We decided to take the alternate route into Montenegro, which turned out well…. in the end. After the guy looked at our passports at the Albanian border (which was a road lined with loads of big trucks, not another car in sight) we were ushered off to be interrogated! Well that's what we thought.. turned out we were just getting our car inspected, but this was quite a thorough inspection! They went all through the car, then jacked it up to look underneath. Some conversation was attempted, but mostly it was goofy smiles & thumbs up, then we were given the all-clear to leave Albania. And after a chat with a very friendly passport control guy on the Montenegrin side of the border, we were finally in another new country which we knew almost nothing about.
Straight away you can tell this is a completely different country. Most border crossings are a very gradual change from one country to the next, not this one. Even the two sides of the border itself were different: the Montenegrin side was newer, cleaner and more professional. The vegetation soon changed from dry and rocky to denser woods with greener foliage. And they even had police! We'd only just crossed the border and we were pulled over for not having our lights on (it's a rule over there to have them on 24/7). The houses looked more loved and the whole vibe was just more... well, nice.
We drove up in the mountains and I had to focus hard not to drive off a cliff while looking at the jaw-dropping views! We came down a mountain and to the super exclusive island resort Sveti Stefan, where we stopped by for one of the best ocean swims I've had in ages! Crystal clear waters, colourful rocks & pebbles and proper Queensland weather. What could be better? We just swam on the public beach there as the private beach had a €50 cover charge! You're not even allowed over to the island itself unless your surname is Clooney or Pitt.
On to Budva and our hostel where the owner met us with a shot of a God awful clear spirit made from the grapes he grows there and possible some dregs from the wine bottles behind the dumpster. The hostel was welcoming: it was like staying in his home, with his mother cooking meals and his kids running around.. except there was also loads of travellers from all parts of the world too.
The town itself had a great holiday buzz. Down on the beach people hustled for space on the pebbles as thrill seekers jet skied, paraglided and bungee jumped. The boulevard was fun and lined with stalls, carnival rides and open air clubs that came to life at night time. Exploring the Old Town and its Citadel was great.. loaded with character. We also went on a boat tour run by our wacky hostel owner - first order of business was another God awful shot, not good when you're on the waves and nursing a hangover!! But this was a top tour; he took us to a holiday island, into caves, tried to get us to jump off a crazy high cliff and we got a glimpse of some exclusive beaches built into the bottom of a cliff and only accessible by boat. He also forced us to embark on the longest swim either Clare or I had ever done out to an island and back to shore. I was so far past exhausted!
Anyway, we drove on deeper into this country, up and down mountains, pulling over every 10 mins or so to take photos of one breathtaking view or another when we drove into a tunnel.. and upon emerging out the other side we were hit by the sight of a massive lake(which was actually an inlet from the sea) surrounded by the most enormous mountains that completely towered over us and all of the buildings clinging to the base of it. We were gob smacked by the scale but carried on driving into the Bay of Kotor, where we were staying for the next few days. I can't describe the beauty of this place, put simply it was like stepping into a postcard. It's the Europe you want to visit, not the one that's infested with obnoxious pasty white tourists (like myself) but instead dripping with old world charm. A step back in time, where the pace slows and everyone is friendly because they all know how lucky they are to live here. People were so considerate on the roads and everything just moved slower. Hopefully some of my photos can convey a small part of what I'm talking about.
The next day we hired some bicycles and rode into the walled Old Town which was very quant and loaded with old churches and shops and tight winding cobblestone alleyways. But the best part was just being in this town. It was bursting at the seams true charm and natural beauty.
Kotor was without a doubt a highlight of our entire trip and I couldn't recommend this country more!