Who knew they were separate countries?

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
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Trip End Mar 21, 2008


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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Monday, August 20, 2007

You always here about "Serbia and Montenegro this", "Serbia and Montenegro that", it is hardly a stretch to assume that, despite the double-barrelled name, they are in fact one country.  Even Travelpodīs drop-down menu lists them as the same country.  But, as we discover upon entering the Montenegro half, they are actually two separate entities.

Normally this would not present a problem.  Hey, if you want to be your own country, good luck to you.  However, whilst in Macedonia, in anticipation of visiting "Serbia and Montenegro", we changed about 400 dollars worth of some currency or other into Serbian dinars (or whatever the hell they are called.  The sooner all these little countries get the Euro the better, I reckon).  Little did we know, until entering Montenegro, that the Serbian dinar is not accepted anywhere.  Montenegro has embraced the Euro and everything here must be paid in bloody Euros.  I know that this is what I just said should be done everywhere, but now we are stuck with these damned Serbian whatsits.

By the time we realise this we are standing by the side of the road in a town called Budvar, just across the Albanian/Montenegran border.  We reached this point thanks to a lift from Mr Rrapo (pronounced Rrrrrrrrrapo), a kindly old Albanian gentleman we met in Tirana.  We entered his travel agency hoping to find a bus that would get us the hell out of Albania.  He sensed our unhappiness and asked us what the problem was.  (Actually, he only speaks Russian, so all the conversations he had were with Jane, who understands Russian pretty well.)  When we started to go through our litany of complaints, he felt obliged to reverse our negative opinion of all things Albanian and offered to drive us to Montenegro himself.   He dropped us in Budvar, a town that, on the map, seemed like a nice coastal retreat.  It is not.

The time we realise this is around the same time we realise that our wallet-full of Serbian thingees are useless here.  Budvar is a tacky seaside resort crawling with fat Europeans wearing far too few clothes and prices that match the season.  We inquire about getting a room but there is nothing going for less than 20 Euros per person a night.  Too much for us.  A couple of locals suggest that we try Kotor, a less frantic town a couple of hours up the coast.  So we find the bus station and head to Kotor.

Kotor is actually very nice, with a beautiful old walled city and a secluded harbour that, under normal circumstances, would be described as "stunning" or "jaw-dropping" or some other hackneyed adjective.  However, we are suddenly feeling decidedly un-inspired about travelling.  The high prices, unfriendly people, throngs of tourists and perhaps even a bit of weariness are combining, like unripe and over-ripe fruits in a blender, and giving us an unpleasant taste in the mouth.  Without any preamble or discussion, we both decide that we have had enough.  It is time to visit Janeīs parents in Slovakia.

We endure one night in Kotor and catch the first bus out in the morning, as far north as it will take us. That happens to be Dubrovnik, a place that is by all accounts well worth seeing.  In our negative frame of mind that is just a coincidence rather than a cause for excitement.  Upon arrival in Dubrovnik we are accosted by the usual gang of accommodation touts.  Interestingly they are all middle-aged women, in complete contrast to everywhere else we have been where the men do the hassling.  They are all asking 25 Euros or more per person, similar to Budvar and quite simply unaffordable for us.  Well, we could afford it but then we would have to sacrifice going to other places and we donīt really want to do that.  That leaves us without many choices apart from moving on again.  The only bus that takes us sufficiently far north leaves at 10pm - about 11 hours away. 

So we have a whole day to spend in Dubrovnik.  The scenic qualities that Dubrovnik offers come in handy now, it is better to spend a full day here than in a more dumpy town.  We walk the hour and a half into the old part of town, where we find all the tourists assembled
in their coachload formations, cameras protruding as far as their bellies, clutching fistfulls of Euros and looking to spend as many as possible before their allotted time is up.  Again, every person in the service industry is a complete asshole.  One nasty piece of work in the only bureau de change open today (Sunday) gives us typically short shrift, despite our completely civil inquiry as to whether she changes Serbian dinars.

"Is there any reason why you are so grumpy?" Jane asks her.

"I am grumpy when I get customers like you.  Now go away," she says and starts serving the next person in line.

In the middle of some rural, war-torn, poverty-stricken hell-hole that has been recently
ransacked by western pirates you might imagine some kind of ill-feeling towards tourists.  But this is a perfectly civilised town that only survives based on tourism.  How the people can be
so apathetic to the hand that feeds them, I donīt know. Perhaps they are so jaded by the throngs of visitors, but that is hardly an excuse, for the very reason that they rely on these people for their livelihood.  Ah well, we have made our decision to move on.  Dubrovnik is beautiful, no question, but I will leave it to others who arrived there in a more positive frame of mind to wax lyrical on its picturesque city walls, intriguing back streets and romantic views.  We enjoy a couple of hours sunbathing by the nearest thing to a beach that Dubrovnik has to offer, a steep bank of rocks that crawls down from the old city into the warm water of the Balkan Sea, then slowly head back to the bus station.
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