Friday, 6 November 2015

A Girl Walks into a Bar...


Our initial plan was to drive through Montenegro to Kosovo, and from there through Macedonia to Greece. However, the refugee crisis was ramping up and we read an article stating that several countries had closed their borders to Greece, including Macedonia where razor wire had been strung up. So we altered our trajectory to Italy and booked a ferry from the Montenegrin city of Bar. 

Somewhere near Budva, Montenegro (Budva, Crna Gora)
On our way down the coast, we attempted to find a nice quiet beach, but all the way down the coast were awful resorts and all the beaches were crammed with brightly coloured umbrellas. 
As we had a picnic lunch and needed shade lest we let our sweat drip into our bread, we gritted our teeth and decided we would have to hire a stupid umbrella. Yannick went to inquire as to the price and oddly enough they were free! What, how? I expected someone to come over to us at any moment and demand payment but no one came and we ate and lounged on the beach chairs for a couple of hours. There was an incident with the parking, in which a man yelled at us about not parking in his paid carpark even though there was a probably legitimate and free space on the road, but we paid him the €2 so as not to make a fuss a parked in his shady carpark. 
After beaching to our hearts' content, we drove to Bar to check into the ferry company. But on the way we spotted Sveti Stefan. 
What was originally an outcrop of land containing a historic village (many of the buildings dated to the fifteenth century) and connected to the shore by a thin road and a beach on each side had been bought by a resort and turned into Aman Sveti Stefan. They bought a whole island thing! As you can imagine, it costs way too much money to stay there. We laughed and carried on. 

Bar, Montenegro 
While waiting for the time to embark on our overnight ferry to Bari in Italy, we explored Stari Bar. Set on a hill above modern Bar, the town was controlled by Venice and the Ottoman Empire during its history. An earthquake in 1979 cut off water supply from the aqueduct and the residents abandoned the town, moving down near the old port where they built Bar (though the buildings are in such disrepair from shelling during the Montenegrin-Ottoman war in the late nineteenth century and not simply from abandonment). 
The aqueduct was repaired some years later and a trickle of residents returned, but even today there is a population of less than two thousand and Stari Bar is mainly an empty ruin. This was contrasted by the walk from the carpark (where we were charged €2.50 by a sketchy looking guy who I assume spotted a way to make a quick buck from hapless tourists who don't want their car keyed), which was lined by souvenir vendors and eateries. 
It was the kind of place that you could find ice cream on tap. 
This photo resulted from Yannick giving me the great artistic direction to "pretend to be a bread", as I was standing in front of what used to be an oven.
During our visit, we noticed several plumes of smoke drifting up from the hillside, and were probably just from locals burning off old foliage. 
Running out of time and still needing to eat dinner before the ferry, we had to rush through half of Stari Bar, which was a shame as it was very interesting (and well worth the €2 entrance fee). 
At one point near the exit we heard rustling in some underbrush and discovered a little turtle! Whether he was wild or someone had released him there I'll never know - he was a bit shy at first but when we made no sudden movements he came out of his shell and posed like a champ. 
Dinner was at a Lonely Planet recommended place on that touristy road up to Stari Bar, so I was a little dubious. But Kaldrma delivered delicious traditional food at low prices. Much of the menu was vegetarian, which was a change from the rest of the Adriatic coast where if you saw "stuffed peppers", the peppers would be stuffed with meat.
Again, the place turned out to be an informal cat cafĂ©, with several cats lazing around and occasionally coming over for pats. This is definitely a Montenegrin thing, and I like it. 
We were the first car passengers to arrive for the ferry, and waited for quite a while to be ushered on board. We spent the time watching customs officials search cars. We ourselves must not have been Red Flag Material, as we were gestured straight through once looking at our passports, but some vehicles were searched thoroughly. One guy was questioned for a long time and eventually he just got back in his car and drove away. There was no fuss and no police involved, so why wasn't he allowed on the ferry? A mystery! 
Once on board, we settled in to a few seats and slept in various contorted positions until morning came and we disembarked into the Land of Pizza and Gelato.