Time tumbles by like a boulder crashing down the precipitous slopes of the mountain sides ringing Kotor. Mere mortals are left crushed in it’s wake in their feeble attempts to divert generated inexorable momentum.
No sooner are we acclimatised to the beauty of our surroundings we are moving on. No gathering of moss allowed despite the profusion of its growth in the ever damp Kotor surrounds.
Late in the grey morning that has risen we are packed and ready to move on once more. Knocking at the house door to return the apartment key we are greeted by the lovely daughter and young son still in pajamas. Mihaela and Igor are not in. We are sad not to be able to say thanks and goodbye.
Winding down the path to the main road we take additional care on the slippery slopes with our packs on. I am carrying extra weight with the remainder of the oranges we were given by our landlord family.
Passing Old Kotor town I take a shot of the fortification walls and another fresh water spring. Our days in the region have been so full that we have not completely walked the outer walls.
Pam orders a coffee in the cigarette smoke filled bus terminasl cafe. Before she can take a sip the Budva bus arrives and thinking we need to hurry she exits the cafe. We pile our packs and my Pacerpoles into the rear luggage section of the mini bus that we will be traveling in.
Despite my repeated slamming the hatch will not lock, I do my best to arrange our gear so it won’t fall out.
Fifteen minutes sitting inside the stationary bus before we leave. Pam is burning up with the knowledge she could have had that last delicious chocolate swirled Kotor cappuccino after all.
Finally we are on our way. By the time we are passing through the long Vrmac tunnel that carves its way through the mountains between Kotor and Budva we are getting light headed from diesel fumes creeping into the passenger compartment.
‘At least the driver has a window opened on his face so he won’t pass out from carbon monoxide’ I say reassuringly to my coughing wife.
Turning right after we exit the tunnel we pass the airport facility and stop to pick up passengers before doing a U turn, retracing our path and heading to Budva.
Stopping a few more times to pick up passengers we begin to wonder if we are going to make it to Budva intact. After another shorter tunnel we drive around a long hillside curve with the serene Adriatic to our right and drop into Budva.
By the time we alight we are both a bit dizzy, have headaches and are irrationally angry with each other. Diesel fumes are bad Ju Ju.
At least all our gear is still in the luggage compartment.
To regain our normal good humour we decide to recover our breath and have a snack in the cafe of the hotel complex that surrounds Budva bus terminal. As per usual we have no idea where we are in this new town or where our apartment complex is.
In our befuddled state it takes some time to get hitched to the Wifi service and find out these ‘humdrum’ details. Pam exits the cafe and heads in her usual ‘completely opposite to where we need to go’ direction.
Maps don’t ever seem to match completely with the ‘some streets are stairs, some footpaths’ town planning of many of the towns and cities we have been through. Finally we think we are close to where we should be however our apartment block ‘The Captain’ is nowhere to be seen.
We ask an older man walking by for assistance. He speaks no English however is eager to help. His eyes light up once he has understood the gist of our meaning. ‘El Capitano’ he pronounces proudly and gestures us to follow.
Fifty meters around the corner we are there, our new friend walks us to the reception, has a quick chat with the girl at the reception desk and waves us goodbye.
The first floor room is small and simple, a double bed, small kitchenette and bar fridge and a compact shower and toilet.
Though the bus trip was not that long in distance our diesel fumigation has sapped our strength. We strip off our packs and collapse onto the bed.
Despite the dark cloudy day my prayers for rain that will prevent Pam from ejecting me from our room are not answered. Budva Old Town is less than five hundred meters away and eventually Pam’s persistent coaxing succeeds.
Dragging my heels we set out in the cool late afternoon.
Budva is obviously a holiday destination for the Montenegrin people. Pebble beaches we by now recognise as being ubiquitous in the region fill a series of looping coves in the seaside area of the town. Hotels, apartment complexes and shops line the waterfront boulevard. There is a construction frenzy occurring with new multi-story apartment complexes springing from the low flat ground close to the water.
Budva Old Town is completely walled however the walls are much lower and thinner than other similar Old Towns we have seen in the last couple of months. Though no doubt these walls were built as defensive structures, compared to the thick lofty walls of Dubrovnik it seems they would offer little resistance to determined forcible attack.
Luckily these are not likely circumstances or considerations for the passing modern tourist. I feel completely safe as we wander the narrow streets.
Pam has overestimated our recovery from fumigation. We are both drooping quickly and decide to have a meal at one of the waterfront restaurants beside the harbour area as the sun dips below the horizon and call it a night.
As we plod heads down towards our apartment we are greeted in the street. We look up in surprise, who would know us here?
‘El Capitano hello’
Our guide and saviour from earlier in the day has spotted us and crosses the path to shake our hands.
Weather forecasts would have us believe a day of hard falling rain awaits. A simple glance from the window in the morning tells me otherwise.
Meteorology is at best a coin flip, at worst a blind folded monkey throwing darts at a weather map.
We only have one full day in Budva. Pam had intentions of bus rides to Skadar Lake and a long hike in the forests of its surrounds.
I am none too keen for any bus ride after yesterdays fumigation fiasco and am feeling downcast. ‘No buses, no walking, no nothing’ I irritably respond in answer to her queries of acceptable ways to spend our day.
Pam is having none of my bullshit ‘don’t you dare feel sorry for yourself’ she exclaims as she pounces on me to tickle me into action.
Once she has got me laughing again we compromise on fully exploring the flat Old Town and then working on the blog in a local bar.
Out into the grey blue day.
Budva Old Town has been constructed on a low rocky outcrop that juts into the bay at the end of the first short curving pebble beach that lies beyond the hill we had crested on the bus yesterday before descending in a cloud of smoke and fumes into Budva proper.
Walls with foundations on the stone below seal the Old Town from the beach via two low arched stone passages. The outcrop of the Old Town forms one side of a natural harbour, fancy luxury motor yachts moored next to the wall.
The land side of the walls forms a right angle where the low walls reach their highest and thickest points. The main entry to the Old Town is via a large gate at this angle.
Having already walked through the main gate and being ever in search of new paths we decide to start our tour from the beach.
I am surprised to see a busy bar service with chairs filling the pebbled beach almost to the waterline lying hidden beyond the buttress of the walls. Despite the winter season and early hour the bar is busy. Families gather, little kids running between the chairs and tables.
We enter the walls via a low arch at the far end of a path of loose flat paving stones semi-submerged in the rounded pebbles and shells of the beach.
Inside the walls we wander the maze of narrow streets. We had already walked much of this area the previous afternoon as Budva Old Town is comparatively small however the light of the new day makes for better photo opportunities so we do our best to make our way round the whole town.
Stairs lead to the narrow walkway atop the low walls. This must be a runway and toilet for a large feral feline population as a strong acrid odour of cat pee accompanies our entire circuit and avoiding cat poop is the only skill requirement of the worn flat path.
Finally Pam deems our exploration complete, now for the reward promised earlier.
Beer and Blog.
Making our way back to the beach side bar we take a seat at one of the tables.
Just like the parable describing the ‘house built on sand’ we quickly discover that a seat stood on pebbles offers little foundation.
We have a drink regardless, a young boy throws stones over the Old Town wall with relentless enthusiasm and no regard whatsoever for unfortunates passing through the rain of stones on the other side.
Soon the chair I am sitting on is grinding so low into the loose pebbles below I know that this is no place to attempt to write.
We move on.
Despite us sitting until sunset in a waterfront bar/cafe/restaurant named Hemingway’s my writing standard improves little.
By now, perhaps unfairly, deathly afraid of Montenegrin buses choking us to a grimy premature demise, Pam has organised a Taxi service that will take us non stop back to the Cilipi Airport nearby Dubrovnik.
Pam is now an expert at ferreting out the best available deal for all our travel requirements. She has been thorough in getting a good quote. The taxi service ends up being not much more than bus fare would have been.
Our flight to Zagreb leaves at 4:00pm our check out time is 11:00 am. We decide to leave Budva as soon as we check out so we book the taxi service for 11:00.
Come 10:50 we are packed and good to go, we make our way to reception, the cab is waiting outside, it is a Toyota Prius, minimal chance of fumes in a hybrid.
Things are looking good.
Pristine blue skies overhead defy meteorological voodoo once more.
Our driver speaks little to no English, we drive in silence other than the radio. Suddenly he sparks into speech. I gather the gist of what he is asking is ‘do we want to catch the ferry across the waters between Lepetane and Kaminare to avoid the long drive around Kotor Bay’?
Pam indicates that we don’t really care however we are not paying more than the quoted price for the trip. The driver’s demeanour changes from silent to surly.
He obviously doesn’t want to drive the long way for we await the return of the ferry at Lepetane.
Blue on stone on green on blue. The day is thrice stacked splendour and the view azure magnificence as we cross the narrow straight.
By the time our driver has transferred his resentment to being requested by the border police to turn his radio off as we cross back into Croatia the payment of the ferry fee is forgotten.
He wishes us well as we alight at Cilipi Airport.
The trip has taken us about an hour rather than the 3-4 potential fume filled hours we would have spent on a bus. We check our backpacks in for the flight almost as soon as we arrive and spend the remainder of the afternoon working on the blog.
Watching the repeating advertising loop for Croatian locations on the flight to Zagreb has me happily realising just how extensively we have travelled in this beautiful country. Most of the locales are places we have been and I recognise feature after gorgeous feature.
We watch the sun set from the windows of the aircraft as we near Zagreb and land in the early evening.
Pseudo locals by now, we spurn the more expensive taxi service for the bus from the airport to the bus terminal and soon find ourselves standing on the number 6 tram rattling back into the city heart.
Alighting from the tram has us feeling like we have returned to our home.
Tall stylish beautiful people swirl around us in the cool evening air.
For once we have a vague idea of the location of our apartment however apparently we still radiate confusion as we make our way to the corner of Ban Jelacic Square for a lovely young woman crossing our path pauses and asks us if we are lost.
She points us in the direction we were already going. Arriving in a city where you know people are ready and willing to offer aid unasked grants grateful weary travelers encompassing comfort.
Zagreb street names and building number organisation is it’s own world of mystery. A short way up the cobblestone street we find ourselves in front of an unnumbered building that just has to be where we are looking for. A wooden door swings into a vehicle filled archway leading to a little square courtyard ringed in apartment buildings beyond.
Finally, on the far side of the courtyard, we find the number 20 we are looking for. Pam calls the landlady on the phone as requested on our arrival.
An energetic lady speaking a million miles an hour ushers us into the room which is like walking into a white walled jazz song.
Long and narrow, with a bed we later find out is a fold out sofa filling the middle, our landlord is happy we are delighted with our new funky dwelling.
‘I decorated it myself’ she says as I examine the art fixture containing plaster casts of half faces hanging from the wall at the far end of the room.
‘I made that’ she proudly proclaims, ‘I have given you the room I love most in the building’.
Taking our passports for her records she rushes back up the stairs leaving us spinning in the gust of her passing.
A couple of minutes later she blasts back into the room. ‘I am a little older than you’ she says to me ‘but we share a birthday’.
‘I have a gift for you, a late birthday present that I made’ she says handing me a little draw string cloth sachet of dried leaves and flowers that emanate a calming lavender odour.
Extending her arms she envelops me in the embrace of a vigorous welcoming hug.
Fast friends is good friends.
Pam and Mick