Budva to Ulcinj and all thats in between
27.07.2012 - 03.08.2012 33 °C
So the story goes, that Budva is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Coast & was founded by Kadmo, the son of Phoenician king Agenor, the ruler of the Illyrians, after he was exiled from Thebes. He and his wife Harmonia, the daughter of Aphrodite, went in search of the most beautiful place in the world to grow old together. He built the city in honour of his wife (he was the only mortal to ever marry a goddess - clearly punching above his weight, he had to do something to keep her interested.) Long story short, he asked the gods to turn him into a serpent, Harmonia chose to share his fate and they lived happily ever after in the Adriatic around Budva. The locals believe this is why Budva is so beautiful. This belief is obviously shared, Budva is where all the beautiful people come to holiday and party. You'll find most of the people floating around in the Summer are German, Serbian, Russian or from neighbouring Albania or Macedonia - very few english speaking tourists. Pat and I were unable to book any accommodation at a reasonable price in the heart of Budva, so we got a great little bargain in one of the newer hotels in Becici which is about 3km's and a taxi ride that can cost anywhere between 3 - 9 Euros, depending on traffic and how fast your drivers numbers seem to increase! Of course, we were right up the top of a great big hill, there is no other way to be in the Balkans. Always at the top of a hill, which I will go into more detail about shortly. It was quiet and the view from the third floor balcony was worth WAY more than the 18 Euros each we paid for it (per night) We were greeted upon arrival by a lad, no older than twelve, who spoke relatively good english. He showed us to our room, carried our bags and gave us all the information we needed to enjoy our stay. We changed into our swimmers ready to hit the beach! There is a strip of 'sandy' beach down the bottom of the enormous hill we were perched at the top of which backs onto a highway and has beach clubs all the way along it. However, the 'sand' is obviously a Montenegrin slang for 'tiny rocks that look like sand from a distance, but don't be fooled they will give you 2nd degree burns & sting like millions of tiny ants biting all over your feet'. There are umbrellas and deck chairs for hire all the way along the beach, and the price will vary depending on which part of the beach you're on. Being povo backpackers, we just chucked our shit on the ground and ran to the water where it was brought to my attention that there is a complete lack of sun safety in Europe. There was noone else blindingly pale like myself and noone was swimming in the water, they were swimming in coconut oil instead. Obviously, Eastern Europe hasn't got the memo that everything gives you cancer. Namely, smoking & sunbaking, which are both hugely popular over here. Pat can't be still for very long, so while i worked on my 'tan' he went for a walk along the beach to find somewhere for a sneaky pre-lunch beer, instead he came back with an epiphany. We were in the middle of the Geordie/Jersey Shore of Eastern Europe. He invited me to take a walk to one of the bars to have a drink and see if I agreed. I couldn't even bring myself to walk in! The bar itself, was great! all open, music so loud that it could be heard from our mountain lair, it was all white curtains and timber, so light and breezy. There was just one problem, we were completely over dressed! From our observation, we have come to the conclusion that there must be a dress code on the beach. Men must have to wear the smallest speedo's they can find, because the less you wear, the more even your tan will be and the more muscles you'll show - and even better, if you can get one in a fluro colour, more chicks will look at your package! It seems women must wear... nothing! and high heels. I'm a five foot tall albino midget, and because of the freakishly long legs that all these girls seem to have, their butts are always at eye level. The idea of sitting in a bar trying to enjoy my vodka, while some girls g-string clad ass is waving in my face and her heels are stepping all over my havianas is just not a good time. However, we did get a kick out of seeing them attempt a sexy strut on the 'sand' in 5 inch heels.
Budva is about an hour in a bus (without aircon however, it feels like a lifetime) away from Kotor. Montenegro is a small country so all the main attractions along the coast are within a couple of hours from one another. We arrived mid-morning after leaving our lovely hostess in Kotor, who had made us some deep fried cheese and wrapped it in a napkin so we could take it on the bus incase we got hungry. So after our big day at the beach and the walk to and from the worlds highest mountain (on top of which, our hotel was located), we were pretty exhausted. Which brings me to another point that has been common for us in recent weeks, we are always at the top of a bloody big hill! Everywhere is extremely hilly, or cliffy with winding roads or a million stairs. I think, this is partially the reason why everyone who lives in the Balkans has long legs. They have to, like mountain goats. I'm not entirely sure of the length of a mountain goats legs, but I know that they are made for the rocky terrain that they live in. They have special hooves or something. I could google it but I'm swamped at the moment. Anyway, people that live here have long legs, this means that they can take bigger steps and can walk up the hill with more ease, than say, Pat or myself. We do not have long legs and we do not walk up or down hills with ease, but on the upside to that - every cloud has a silver lining - when we actually arrive at our destination, we really feel like we have earnt to be there and also would have shed a few kg's on the walk so a celebratory beer is a-ok!
We spent the evening resting in the aircon with beers, applying aloe vera to my attempt at a tan and watching the Olympic Games opening ceremony. We had originally intended to go into the Stari Grad to watch the games, but we didnt want to go down that hill again. The next day we decided to suss out the Old Town and have a look around Budva. We walked to the bottom of the hill (whinging and whining the whole time, I'm pretty sure there words 'You'll have to go on without me' got thrown around a bit - Patrick) and caught a taxi the rest of the way in. It is possible to walk to the Budva Old Town from Becici, my guess is it would probably take about an hour. But there are no real footpaths for alot of the journey and traffic is crazy! The cars only stop for pedestrians if the pedestrian in question is one of the aformentioned bikini bum girls from the beach. Why walk when you can cab? ... Plus Pat & I walked down the hill, we had earnt the cab ride anyway. The Stari Grad is much the same as the others. The paths are slightly more narrow and there is a port surrounding two sides a beach on another and a promenade on the other. There are an array of expensive boats lining the harbour, and bars and restaurants all around the outside and inside of the walls. All the bars and clubs around the Stari Grad aren't allowed to play music after 1am but there are nightclubs that are open from about midnight through to the early morning with laser lights beaming into the sky until all hours - as if in competition with each other to see who can blind the most airplane pilots. We had to close our curtains all the way out in Becici because they were so bright we couldn't sleep! It is very obvious that this place is made for tourism, people do not come here for the culture, they come to party and lay on the beach. We spent the week in Becici and were a little disappointed. Budva is the ideal place to come if you're with a group of friends and have an endless supply of cash. We found an Irish pub in the Stari Grad and spent some time there, it's owned by an Irish guy who offers Summer jobs to other Irish guys, so they were easy to talk to and therefore easy to drink at, particuarly for Pat who managed to find his pissy pants there one evening. He started to do that thing which a lot of people reading this would be familiar with. He got heaps loud and demanded pizza, I suggested it was home time and he kept running away, hiding in crowds and pushing in lines to order pizza, even though he was already holding two pieces. I don't know how people holiday with children. Anyway, in conversation with the owner of Chest O'sheas, we were told that whilst Budva is a raging party during the Summer months, it is painfully dull during the rest of the year, people have come to Budva to retire, but left after six months because they were so bored. This may be a good time to come as accommodation is much cheaper. However, Montenegros temperatures flucuate quite a bit and can get as low as 5 degrees during the Winter, so I guess there is nothing wrong with them wanting to milk as much of an income as they can when they can.
I cannot fault the Montenegrin hospitality, they are some of the friendliest people we have come across, always willing to help and will offer when they see you struggling or looking lost, which is most of the time for us. Google-piece-of-shit-maps. After discovering the best part of Budva on our last night there, the Promenade, we almost wanted to stay another night and were kicking ourselves for waiting so long to check it out! There is a strip of restaurants mixed with night clubs, fast food places with giant pieces of pizza for 1 euro, games, pool halls and even a place to ride go carts! There was also a small fair with some pretty sweet rides - which btw, not a good idea to go on one with a belly full of wine and chinese food. But we left the next day on a bus to Ulcinj - (pronounced oolchini) a much smaller town close to the Albanian border and mostly populated by Albanians. It takes about two hours on a bus to get there and is worth spending a couple of nights. We had booked accommodation that day, and made our way to the old town. When people see you with a backpack they always come up and offer a place to stay. It's the kind of place you can go to and know that no matter what, you'll end up with a roof over your head. May not be fancy, but rooms can come as cheap as 5 Euros per person per night. The Old Town is much different, it doesnt appear as well preserved and alot of the buildings in there have been re-built following a devastating earthquake in 1979. It is one of the oldest settlements in Montenegro and right on the ocean. We had made our reservation through booking.com but when we arrived, the person we were supposed to be staying with informed us that he doesn't accept bookings on the same day, as he only checks his email once a day and had already given the room away. No biggie. He gave us a water while he made a few calls and found us another place to stay around the corner. His cousin also had rooms available, with a balcony overlooking the ocean. Perfect! We stayed for two nights. The old town in Ulcinj is much different from the others, it's mainly residential with a few small resturaunts that people run from their homes. They have the best views and the cheapest seafood and are always up for a chat! Hari, the owner of the restaurant below us, goes out on his boat and catches his own fish to serve. Doesn't get much fresher than that! When it came time to leave we came accross our very helpful friend from booking.com when we were walking with our big stupid backpacks to get a cab to the bus station. 'Hey Australia! You going to the bus station?' - Well yes, actually we are. He works just down the road, and offered us a ride. He is Albanian, and happy to hear that Tirana (the capital of Albania) is where we were headed, he told us about the history of his country and his family and would not accept payment of any kind for the ride to the station. This brings me to today, we are about to board a bus to Tirana to spend three nights experiencing some Albania before jumping on a cheap flight to Athens at 5am (sigh) Monday and a month hopping and skipping through the Greek Islands. Life is tough.