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Exploring Montenegro

Driving from Podgorica, we take the scenic route around Sakar Lake, shared with Albania.  It’s another narrow and winding road; seat gripping at times, but very scenic.   The route takes us as far south as you can go, and from here we start perusing the coast looking for our next accommodation.

The GPS warns ‘special permit required’. We assume that’s the border crossing, so we will just turn around when we need to.  Crossing over a narrow bridge, to the island of Bojana, we are met by a security guard blocking the entrance to the Naturist Park.  It’s a nudist colony!   Don, of course wanted to go in, but I convinced him that his tan lines would be a giveaway that he was a first timer.

This coastline is one big long stretch of beach and it seems that there is no accommodation on the beach, probably because it looks like wet marshlands.  It’s not very appealing, so we keep on driving.  Ulcinj is the southernmost town. As we crawl through the streets looking to park, we quickly gather this town is crowded.  Tonight, also happens to be the start of the Miss Albania beauty contest.  The pageant is being held at the end of the beach, below the old town.  Yes, I know; Albania is not part of Montenegro, why is it here? I don’t know.

The town has character; there are plenty of places to eat and the beach looks reasonable.  Even at 6pm, it’s crowded with people – make mental note, reserve deck chairs early tomorrow.  There are ‘Sobe’ signs everywhere, so we start checking them out.  The first is €20 per night, but shared bathroom.  We are too old to share.  The next is down the far end of the beach. It has a big double room, plus a lounge and views over the beach and town, for €35.  It also has a nice new bathroom – all to ourselves.

We spend two nights in Ulcinj.  We explore the old town and laze on the beach.  We take a peak at Miss Albania, but can’t see much, it’s clearly the place to be, with lots of dressed up young ones ready to party all night.

Stari Grad Bar
As we continue up the coast we make a  ‘culture’ stop at the old town of Bar.  The guide books don’t rate new Bar very highly.  It’s Montenegro’s major shipping, ferry and cruise port, with not a lot of charm.  Nestled up in the hinterland overlooking the port is the old town: Stari Grad Bar, which is picturesque, as they all are (must count how many times I have used that word).  Uncrowded by tourists, we wander around the ruins for an hour or so.

A bit of trivia: The Italian scientist, Marconi, made a radio transmission from Bari to Bar in Aug 1904 as part of proving that radio waves could travel a long distance.

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There are some lovely looking spots along the coast and they all look busy.  We are not sure if it’s because it’s a weekend, or that the holiday season has taken off here. We spot Buljarica from the road. It looks like a nice sweeping bay and worth checking out, even if just for lunch.  Our first accommodation choice is full, but the second has rooms for €35 per night. We stay three nights.  It’s the first time we have had cooking facilities and make use of cooking up some simple meals.

About a 1km walk around from Buljarica is Petrovac, which is a larger holiday destination.  It has a lot more style than Ulcinj; not as big and has more charm, with many of the old stone buildings restored.  I am not sure what these towns do off-season, but right now they are making the most of the sun seekers.

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As we make our way up the coast and on to Croatia we make a couple of stops along the way:

Sveti Stefan
It’s the island the makes it on to all the postcards. A little village once occupied the island which is joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Now it’s an exclusive Aman resort. On each side of the isthmus is a beach; one public and one run by the hotel, which looks lovely and you can pay to use it. We think we’ve found the perfect spot to holiday; until we check out the price. For the privilege of two sun lounges and an umbrella – €50 per day!

We’ve been paying for the comfort of sun lounges, and more importantly an umbrella, since Turkey. The price for two has always been between €3 and €7 per day, €50 is on the outrageous side, we don’t want to buy them, just rent them.  Wait till Don sees the prices in Italy and France!

Next stop is the Bay of Kotor.  This walled city of Kotor is surrounded by jaggard limestone cliffs, it’s a beautiful spot. The city dates back to 168 BC, but it is the 4 centuries of Venetian dominance commencing in the 1400’s that make it architecturally charming.

We arrive early morning and are lucky enough to miss most of the cruise ships and tourist coaches that make daily pilgrimages.  Ironic, isn’t it.  We try hard to avoid the ‘tourist’, so we can be a tourist!

There is a punt across the bay, but we decide to drive around, as it’s only about 20km.  Perast is a village a bit further around from Kotor where you can take a boat out to the two little islets.  Another, yep you got it, picturesque village.  As we continue our drive, the bay is dotted with little villages and adorned with mussel farms.

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