Day 12, Budva

We went to Sveti Stefan on Day 12, which is a short and scenic bus ride from Budva. It’s an island with some stuff built on it which is connected to the land by a causeway. Unfortunately it was closed for renovation so we didn’t see much of it and instead had an adventure looking for a beach.

Most of the beaches in this area were private. So you had to pay to get into them, or you couldn’t get in at all. One place (not even a great beach) wanted to charge us 65 EUROs to sunbathe!!! We found a free one in the end and sunbathed for a bit before heading back.

On the way home, Mike, Ange, Cat and me were walking along and this guy raced past us on his bike, before screeching to a halt and saying “there’s an aussie accent!” We chatted to him and it turned out he was riding from Turkey to France (slightly less impressive than the French couple from Ostrog but still amazing). He had about a month left, and like the French couple he was going from place to place telling his story trying to get by with food and makeshift accommodation.  We told him we’d be heading back to the Irish pub that night if he wanted to join us, which he did.

There was a horrendous thunderstorm which almost scuppered our plans for the night, the streets were literally like rivers. But after about 20 minutes it was over and the place was dry. Just a typical coastal storm but the first I had seen.

When we arrived at the Irish pub the Montenegrin barmaid I liked was there again. She didn’t need to ask what drink I wanted. She was being very sweet, and ludicrous as it sounded, Cat thought that she might like me. She kept looking over at me, and was looking at me the whole time I was outside smoking. And as soon as I got back she came from behind the bar and sat across from me to chat.

She was studying in nearby Cetinje, the old capital of Montenegro (new one is Podgorica just in case it comes up in a pub quiz). Her name was Mareca (prounounced mar-ee-tsa). I really liked her, she was so much fun, and had all these cute mannerisms. We left the Irish pub for dinner but were coming back.

Dinner at a place called Mozart was the best of the trip. A pepper steak drizzled with Cognac. Yum! Although we did have the most forgetful waiter ever. I used my smoking breaks to chat to the biker, who came with us. Turned out he was doing this bike ride for an epilepsy charity as his best friend had recently died from it. Aw.

Me and Cat also hatched some plans to chat up Mareca when we got back to the Irish pub. I needed some girl advice on that one.

This biker had the biggest appetite ever, or he hadn’t eaten in a while. Cat offered him some of her pizza after he finished his own and he took it, then another, then another spare slice was going. He basically cleaned up everything that everyone left. Guess he needed the energy!!

When we got back to the Irish pub Mareca’s shift had finished. Aw.

Outside, again on an antisocial cigarette break, I got talking to a guy who had just arrived with his wife and daughter. He was a Londoner working as a UN peacekeeper in Kosovo so this was a bit of a treat for me. We chatted about the war and how things have been going since 1999 when the war in Kosovo was ended by air strikes in Serbia (including the places I’d been to earlier in the trip). He was impressed that I’d picked Serbia and Bosnia etc to come to on my first holiday. I also told him some stories from my trip which kept him and his wife and daughter amused. The wife was Kosovar, and they had come down to the coast for a holiday. The daughter was Australian though, from a previous marriage and she was over visiting.

I chatted to them most of the night, his wife was really nice, although his daughter (around 20 I think) was fidgeting waiting for the pub’s PC to be free so she could look up Facebook :s

I left a little tipsy after a few tequila cokes, including one the UN guy bought for me, and got home around midnight for my last sleep in Budva.

Day 11, Budva

One of the unexpected highlights of the entire trip was on Day 11, an all-day boat cruise around the famous Bay of Kotor.

Myself, Michael, Ange and Cat positioned ourselves on the top deck of the boat before the Russians could put their towels down, but surprisingly although it was a fabulous day (probably the best of the trip) not many people wanted to be up there sunbathing. I was lashing suntan lotion onto my blue skin to make sure I wouldn’t be scraping it off the next day.

Herceg Novi from the boat  Herceg Novi from the boat

The first stop was the historic town of Herceg Novi, and we climbed to the top of yet another fort, as well as doing some shopping for the rest of the cruise. The fort is also a venue for concerts and music festivals, it was pretty cool.

Herceg Novi  Herceg Novi fortress  dsc01309.jpg

Back on the boat there was more sunbathing and then we stopped off for some swimming. Me and Mike had some vodka and red bull and a few others had a swimming race. I did a bit of swimming myself and was especially fond of the inflatable Tom & Jerry swimming aid that Cat had bought for a laugh, it was great. Salty water makes me gag though so I can never spend too long in the sea or I’ll risk drowning in my own vomit 🙂

Me, Tom and Jerry swimming Me, Tom, Jerry, Cat and Angela swimming

Back on the boat there was a Russian girl I had had my eye on all day – probably the prettiest thing I’ve seen on the entire trip. Just perfect perfect perfect. I got a photo of her purely by coincidence, when she happened to be posing in the background of a photo I took of Gavin.

Perfect Russian girl

I ended up talking about this girl almost constantly during the boat trip. This I guess gave my groupmates a taste of what I’m like normally in London 🙂

The girl was looking after a few kids but there was no way they were hers. And she was too old to be a sister so I think she must have been the nanny.

Our next stop was Kotor and two amazing churches built on islands right out of the sea (wait for the photos!).

Church on an island

I can’t remember exactly when it was during the day but the strangest thing happened. One of the girls on the trip, Catherine, is Aussie of Chinese descent, and everywhere we have went, through Serbia and Bosnia people have just STARED at her. This got even weirder in Montenegro. We were walking in a big group and this old man outside a shop saw Cat walk past – I was a little behind her – and he just walked up behind here, and stroked the back of her thigh!! It was so blatant we couldn’t believe it. We all told him to fuck off but he was totally unapologetic. I couldn’t believe he had done it so surrounded by people!

We ended up watching a fire dancing showing beside the castle, it was really cool. These guys had these huge metal contraptions, like puppets, which were in the shape of people, animals etc, and on wheels, and they lit them on fire and animated them. I got a nice video of this which I’ll post up.

Amazing fire show (video)

After dinner we popped into an Irish pub where I met the CUTEST barmaid of all time, she started chatting to me after I ordered my trademark tequila and coke. She was just adorable, very ditsy and silly and really funny, and a really hilarious way with words in her English. I convinced Cat to ask if we could get our picture taken with her 🙂

Cute Mareca

We also met an Irish couple, Paula and Brian, who were also in their honeymoon – one week in Budva and one in Dubrovnik. They were really cool. I wasn’t feeling too great so I went home with Cat and Ange after 1 drink but Ross and Michael stayed for roughly 12 pints of Guiness. Unbelievable – I’d burst if I drank half that much Guinness.

Day 10, Budva, Montenegro

We arrived in sunny Budva at lunchtime on Day 10; it’s a beautiful little place with about 20km of beaches and marinas. Little taxi boats get you from place to place and it’s just a short way from the World Heritage sites of Herceg Novi and the Bay of Kotor.

We went around the town during the day and stopped to do some sunbathing. This second week was the slightly more relaxing part of the holiday. The Montenegrin coast is full of Russians and it seems only the obnoxious ones come to Montenegro. By the end of the day I had been swimming in the sea for the first time since I was a kid (my group-mates must think I’m like a Martian as I tell them all the things I am doing for the first time on this first holiday).

I went for some kalamari at a great seafood restaurant by the beach, and had some bamboos (another shot for the gallery). It was a special night as it was Michael and Angela’s first month anniversary. Aw.

Michael and Angela

After dinner, the waiter came and brought us the most digustingly strong shots I have ever tasted – some kind of Montenegrin whisky. They were complementary and it seemed everyone got them after a meal there. God help anyone with a weak tolerance for alcohol, these things were horrific.

Budva was quite a buzzing little place actually, and the weather was lovely.

Day 9, Ostrog Monastery, Montenegro

I’ve mentioned the scenery of the trip so far a few times, but oh my God nothing prepared me for the trip into Montenegro. It was like a fantasy land. The bus wove along mountain roads, through tunnels, along gorges, it was incredible. The mountains were spectacular white and grey and the water a kind of blue I’ve never seen before. It just didn’t even look real.

We arrived at the Monastery where we would be spending the night. The Ostrog Monastery is the most famous holy place in the former Yugoslavia, an Orthodox Christian monastery founded by a highly revered saint who corpse is on display there. It is covered by a blanket but has apparently not decayed at all since his death. I went to see it but of course because of the blanket couldn’t verify this. We spent the night in the pilgrim’s quarters, strictly separated between males and females and there were a stack of rules about what could and could not be worn in the monastery and the rooms. Oh and there were no showers.

The monastery is built into a cliff face at an altitude of about 1400m. It’s pretty spectacular, and although we were drive to our quarters, the actual monastery was quite a hike up the cliff.

The biggest thing we noticed was how hot the pilgrims seemed to be. Gorgeous girls everywhere climbing to the top of this mountain to pay their respects. We all sort of expected ‘pilgrims’ to be older 🙂

We had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant, and I tried Hercegovinian wine for the first time (apparently it’s very very good) but it was a bit meh, so I mixed it with some coke to make a bamboos 🙂

The most amazing thing about the trip to Ostrog though was not the monastery or the experience of staying there, or the scenery, but the story of a French couple we met there.

They were on their honeymoon (like Mike and Angela from our own group), but while we thought coming on a group adventure holiday was an unusual choice for Mike and Ange, this couple had an even more adventurous honeymoon. They were three months into a six month WALK from Paris to Jerusalem!!

AND, they had left with absolutely no money!

Each night they would camp out, and they had been relying on the generosity of the people they met on their travels for donations of bread and dinner. It was an incredible story,. I don’t know how they did it but they seemed to be going good after 3 months, although they did seem to have lost a lot of weight.

We bought them breakfast the following morning and they told us that the monks had invited them to dinner the previous night, and given them a present.

The girl was travelling with a backpack which weighed 4kg and the guy had 7kg. The monk had given them a book as a present – a huge coffee table book in colour about the history of the monastery, it was the biggest heaviest book I think I’ve ever seen. And he expected these poor people to walk with it (doubling their luggage weight) for the next 3 months. Aw.

So they gave it to us and one of the guys is going to take it back to Australia.

We then left Ostrog for the “Montenegrin Miami” – the seaside town of Budva, where we’d be spending the next 3 nights surrounded by Russian tourists 🙂