Balkans Day 7 – Kotor
17th September 2018
Today we leave Albania with its crazy drivers and intermittent roads and head for Montenegro. After a cheese fest of a breakfast, we drive to the border which takes ages to cross. Not because it’s particularly busy but because it’s particularly slow and queuing is apparently arbitrary.
Finally, we’re through and in the rural south of Montenegro. After about a mile, a red light appears on the dashboard, the car starts beeping and displaying a ‘check engine’ sign. Not the best start to the day. After a few miles of driving our sick car along little gravel roads in the middle of nowhere, wondering what on earth we’re going to do if we break down, we reach the highway which runs along a ledge between the mountains and the bright blue Adriatic Sea.
We stop briefly at Sveti Stefan, a private resort on an island just offshore. It’s very pretty but you can’t set foot on the island without a hotel reservation. You can, if you wish, use the private beach for a mere 100 Euros.
We decline and continue to the town of Budva. On the outskirts of town we find a Hertz office and stop to discuss the warning light. He says to ignore it, it’s usually due to buying ‘bad petrol’ and should disappear next time we fill up and are no longer driving on Albanian fuel.
Budva is a beautiful Venetian town circled by a turreted wall overlooking the Adriatic. We walk through the old city with its marble pavements, visit the Citadel with its spectacular views and walk along the city walls with similarly great views of the sea and the city. Budva is one of my favourite places.
Our final destination today is the walled city of Kotor. Upon arrival it’s super busy and we can’t park anywhere nearby. Montenegro, like Kosovo, is in Euroland (not in the EU but their currency is the Euro). Unlike Kosovo, Montenegro is keen to fleece tourists for as many Euros as it can. We park miles away from town and pay €10 for the privilege.
The address of our apartment is Stari Grad (Old City) 281. We have no idea what this means and it’s not on the map so we have no idea how to locate it. After a lot of wandering round the maze of narrow lanes, we find it up some steps in an alleyway.
The owner, who said he would meet us there, is nowhere to be seen. We text but get no response so end up sitting in an alley for an hour. I am not happy. The old man goes to see if tourist information can help. A semi naked man comes out of the neighbouring apartment, sits next to our luggage and starts singing and pouring water over his head and everything else in the vicinity. Kotor is rapidly becoming one of my least favourite places.
Finally, the old man and the owner appear. His explanation; nobody has ever found the apartment unaided before and usually, when they ask for directions, the person they ask texts him to say visitors are on their way.
We take some time to unwind, then wander round the old town, although to be honest, we’ve seen most of it already trying to locate No 281. It’s still heaving; a cruise ship the size of a small country has just docked.
My favourite thing about Kotor is that cats are revered. There are cats everywhere; real cats, cat souvenirs, there’s even a cat museum. We (I) take lots of pictures of cats. We decide against walking to the fortifications which involves climbing 1350 steps. Instead we buy supper from a supermarket and retire for the night. Bad petrol and worse customer service have put a dampener on our visit to Montenegro. I shall be glad to reach Croatia in the morning.