A Travellerspoint blog

June 2011

Spit and Polish

sunny 29 °C

Aaahhh Montenegro…it read so beautifully that the anticipation was almost tangible. We had arranged to really stretch out our time in this small country. Twelve nights seemed like a good amount of time to spend by the turquoise waters and the mountains running seamlessly into the still waters of the Adriatic. Dubrovnik had been so beautiful that we thought Montenegro was going to continue that glorious coastline and ambience. Our next leg headed down to the start of the Bay of Kotor. Catriona Rowntree did this on Getaway once and we had remembered. She made it look so beautiful. Between Catriona and Lonely Planet we were well informed and excited.

The Bay of Kotor is a massive bay that runs 12km inland so you are on the coast but not on the coast. Our first stop was the town of Perast. Perast is a fishing village from the 17th and 18th century and is basically one street that runs directly along the waterfront with houses built back into the hill. It doesn’t really allow tourist traffic so we had to get permission to pass through the boom gate to go to our hotel which had car parking for our ‘little girl’. Our hotel was right on the water and seemed to be in such a picturesque location. We checked in and had to pump the receptionist for any information on the town. She was a real gem. Heading down the main street took all of about 2 minutes and was more demure than we had imagined. Two nights here was going to be verrrryyyyy relaxing (and long). Dinner was by the water and fresh fish that had been caught right out in front of the town, yum yum. Little were we to know that the most exciting part was yet to come.

Early in the morning we were woken by what sounded like sausages sizzling on a hotplate, yet being half asleep not much attention was really being paid until….Adam decided (being an early riser anyway) that something was not quite right. Following the noise to the window and peering out and up saw that just outside our window (and we mean just-think being able to reach and touch) that electrical cables that run from the main poles to the building were on fire. Yes that’s right you heard correctly….ON FIRE PEOPLE!!!! Adam felt like playing the hero (he was up anyway so no big deal) and ran outside in his pj’s to raise the alarm. This is the town with more fire engines than restaurants. Having no Serbian to fall back on communication with the only visible local was next to impossible and so with a heavy heart he headed back up to check on his fair damsel who was still enjoying her beauty sleep. Adam trusted that the hotel would take care of this seemingly pressing emergency. Within 10 minutes all the electricity went out and guess what……the whole town then had no power for the rest of the day. THE WHOLE TOWN!!!!! NO POWER!!! NO COFFEE!!!!

Heading down to breakfast seemed like the most obvious thing to do and we headed down to the waterfront terrace which gave picture perfect views across the area. Those clouds coming over the mountain though were getting darker and coming closer. Next minute hail, you think we’re joking don’t you, HAIL the size of peas and cherry tomatoes (vege theme) which covered the surface for as far as the eye could see for about 20 minutes. We were trapped in the waterfront terrace with bits of hail bouncing in and peppering the floor. Then all of a sudden it stopped and the clouds dissipated and the sky was blue again. The electricity was still off though and stayed off until about 3pm by which time we had walked the main street about fourteen times. Always being time savvy though we headed over to the man-made island which lay just off the coast. There is a church there named Lady of the Rock and began in 1452 with one rock and then each year on the 22 July men from the town bring rocks to the island to keep building it up. The women aren’t allowed; apparently they are just supposed to provide moral support. If you ask me the bloody island would have been finished a long time ago if they had let the women just get in and get the job done. Perast was pretty and apparently Michael Douglas has a house there but with a second day waking up to sausages sizzling and intermittent electricity we were ready to go.

We headed off to Kotor at the very end of the bay for the next five nights. Our accommodation had great views and run by the friendliest lady ever…nothing was too much trouble. Kotor has a small old town and it didn’t take long to explore. It was a lot quieter than any of the other old towns and was perhaps not as glamorous as we had imagined. As a matter of fact, Montenegro was not as glamorous as we had imagined but more on that later. White water rafting was booked in and required a hefty drive. Three hours back up to the border with Bosnia to raft the Tara River. 5.30am start and a wrong turn that took us on a road no wider than a double bed with grass growing up through the middle of it, we made it to Camp Grab to raft with a French couple and an Israeli couple. The water was icy to say the least but the scenery breathtaking. Lunch was a hearty meal of meat and veges with soup and cheeses which was followed by the three hour drive home. Eyes tired but contented that after our last rafting disaster this one had actually happened.

Kotor time was spent quietly with a major exertion of walking up 1500 steps to the fortress and time on the concrete slabs they call a beach. We did find though that we had overestimated how much time we would need and there is no one to blame for that except Catriona and the Getaway team (;-)). Kotor needed a bit of spit and polish to really bring out its potential. The old town was clean and well looked after, there were luxury yachts docked in the small harbour and the food was great. Outside the old town was a completely different story though and had broken concrete, trip hazards, lots oflitter and run-down buildings everywhere. It was disappointing especially when you look around at the landscape and the mountains and the natural resources they are given and they just HAVE NO IDEA how to use them properly AND with respect to the environment.

We left Kotor by way of the National Park to our next destination – Budva. Now there’s a whole different kettle of fish. Budva (great name don’t you think?) is like letting people from Blacktown run the Easter Show at Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast) in the 70’s. Are you picturing it? Trashy, a poor mans’ holiday but plenty to make you giggle. Our hotel was great and the first one with a pool. Walking the promenade past all the beachgoers was interesting. Europeans are not body conscious and are happy to let it all hang out, men, kids, women, grandmas and grandpas and we mean ALL hang out. It can be a tad confronting to our delicate eyes. The problem here on in for us was finding a beach that was clean. Montenegrins and their fellow Europeans have no qualms in flicking cigarette butts in the water, leaving plastic bottles and bags on the rocks or in the water and just generally treating the beach like one big garbage bin.

The most interesting things in Budva are the nightclubs. Along the main promenade you have a mix of ice-cream stores, cafes, restaurants, dress and souvenir shops and nightclubs. Large open air pumping out the tunes at 5000 decibel nightclubs with the obligatory group of ‘pretty’ girls out the front enticing you in to come in, drink and watch the pole dancers. Now before you think big deal a nightclub, think of this – they are all open air, which means all the kids walking past can stand out the front and watch the pole dancers gyrate and shimmy on the tabletops. Now being investigative and curious types we felt it imperative to give this nightclub thing a bit of a look so on our last night in Budva, in we went. We had a couple of drinks, shook our groove thangs to a few of the tunes and were just generally soaking up the vibe when…..double take there was a child in the club. At the table next door to us was a kid no older than twelve having a drink with his mum and dad (?). He was drinking coke but still What The??? Angela began giving the mum extreme stink eye in the hope she would feel her utter disgust but she just continued sipping on her beer and shaking her hips while flashing too much flesh. Gross and Totally Inappropriate….are we prudish? Hmmmmm Just for the record he did not look like he was enjoying himself either, in fact he was looking at the dancers as though this was not the first time he had seen them.

We were well and truly ready to leave Budva and headed to our last coastal stop Petrovac. Our hotel was great and we headed straight down to the beach. We had a quick dip, Adam nearly swallowed a cigarette butt and then we soaked up the sun on our deck chairs. A short time later Adam looked up to see a pad (and not the notebook type) floating on the water, then another and another and another. OMG! There were so many out there we thought men must have used them as well. The worst part was people were swimming near them or even just pushing them out of the way to swim past. That was the last straw and we packed up and went back to the hotel. The next day we drove down the coast looking for a clean beach but, and how sad is this, couldn’t find one. There was not a single beach in a 30km radius that did not have ‘rubbish’ floating in the water. Even the areas back behind the beaches are treated like tips and it is no big deal to see large piles of rubbish dumped all along the sides of the road. We were absolutely lost for words in disbelief, anger and disappointment. How could a country with SO much natural beauty be treated with such disregard?

Needless to say when we woke up this morning we were ready to leave Montenegro. We headed inland to our transit stop in Andrejevica on our way to Kosovo. Checking into our hotel we found out the owner has a daughter in Australia and while having lunch in the café, the son shouted us lunch because he ‘loves Australians’…beauty. So all’s well that ends well. The trick with Montenegro is to stick inland with the beautiful mountains and their sheer faces and view the beaches from a distance and all will be good.

Posted by Ange and Adam 07:52 Archived in Montenegro Tagged beach dirty fortress kotor budva lovcen perast petrovac Comments (0)

Split to Dubrovnik

Watch Out For Space Invaders

sunny 27 °C

Back on the coast into Split (pop approx. 200 000), Croatia’s second largest city and the weather looked good. Mum was more than happy to guide us to our destination which, luck upon luck, was about 80m from the action. We had scored a gorgeous 1 bedder apartment right up the road from the main drag for $625 for 9 nights.

After unpacking and settling into our new home we headed into town. Split is a major hub for a number of the Dalmatian Islands and the ferries across to Italy (Bari, Venice) so it is a busy little place. Watch out for scooters!! This is one place where Aussies are a dime a dozen. Along the promenade is the Diocletian Palace which, surprisingly enough doesn’t cost anything to visit because it now houses a lot of the locals and is intertwined with all the non-palace streets or lanes. More and more of our time was spent aimlessly wandering the myriad of lanes to see what was ‘just around the corner’. We were now guaranteed a wardrobe of thongs, sandals and shorts and were happier than pigs in mud.

With ten days up our sleeve and a chance to rest up after all that heavy duty travelling and sightseeing we felt it imperative we visited our local beach as soon as possible. Bacvice (Bach visee) Beach is the ‘big’ one because it is sand, however it is a browny colour and did not appeal to us. The rest of the ‘beach’ area was large slabs of concrete and rock, welcome to the Mediterranean! After realising our backs were just not going to take it we purchased ourselves cane mats to put under our towels and wait for it…..aqua shoes. They are the dorky looking ones you need to walk over rocks, made out of wetsuit material. Everyone over here owns a pair but let us tell you it doesn’t stop you feeling like a nerd wearing them.

Visiting the islands is a must do so we did it and in style as well. We decided to visit two of the islands, Brac and Solta (pro Brach and Sholta) and hired a scooter for three days to make zipping around on the islands easier and of course fun. The ferries are the massive car ones and it took us about 50 minutes to Brac, the bigger of the two, and we hooned around leaving the main beach area, known as Bol, until last after being dedicated tourists. On arrival at Bol we found ourselves at the nudist end of the beach, hence Angela’s shocked look in the photo. Did you ever notice the majority of people who like to frequent nude beaches are the ones that probably shouldn’t? Keep it to yourself I say. Bol is a rocky patch of coast that changes shape with every tide, it generally takes the shape of an upside ice cream cone. We have noticed one thing about Europeans though and that is their lack of need for personal space. They have no issues parking their towels or bodies within 2 metres of you when there is 50 metres of beach to choose from. Even walking past almost requires them to touch you; it is probably the most difficult thing we have to get used to. Hooning around Bol on a scooter was not all it was cracked up to be and after 3 or 4 hours it felt like 3 or 4 hours of sitting on concrete so needless to say we slept on our tummies that night.

Our second day with the scooter we raced (ha ha) up to Trogir, a small town about 32km from Split. It had been recommended to us by a couple of people and word of mouth is always reasonably reliable so off we went. Loved, loved, loved it….small but pretty. It’s easy to say that most of these places are similar in aesthetics but each has a different feel or ambience and in some strange way, upon arrival, it seems you can judge how much you like somewhere. After cruising the streets of the old town (which all these places have) we went to …….yep you guessed it the beach. Deckchairs for 20kuna so no rocks that day, what a treat!

Solta was our third day with the scooter and a very very very very very quiet island, that about sums it up. If its peace and quiet you want, this is the place. Fishing villages rule. The rest of our days were spent drinking coffee in the mornings, ambling through the lanes and sipping wine in the afternoons. We did ration our eating out at night with only 5 dinners out and cooking in our own kitchen the other four, which was fun.
Split took a couple of days to really grow on us but it definitely did. After the quieter places we had been the ‘touristyness’ of Split took a bit of getting used to. It was sunny with lots of shops (shoes especially) and plenty of people watching to entertain you. The water was chilly to swim in but definitely refreshing and crystal clear. The beaches, as far as Aussies are concerned, sucked but it still has a magic about it. Europeans seem to have less body consciousness and ‘elderly’ women are happy to sunbake, even topless (a little bit gross). Ten days were over in a flash.

Our next stop was an unknown, Makarska, gateway to the Makarska Riviera, was another small apartment, two nights and three days to explore. After about fifteen minutes we were congratulating ourselves on yet another good decision. What a little gem!! It is a fishing town with an absolute winner of a beach. We spent two days with deckchairs and an umbrella basking in the sunshine and swimming in the gorgeous waters. Seafood platters were the order at dinner and spotting people who had been near us on the beach during the day, including our own personal favourite, Tomato Man; so called because of his shape and the absolute redness of his skin and his complete oblivious state to it. His armpits were the only part of his body not red, oh and the small folds of skin on his back, he was not a looker.

Dubrovnik, the great walled city, was next on the agenda. Seven nights in the beach area, Babin Kuk was booked with the world’s friendliest receptionist who offers you shots of aperitifs while she explains how the buses work. The aperitifs were so good we bought some of them, can’t promise they’ll make it home though. Dubrovnik is truly an amazing place, a structure. The workmanship and skill it took to build it is mind blowing. The walls are 5-6m thick on the land side and 1-3m thick on the ocean side. We splurged and did the city wall walk where you climb up and can walk around the top of the walls. It was definitely well worth it. Between the sea of red roof tiles and the valleys and hills of stairs you can’t help but be awestruck. How many stones did they use?? The busy season is just about to kick in and we are glad we are not there for it. Dubrovnik, being walled, would be a scorcher on really hot days and small lanes don’t go well with lots of body heat, so we are happy with our scheduling.

We decided to do a three island cruise. It is a one dayer with three of the Elafiti islands to explore. Usually we are hesitant to do some of these organised things because of the twits you might get stuck with for a whole day but we took a chance and booked. There ended up being only six other people on the cruise with us, which was great. Another of the couples were Aussies, from Melbourne and so it was really nice to interact and socialise with people who just sort of ‘get you’. The weather was perfect and the captain gave out homemade wine in plastic bottles, as much as you wanted. The last island had a three hour stop and we hired bikes to get us over to the other side of the island rather than take the golf buggy. It will be decisions like that, we think, that could be the difference between a pot belly and a hot belly. We had a great day and went home happy campers.

The old city is not somewhere you can really spend all day so we spent the mornings at the beach which we could drive to, chill for a couple of hours and eat our homemade sandwiches. Then we would head home, refresh and head into old town on the bus about 3-4pm every day for dinner. There were some bars on the outside of the walls overlooking the water which was a top spot for a pre-dinner drink. A cable car runs just outside old town that can be caught to the top of the hill (mountain??) and gives a great view. It really is somewhere that needs to be viewed from above or from the water to give it some perspective. Seven nights was enough though and we were ready to move on. Dubrovnik was our last stop in Croatia which means we cross over into our tenth country. Montenegro is booked for the next twelve nights and is our last chance for coastal action before we get to Turkey.

Posted by Ange and Adam 14:01 Archived in Croatia Tagged dubrovnik split makarska brac solta Comments (0)

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