Trip Start Apr 16, 2012
34Trip End May 18, 2012
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Where I stayed
Soon we're off through the southern outskirts of Mostar and across a billiard table landscape between steep, grey mountains, through freshly tilled fields and then begin to climb once more into the hills and by late morning have our first view of the Adriatic far below us.
At the Bosnia/Croatia border we stop. The bus conductor collects all passports and Bosnian ID cards and disappears
Finally, the conductor boards and calls out each name on the stack of documents he's clutching and walks up and down the aisle handing them over. At times. Like this, I am very glad my surname is only one syllable as it stands out among all the the others he calls. I raise my hand when he says, 'Mess?'
Another bus coming the other way has effectively blocked our path back onto the road, but after much backing and filling we are on our stifling way again. The chapter I'm reading in a book called Packing for Mars is all about the problem of motion sickness on space flights and by the time it gets into a detailed description of what happens when you vomit inside your pressurized spacesuit, I put the book aside for a better time.
Here's a fun quiz: Which is better -- being trapped inside a giant can of sardines left out in the sun, or sitting for hours on a Bosnian bus with no air conditioning?
At a rest stop the driver unscrews a panel in the ceiling and fusses around inside the works. There is an audible click and soon cool air begins to flow and I know what Lazarus must have felt like.
We seem to have entered Bosnia again and we stop once more to celebrate. This time things go more quickly as a uniformed officer boards the bus and glances at all proffered documents and waves us on through. And we are nearly to Dubrovnik when we are stuck in another line to enter Croatia again. Once more it's just a short delay while a border guard strolls the aisle checking IDs.
A quick stop at the port of Dubrovnik terminal and the bus climbs high above the city, offering a glimpse of its old Venetian walled town, known then as Ragusa, as we zig zag along the sheer cliffs. Looking straight down out of my window, the sea is a brilliant aqua shade.
Just as we approach the Montenegrin border, the air conditioning system fails again.
Turns out the Montenegrins are even more enthusiastic about crossing all Ts than the Croatians. Or rather they both are as we must clear passport control for each. Once more our documents are harvested and in the ensuing fetid, airless wait, they might just as well have harvested our organs too, although by this point I'm fairly sure mine wouldn't have done any recipient much good. After several years have passed and we have all had sufficient time to catalog our many sins, we are on our way again. As a bonus, the driver has performed his magic air conditioner trick again and we have air to breathe all the way to Kotor.
The bus follows the rugged coastline north as it folds into itself becoming to all appearances a great fjord surrounded by towering peaks and razorback hills.
The Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) is actually the flooded canyon of an ancient riverbed and now a deep inland extension of the Adriatic.
We follow the shore for mile after mile as we wind our way toward Kotor on the far side, through small fishing villages clinging to the base of grey cliffs where small boats ply the clear, still waters of the bay.
Leaving the bus with few regrets at Kotor, I download euros from an ATM and get a cab to the hotel.
Palazzo Radomiri ( http://www.palazzoradomiri.com/) is in a large 18th-century stone house on the shore about 4km from Kotor. At check-in I am served a glass of the local rakija, called loza, made from grapes (it's very much like as grappa) and a bowl of sweet dried figs. The living area of my room faces the water and the bedroom's window looks out into the courtyard and pool area.
After a shower, I feel as if I might pass for a human again and after exploring the grounds and once again acting as a missionary of martinis to the heathens in the hotel bar, I am duly fortified for a short walk up the shore to dinner on the waterside terrace of a restaurant. Greek salad and cuttlefish in a black risotto brings a welcome change from the all-brown diet of the last couple of weeks. The sun falls below the black mountains as I sip a glass of wine and eavesdrop on a table of Russians drinking Crystal Champagne at one table and a middle-aged Scottish gay couple chatting over Beck's at another; an incongruous linguistic ping pong match between thick burr and Slavic sibilance.