After Veliko Tarnovo we decide that there isn’t much more in Bulgaria we want to see and plot our route to Montenegro.
Perhaps we are suffering from sensory overload, because there is a Monastery, Castle, or Fort on almost every corner. After Turkey and Greece we are a bit over them, for as beautiful and historic as they all are (well some of them are a bit lame), they all becoming a blur to us.
However, as we leave Veliko we discover there is a new road side attraction; prostitutes. We pass a number of scantily clad (it is summer), young attractive girls. At first we innocently comment on why they are standing on the side of the road, in what we would describe as the middle of nowhere? After about the 4th or 5th girl, it starts to become a little obvious this is prostitute alley.
It’s a full day of driving and we would like to be in Montenegro for the night. That’s two border crossings; Bulgaria to Serbia and Serbia to Montenegro. We don’t care about the crossings, but we do care about the currency. We’ve used up all our Bulgarian Leva and ideally don’t want to get anymore. We certainly don’t need any Serbian; we don’t even know what they use.
After our little incident crossing into Bulgaria we are relieved to leave the country with no problems. Who knows what black marks sit against you on their system? We are in Serbia for only a few hours and then we cross into into Montenegro. It’s interesting how as soon as you cross into another country you can feel a change; you quickly ascertain some sense of its economic state. Serbia appears more miserable and harder done by than its neighbours; the roads, the housing, the clothing; all are a little more worn and unkept.
We are driving down the eastern boundary of Montenegro, skirting Albania, which is a no go zone for us. Even the GPS has omitted this country from its maps. It’s up, over and through, the mountains. It’s a majestic landscape, though the drive is somewhat treacherous along a narrow road. It’s one we decide to complete in the morning.
We stop in Berane. There does not appear to be much about this town to like; it looks like a working town. It has potential, sitting on the banks of a river, framed by mountains, but it’s the housing-commission looking apartments that dominate the view, which ruins a potential gem.
We pick the best of only three hotels in town and bunker down. We skip the hotel breakfast for fear of suffocating from smoke inhalation and look for a coffee before we hit the road. The one and only decent looking café turns out to be the hidden gem. It’s the only building in the town that has been beautifully resorted. Coffee is €0.50 (new record for the CPI). Breakfast is sumptuous eggs for only €2 more. There is no reason to visit this town again, except for this one café!
Whilst Montenegro is not a member of the Eurozone, or even an EU member, it has unofficially adopted the Euro as its currency, yet it still remains a little behind with prices.
It’s 150km to the coast. We thought it would take a couple of hours at most – It took us three hours to cover a 100km!! The route takes us through more mountains and is spectacular, but we’ve never had so many switchbacks on a road. There are parts where the road has washed away and we cross a bridge that looks like it’s collapsing at any moment (we actually got out and had a look before we drove over). On the positive side, there are few trucks to deal with, either to overtake, or squeeze past as they hurtled down the narrow road coming the other way, at which point you pull over as close as you can, stop and hold your breath.
We get to the capital city, Podgorica, and decide to take a break. It turns into an overnight break. The weather report is not promising, so why be on the coast? Podgorica appears to be an old town quickly becoming a modern city, showing further evidence that this is a flourishing country. I suspect the unofficial use of the Euro is helping, though I never did well at economics, so am not going to attempt to understand how.
Our decision to stay the night is influenced by the weather and more importantly, we find a cinema playing movies in English. We haven’t bothered with TV anywhere. On the off chance you might find something in English, its usually a well out of date soapy. So, to find a cinema playing the new Tom Cruise movie in 3D is a treat.
Other than the shopping mall with the cinema, there isn’t much else to see. Or I should say, we didn’t see much else. We find the ‘historic old town’, which is a run down part of the city, that we quickly exit.
Our hotel is modern and slick, though oddly located on top of a Honda car dealership. We ask for dinner recommendations and are disappointed, but the movie was great.