Budva, Montenegro

Trip Start May 27, 2007
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Trip End Sep 01, 2007


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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Tuesday, August 7, 2007

8/7 I arrived in Budva at 12:30 pm. For some reason the last stop of the bus was
short of the real bus station so there weren't any people offering rooms. The
usual travel information office was on the other side of town so I went in search
of a place to stay. I'm hauling around this heavy backpack as I decide what
neighborhood might have a good place. I checked several places that had rooms posted
but no one was home.

I was getting rather frustrated at the wasted time when I tripped and fell once
again. This time I thought for sure I was going to break my left ankle the way
it twisted. I never heard it snap but it sure went in weird directions. I took
my time getting up once I managed to get out from under my backpack. I knew my
ankle was going to be a problem so I decided to just get the first place I could
find.

There was a hotel on the promenade that had vacancies so I went there. The hotel
was full but they had an apartment in a nearby building which I took. It was very
nice with AC, kitchenette, balcony, TV, etc. One problem in Budva is water. At
times there is absolutely no water and at others water pressure is minimal. This
is an issue throughout the nearby area as the record number of tourists have maxxed
out their water system.

I was glad to have a place and by getting it for a week there was a little discount.
The location is terrific since all of the local busses leave from a stop 5 minutes
away. The local mega market grocery store is next door and the beach is a 5 minute
walk. I've decided all of the women here look and dress like Cher. Cher's ancestral roots are in the former Soviet republic of Armenia so I guess that's close enough.

To get to Sveti Stefan beach required a minibus but I was not sure which one. I was at the bus stop when one arrived so I got on to ask the driver but he said that was not the right bus. I backed off the bus and heard this groan. I turned around and see this guy pointing down and I saw that I was standing on his toes (he was in flip flops)! I felt horrible and apologized profusely. Not having feeling in my right foot, I had no idea. Whooops!

Sveti Stefan Island is very famous since a small sandbar connects the island to the mainland. The sandbar is only about 100 meters but the island has old buildings and makes for a great photo. Unfortunately the island is closed now because it has been sold to a private developer. San Nicolas Island, closer to Budva, has also been sold to the same developer. I think that's horrendous when you sell one of the countries biggest tourist attractions to a private party but Montenegro has done this in several instances.

The biggest challenge I have with the beaches here is walking on the large rocks
and getting in and out of the water. It's never graceful but I usually just
crab walk. I swam out and around this small island which was the longest swim of
the trip for me. I keep thinking that swimming around Lokrum Island in Dubrovnik
is coming up and I'm totally not ready for it but want to do it.

When I returned from Sveti Stefan I walked down to the seaside promenade but was not prepared for what I saw. It was as if all 650,000 Montenegrans and most of Serbia was on the promenade. There are lots of rides for the kids, places to eat, nightclubs, shops, etc. I was trying my best to figure out how to describe the event and crowd for you and decided that it was a cross between the Houston Rodeo, Sixth Street in Austin, a rave party, New Years Eve in Times Square and a Cher look-a-like contest. Pictures just would not have done it justice!

8/8 I decided to try a different beach today so I went to Jaz Beach. I asked several people how to get there and the best answer I could get was somewhere between needing a car and taking a taxi. I opted for the taxi at 12E only to find out later that it is only 1.50E by bus which run every 30 minutes. Hmmm. Jaz Beach is where the Rolling Stones had their concert on July 9th. There is a huge bay with a beach that ranges from rocks to tiny pebbles. There is no development around the bay which made it nice.

I actually crabwalked into the water and got a decent swim in. The weather was perfect and there is just something therapeutic about swimming in the sunshine. There were lots of little fish but they were not all that colorful and the underwater scenery was just huge rocks. For some reason there is a ton of rebar all around this beach, both on shore and in the water so it required extreme caution and water shoes. I finished Harlan Coben's Tell No One which was another good mystery from him.

8/9 I wanted to see more of Croatia that just the touristy beach towns so I took an excursion to a couple of towns inland from Budva. I was the only English speaker on board the bus but the guide gave me a brief explanation of what we were seeing. Most of the crowd was Serbian or Russian. The guide explained that Budva normally has 10,000 residents but in the summer it goes up to 150,000. To make traffic horrendous there is limited parking and most Montenegrans drive in for the day since lodging is expensive for them.

Our first stop on the excursion was Cetinje which was the capital of Montenegro until 20 years ago. It is a small, quiet town with lots of empty buildings. It looked like a dying or dead city to me since I could not see anything productive going on. It is not a big tourist destination other than short excursions from beach towns despite having pretty, tree-lined streets. I just did not see any way for people to make money unless the city was just having August holidays with everyone at the beach.

My guidebook said Cetinje is the sunniest city in the mountain region, with 2477 hours of sunshine per year, and at the same time the city with the most precipitation in Europe-4173mm per year. I found that hard to believe since the town looked very dry and not nearly as lush as many other places. Cetinje had a monastery, former presidents mansion and a couple of museums but nothing very exciting or interesting.

From Cetinje we went to Lovcen National Park which was the place that I was most looking forward to. There is an unbelieveable mausoleum built in 1974 dedicated to Petar II Petrovic Njegos (1813-1851). He was the country's most beloved ruler and a poet who wanted to be buried where he could see most of his country. The mausoleum is built atop Jezersko Peak (1660m) and is like a stairway to heaven. It would be amazing to see how the mausoleum was built because it is literally "on top" of this steep, rocky mountain. The narrow ridge at the peak has a walkway across where you can just peer over the edge and get goosebumps. On a clear day we were told you can see Italy.

Not far from Lovcen is the tiny town of Njegusi where Petar Njegos was born. Today there are only about 50 houses there but the town is famous for the production of Njegos cheese, Njegos prosciutto, and dried mutton(yum!). We stopped at one of the larger restaurants there to see a smokehouse full of pig parts (glad I don't eat ham!) and get an explanation of the smoking process. For 6E we could get a plate with the ham, cheese and sourdough bread. I got a plate minus the ham for 3E. I thought I was being very adventurous to try something local. The bread was great and the cheese seemed like a moist, yellow cheddar and was pretty good.

As you come down from Njegusi to the coast you encounter the Serpentine Road. I wish I had pictures but imagine a beginner skier trying to get down a mountain where they ski across the slope, turn around and then ski back the other way so that they eventually reach the bottom in under 4 hours. This road has 26 absolute hairpin turns (they are numbered) which have just enough room for our bus to navigate. The roads are not wide enough for 2 vehicles so a lot of maneuvering goes on when cars have to pass. It was not for those who get car sick! We could see the town of Kotor which was our destination from the beginning of the descent but it took about 45 minutes to arrive. The excursion was a lot of sitting but was interesting and a good deal for only 15E.

8/10 It actually rained and stormed overnight so I guess the long streak without rain is over. I walked along the promenade buying new watershoes and visiting the Farmer's Market while I waited for some sunshine. Once I decided that the skies would clear it was still an hour before the bus (every 30 minutes!) arrived. I went back to Jaz Beach where the water was very rough. After 4 pm the skies had cleared and I ventured in for a swim that was quite challenging. I stayed late at the beach before heading back to the promenade and some mushroom pizza that was pretty good.

8/11 I will spare you the horrendous details, but I became violently ill in the middle of the night. I don't think it was food poisoning, but more likely something like the Norwalk virus that often occurs on cruise ships. I have had the exact same experience 3 times before and I realize what it is just before it strikes. It is especially bad for me because I am unable to keep my medicine down so I have extremely bad nerve pain in addition to the other unspeakables.

Between episodes I would try to sleep some but it was difficult. I was very glad that I had my own bathroom and a comfortable room. I managed to read the last 20 pages of Gone for Good, my latest Harlan Coben novel. Eventually, at 3 pm, I thought it might be safe to get out of bed and venture outside to get some fresh air. It was a pretty day but between my entire body being sore, continuous nerve pain and a headache I only managed to stay out until 5 when I went back to bed.

8/12 I slept until 6 am despite going to bed so early. My body just felt as if it had been body slammed but the worst was over. I decided I needed a nap since I got up so early and went back to bed until 10. Pretty sad. I did not want to venture far so I just went to the beach near the old town and read Harlan Coben's Drop Shot which was interesting because it was a mystery around the US Open.

I realized that the date of my original plane ticket to the US is approaching and decided to not change it and return on August 31. It will have been more than 3 months and that is long enough to be away. There are still lots of places to see so I will just have to return another time. I had to create a route from Dubrovnik back to Lisbon for my flight home so I will visit a few new places along the way.

8/13 I went back to Jaz Beach for my last day in Budva. It was again gorgeous and the sea was so tranquil, quite a contrast from my last visit. I went for my longest swim yet and really enjoyed it. I did swim under this cool natural stone arch just a few feet off the water which was a different experience.

8/14 Up at 4 am for early morning bus trip to Dubrovnik. My place is right on the beach promenade and I could hear music and lots of activity even at 4 am on a weeknight! It sounded like they were having fun and enjoying their holiday. I certainly enjoyed Budva despite my health problems. Budva is a lot better than Ulcinj but not close to Dubrovnik either. It is a relatively inexpensive fun beach resort for the whole family.
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