Road Tripping through the Balkans part 1

I kicked off the summer of 2018 with a road trip through the Balkans, or well, part of them. Started in Bucharest, Romania, and headed west, crossed the border to Bulgaria at Vidin, then quickly got to Serbia where we had an overnight stay in a town called Kragujevac. 

The next day, we headed towards Montenegro and the adventure truly began.

My Story of Montenegro

About an hour or so after crossing the Montenegrin border, we made the first stop as we entered the Durmitor National Park. Many people were stopping to take pictures from a bridge up in the mountains, or to zipline. After taking enough photos, we moved further into the heart of the Park and got to Crno Jezero (the Black Lake) that offered a breathtaking view (no filter needed). 

The Black Lake in Durmitor National Park

A bit of a bumpy ride

However, our final stop in Montenegro was Kotor, at the time, a mysterious town in a country we’ve never been to before. Speaking of the country, it’s all mountains and forests, at least the road, that we took to Kotor crossing the entire country, was like that and it was gorgeous. However, there was a downside to it. Through all the mountains and all the forests, we didn’t find a gas station and with my partner being picky about gas stations, we realised we might not make it to our destination, before running out of gas. So, we turned to google maps to check where we could find the nearest station, and luckily, it was on our way. Unluckily, it was still under construction. The next one was in Kotor, and as there wasn’t much we could do, we simply kept going. As we set the GPS to take us on the fastest route, driving on the highway, we heard it telling us to turn left and so we did. And there it was…the weirdest road a GPS could guide you through. A dirt and gravel road, wide enough for just one car, winding down on the side of a very steep cliff. And there we were, with a stone wall on the left, a beautiful, panoramic view of the far away (and very low) Gulf of Kotor on the right and a bunch of cows in front, minding their business and hogging the entire tiny road, looking at the aliens that we were. 

A hero comes along…with the gas to carry on

When the last cow was kind enough to let us pass, we continued down the mountain path and as we were descending, the gas ended and we were just moving along thanks to the road inclination. And the cherry on top, a car was coming from the opposite direction. YES! A car was coming! My partner rolled down the window and once the driver of the other car finally understood that we were truly out of gas, he was kind enough to help us out. And so, my partner went with him, to his house (yes, his house was on that cliff and we passed it as we were going down, but it seemed deserted). I stayed in the car and waited for what seemed like forever until they got back with gas, plus, a roll of homemade cheese and a kilo of cherries. So, I’m not sure if Montenegrins are all as hospitable as Vasili, but this guy was great. He was also looking for a wife at the time, so ladies, there’s a great catch living in Risan, near Kotor. 

And guess what, when we got to the first gas station, it was closed. But we were good to go for a few more km, so we took the ferry to cross over the water. Ferries are a regular thing in the Gulf of Kotor as it’s the best and fastest way to get from one side to the other. You can go around, but the road (although paved) is very narrow and it takes a long time to get to a town that otherwise seems to be close. After finally getting gas, we found our accommodation, a studio in a house on the waterfront. The landscape was so amazing, I would move there only for that view. 

An amazing place

Part of the wall of Kotor

Once settled, we went for a walk and in search of food. Food in Montenegro seemed to me to be simple but tasty and I liked it. The next day, we went for the piece de resistance – Kotor. There was a bus that passed our accommodation and although it has stations, the driver would only stop if you waved. And so, we got out of the house and onto the street, and on the bus. Remember that narrow road I mentioned earlier? Well, it appears that the bus not only can drive through it, but it can even pass another car from the opposite direction. That was one heck of a ride.

As we were approaching Kotor, the view was filled with cruise ships. Incredibly huge cruise ships, that seemed as big as my whole neighbourhood back home. The old town of Kotor is like a fortress, surrounded by high stone walls that go high up the mountain. The streets are also paved with big stones and all the buildings are made of the same material. But truly, the best thing about Kotor, or at least the one that got us the most excited were the cats. They were everywhere. They even had a museum of their own, which we, of course, visited. 

Kotor Old Town

Sailing off into the sunset, but not really

When we got out of the old town of Kotor, we still had plenty of time to kill, so we decided to go on a boat ride. We hopped on one last minute and headed out to the sea. Although the Gulf of Kotor opens up to the Adriatic Sea, it’s big enough and closed enough that it behaves more like a lake. The water was smooth and the captain of the boat was also our guide. He told us different stories about the Gulf, its history and importance during the wars, how the Germans or the Russians (or both) dug and built bunkers in the mountains surrounding the water, where they hid submarines and weapons. We entered the Adriatic and made a stop at the “Blue Cave”, where most of the tourists went for a swim, but as we were only city-walk-ready, we passed. When we got back inside the Gulf, we stopped again at the “Our Lady of the Rocks” Islet. This tiny piece of land was man-built and holds a church. There are various stories surrounding it, including someone seeing the icon of the Virgin on a rock out on the water and deciding to build a church there, in her honour. Another one is that a lot of ships (conquerors) got stranded and sunk as they tried to get through the very narrow open of the Gulf. The wreckage was dragged closer to the centre of the water and the island was built upon that wreckage. Pretty cool, right? And also slightly creepy.

Our Lady of the Rocks

All in all, we had a great time in Kotor (and a great adventure) and it’s definitely one of the places I would return to…or move to, as long as I had that beautiful view.

For the next part of “road tripping through the Balkans”, the story takes us to Croatia. To be continued…


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