a couple of young kids!
After a night cap at a bar we made the long walk back. We tried to get a drink from a shop, on the door it said they were open till midnight, it was 11.30 and they wouldn’t serve us. We tried again at a stall with a man sitting out the front. As soon as we attempted to go towards the fridge he said he was closed!!! What is wrong with these people?? Why not pull the shutters down, pack all the fresh fruit away and go home??? Not just sit in front of it. I just don’t get it. We went drink less.
Thursday 25th August 2016
I woke up fairly early, had a shower and waited for the others to get ready. We wanted to leave early in the hope we could get through the border quickly. Another way we had planned to avoid the queues at the border was to use the smaller border crossing at Konfin rather than the one on the main road that we had used on the way into the country. Martin had a read on some forums from a few years ago that in other people’s experience it was a lot quicker.
After paying the local tax and remaining balance of the apartment we checked out. We grabbed some drinks and snacks from a supermarket before heading towards the border. The border was only a couple of miles away, there was no queue exiting on the Montenegrin side. This seemed like a good sign but after driving a short way in no man’s land we hit a queue. It took 40 minutes before we got the front of the queue. There were a few altercations in front where a car tried to push in the queue. Once at the front It took about 10 seconds for them to check our passports and we were back in Croatia.
Now we had a couple of options. Either go straight to the airport and sit around for hours or drive past the airport and on to Dubrovnik where we would have about an hour to explore.
We took the second option. It only took about 40 minutes to get there but as we approached the city the traffic got busy. We were on a tight schedule so this was not good. To be fair it didn’t add too much time on to the journey and we parked up in a multi-storey car park.
We followed a sign which pointed towards the old town, it led us down numerous flights of stairs. It was about 30°C so we were getting a bit sweaty.
My first impressions were that there were far too many people. It was horrible. The streets were jam packed with tourists. This wasn’t really what we needed when we were trying to quickly explore the city.
We had a half hour walk round Dubrovnik taking in some sights, I think it would be a lot better to visit out of season.
It was time to get back on the road and head to the airport. We had one big problem, we had to pay for the car park – we had no Croatian money to put in the machine. Martin drew out some money – it gave him a 200 Kuna note. The parking machine wouldn’t take it. I drew out a 100 – it still wouldn’t take it. We went to a local shop – they couldn’t change either!!!! The shop told us to go to the parking office who would be able to change it for us. We were getting stressed and time was ticking. Luckily the man in the office changed it for us and we were back on the road.
We drove to the airport via a petrol station and took car back to Sixt. Somehow we made it with time to spare, finally we could relax a little though there was 2 year old child behind Ash screaming for the majority of the flight.
We were back in UK. Luckily it was a bank holiday weekend so we had a few days before it was back to reality.
So in my experience this is my (very) rough guide to the basics in Montenegro:-
Weather – In August the weather was hot and sunny (high twenties to low thirties °C) we witnessed a storm but it only lasted half a day.
Money – the currency is Euros. Generally all things are cheaper than the UK but in touristy areas the prices are higher, almost equal to the UK. I found Croatia a lot cheaper.
Mobile phones – I recommend getting your phone unlocked if it isn’t already before visiting Montenegro, it cost 5 Euros for a sim card with 5GB of data, EE wanted to charge me £5 for 5MB!
Roads – The road network is not great. There are currently no motorways in Montenegro. There are a lot of windy mountain roads. A lot of drivers overtake in absolutely stupid dangerous places like blind corners. The coast road was very busy and very slow with holiday makers during our trip.
People – Generally the people were nice. Lots of people speak at least a bit of English and where they don’t you can just muddle through! They quite often laugh when you say hello or thank you in their language, I guess not many people make the effort.
Food – Most restaurants have fish and/ or Italian dishes. The crisp flavours are rubbish – ready salted, paprika and pizza flavour seem to be the most common.
Here is my Montenegro vlog, sorry I didn’t have a microphone!