(or travel scriptum: low season in Montenegro)
I love movement. In any form. I love walking. I like to be driven. And I absolutely love to drive. Anywhere. Anytime. In a rush hour. I don’t mind. On the contrary, it relaxes me. While people around me horn and call someone’s innocent mother names, I stop and think how nice it is to stop. Because how many times a day do you really have an opportunity to stop and look around you?
I don’t even mind riding on a city bus. I’m thinking about all those lives that are going somewhere and I wonder what are their stories. Surprisingly, I don’t mind the famous fragrance of the passengers that are on the bus ride. It’s certainly not pleasant. But it’s someone’s smell that, for some reason, failed to overcome that day (or those days). Every time someone sweaty lean against me, I think about my friend that was held in a hospital for two weeks after giving birth because her baby was not well. She told me then: you know, I look out the window and I miss everything. Anything, anything is better than this constant worry weather or not I’ll go back home with the child. I miss everyday stupid things, like going to a supermarket or riding a bus. From this window, I see the river of cars and buses and I think: those people there, that ride a bus so freely, they are not even aware of how lucky they are.
How not to be happy about traveling then? Especially ’cause I’m going to the seaside. I would sit the entire day at the shore. Daydreaming, looking at the horizon and listening to that overwhelming rustling around me; children, seagulls, wind, laughter. Inhaling the sun. Waiting hopelessly for dolphins to jump out of the water and make a couple of flips in the air. Watching fishing boats cutting the surface of the water.
Still, going to Montenegrin coast has never been my primary vacation choice. I admit, I am one of those Serbian people who use to go to Montenegro for a “quick & close” sun & fun. Or because we couldn’t go to Croatia. Or because there was no money to go to Greece. In our national mind, a dark memory of Montenegrins as bad hosts was embedded and it has always been better to go somewhere else. Yes, I was in one of those situations where I ordered lemonade, and the waiter said I can go and find a lemon in the bar, so “you can easily squeeze it yourself”.
However, Montenegro is no longer what it once was. Especially when it comes to hospitality. In a few years, a lot has changed. It seems that the country finally realised all the beauty of nature and history they have and decided to shamelessly exploit it in every way. And bravo to that! Montenegro pulled itself together, eagerly embracing all foreigners who came and turned itself into a place where spending a summer vacation become a privilege.
Of course, this is the same Montenegro and the Yugoslav mentality that we Serbians are use to. It’s still a country in which Kim-Kardashian-like girl gave me a flyer for the club where all her sister-clones go to (that would be Rafaelo or Trocadero). The country where in a broad daylight, on a taxi station you can hear a loud country music coming from a cab, while drivers wait for some Russian tourist to ask for a drive. A country where there is no exact schedule for intercity bus rides, but there is a certain man in a local coffee that can tell you an exact timetable while filling in his betting slip.
However, not a small number of foreigners walk through Montenegrin Dubai, how Budva is rightfully called, and we are one of the few that speak Serbian (which is the same as Montenegrin language, only with different dialect). Yachts anchored in the Old Town’s port, near the famous bell, still compete who has the biggest one, but we’re amused with this and think whether they calculate (as we do) when they fill in the tank. We walk around and arrive at the Citadel, the city fortress which provides the most beautiful view of the city and where is the famous stone-plate with two fish on it. “Put your left palm and make a wish – it will certainly come true,” says a blue-eyed girl from the entrance who sees that a walk in the Kastel at dusk is amusing us immensely. We also find out that in the low season we can climb the city walls, but we have to check whether or not the gate is closed.
The gate is locked, of course, but this doesn’t prevent us from committing a crime of jumping over fence, just to see Budva from above. Halfway though though, we are intercepted by a security guy. He is tall and buff, and tells us that we shouldn’t be sneaking around since a sniper shot someone from up here recently. Caught up in unpleasant situation, we talk for a few minutes on the crime scene, when an interesting bird lands on a wall close to us. With a smile, the big guy pulls out his smartphone and clicks:
– I love to take photos of strange bird species, he says.
For those of us who think that we are really cool, Casper is the most comfortable place in Budva. Music is soft and jazzy, and drinks list is such that you can ask for anything you heart desires. Of course, all of those people you would want to meet, are drinking their coffee here too. A bit more down from Casper, at the last entrance into the Old Town, we discovered a fast food miracle that we are internally called “pizza-pie” – rolled dough filled with Montenegrin prosciutto, mozzarella and paprika.
After a few days in one place, we decide to see more of the Montenegrin beauty. Since we hadn’t had a car, we carpool to arrive to Kotor. Montenegro was and still is the only country where in the middle of the day and night you can hitchhike without any concerns. Everybody stop; I just raised my thumb, and a guy who hasn’t slept all night because his friend came from Cetinje so they “had to” toast picked us up. Now he’s returning to Tivat, where he welcomes us whenever we want: “Drop by to see Porto Montenegro“. He doesn’t say this out of courtesy, and I know that we would be treated as if we know each other for years, so we have to promise that we’ll come one day.
In Kotor, we are greeted by the crowd from a skyscraper-sized cruiser at 10 am – an entire small town is poured down to the Old Town and is now crawling through the streets. We walk together with them and then come up to a great idea to climb up the city fortress because it’s still too cloudy to swim. “Where are you from?” the man asks us at the entrance when he hears that we are the only ones who greet him in Serbian. “Finally someone ours!” – he smiles and tells us to enter without paying the ticket. To get to the top, we have to climb for an hour. And it’s very intense climbing. We’re sweaty and panting. Somewhere near the top, I stop and watch the unrealistic view that stretches to the Bay of Kotor. Somewhere from the corners of the Old Town, I can hear the sound of harmonica and somebody singing Yesterday. I get chills and I close my eyes to absorb the moment.
After the ascent and descent, we rest by the sea on the pier. Some guys are taking a swim here and we start to talk. They finished their studies in Edinburgh and they are staying in the hostel after Dubrovnik, and tomorrow they continue to the rafting on river Tara. They didn’t had much sleep last night too (there’s an obvious lesson – alcohol causes insomnia). On my observation that Edinburg is perhaps the most beautiful city I have ever seen, one of them asks me:
– More beautiful than Kotor?
I pause, looking at the Bay. Indeed, is Edinburgh more beautiful than Kotor? Is it possible that all these years, I took Montenegro for granted?
We hitchhike again to return to Budva. This time, we are picked up by Markus, smiling and bright guy from Austria. Markus quit his job, bought a camper and lef Graz a few days ago to travel Europe. You only live once. The RV is like a comfortable apartment that moves at the maximum of 80 km per hour – there’s a bed and a desk and mini kitchen and pots with flowers. “Touch that one” he says shyly and shows me (as it seems) an ordinary green plant. I go through the leaves with my fingers and, as I touch it, a sweet scent of coca-cola appears in the air.
“Coca-cola tree!” He smiles proudly, “I bought it in a botanic house in Graz. All other plants had fancy Latin names, and this, this just said: Coca-cola tree!” Markus naturally becomes our faithful buddy for the next two days. In Budva, he is thrilled with Casper, pizza-pie and the great number of tennis courts. He likes tennis and makes sure that there’s at least one court near the camp where he stays.
The next day, we go to Sveti Stefan. “You can’t go in, the season hasn’t started yet.” Admission is only granted to guests of the luxurious island, that pay for the room from 1500 euros per night. Even umbrellas can’t be opened or rented, although there are quite a few people on the beach. However, the day is beautiful, the water is warm and it’s perfect for swimming. Markus and I swim to a small island which is, I’m sure, one of the most favorite bird destination (at Sveti Stefan, even an ordinary rock is exclusive I guess).
Marcus’s camper continue to Petrovac. We grab a lunch and walk through the tunnels to Drobni PIjesak. On the beach, there’s a construction of another abnormally large and expensive hotel. We swim for a while, and then spend an hour listening to the waves, in silence. I’m sitting on the beach with three guys and all three are smiling my way. The reality seems so far away.
We are reluctant to part from Markus. He promises to come to Belgrade soon. I’m traveling again, this time by train; in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to travel. Serbian railway is old and poorly maintained, but clean and linen smells like dry sun. Lake Skadar, then canyon and Zeta; I barely closed my eyes and we are already in Belgrade. It’s cloudy and there’s a crowd at the main train station. Sea is just on a few hours behind us; in another time zone, I’m still bathing in Drobni Pijesak, sitting silent at dusk. I put on a pair of sunglasses that Markus gave me. The best filter for hectic and dirty Belgrade morning. Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so... If I was a little bit more naive, I would certainly suffered because I didn’t wake up at the seaside. But knowing what I know, I once again remember my friend’s story and I know I’m probably not even aware of how lucky I am.
p.s. If you liked this virtual travel with me, feel free to call me to go trippin’ together (with my all time favorite quote in mind: will travel for money), or share and like this post. For more of these phenomenal pictures, do follow me on Instagram. If, on the other hand, the lack of Snoopy pictures made you sad, know that in the next couple of texts I’ll be back with interesting topics such as how to make an e-book cover and useful writing links.