I wasn’t in the greatest of moods this morning when I woke. I had slept relatively well (who wouldn’t after most of a bottle of Montenegrin Chardonnay?) but was still narked that I had been taken in by the wide boy who had turned the patch of land behind his apartments into a ‘camping’. OK, I had paid only 5€ for the privilege but it was clear that he had lied to me the previous evening about the other sites; ‘it’s been turned into a hotel…’ & ‘it’s four kilometres away and it’s dirty…’. I have no doubt that both other sites existed and were fine. Despite my current tendency to run to the nearest hotel as soon as I find something to dislike about a campsite, I do like campsites; they are (generally – see later comments) full of my kind of people. Or should be. Interesting, erudite, probably middle-class… I’m sure hotels are full of these people too but because of the nature of the hotel set up (for example, you don’t go and knock on your neighbour’s door to ask for a mallet to bash your pegs into the ground in a hotel although now I mention it I am tempted to give it a try and see what reaction I get), conversations with other guests are limited. You can find any old excuse to get a conversation going on a campsite and its that aspect that I was cruelly deprived of by Ulcinj’s answer to Del Trotter. I did actually have a chat with an Italian guy who had also succumbed to Del’s charm, in Italian I’m proud to say but then I started knocking back the Chardonnay…
My morning malaise wasn’t helped by the first two encounters of the day. The young girl at the first bakery I came to told me to remove Reggie from the terrace so I did so, removed myself as well and my business and then, whilst crossing a pedestrian crossing outside the bakery was nearly flattened by a Serbian who was trying to cross the road in his car via the same pedestrian crossing. Idiot. However, things started to improve with the next two people I came across who were far more delightful. Both, interestingly, were Kosovans… The first was a Lycra-clad cyclist who joined me for a few minutes as I cycled out of town. He was working in the resort and explained how he liked to do forty kilometres before teaching the kids so I assume he was some kind of ‘animateur’ in a resort hotel. He was cheery and was inquisitive as to where I had come from and where I was going. The second was a boy of about 12 years old called Blend. I hope he is reading this now as I gave him my business card after our short encounter in the bakery that he was in charge of for the morning. He didn’t ask Reggie to move on so got my money. I asked him if he spoke English and he did. Very well indeed, with a slight American accent which he put down to watching lots of films. He was very softly spoken and real delight. I bought a couple of croissants and he asked if he could sit next to me as I munched my way through them. We chatted for a few minutes about where he had learned his English, where he came from and the fact that one day he would like to visit Britain. I hope he does. During the 1990s when Kosovans first came into the conscience of the rest of Europe (who even knew where Kosova was prior to the Balkan wars?), the image portrayed of the Kosovan people was of a downtrodden, sad group forgotten about by the rest of Europe. Here were two Kosovans – one in his late 20s the other barely in his teens who were dispelling that image in a matter of 30 minutes. My mood was uplifted to say the very least! I do need to find out more about where Kosova currently sits politically. Aida at the British Council in Tirana spoke about the Kosovan people becoming part of a greater Albania (“they are Albanians”) and here were two Kosovans working within the European Union. How does that work? They appear to have freedom to work within the former states that made up the former Yugoslavia but by coming to Montenegro, what’s stopping them from simply moving elsewhere within the EU? I am finding the patchwork of Balkan countries more and more fascinating as I find out more about them. Expect a heavy dose of it in the book… If anyone can recommend a good book explaining the Balkans, please let me know. I would imagine that Misha Glenny has probably written one.
I headed north out of Ulcinj and it was a long, slow climb. I had arranged to meet Twitter contact Aleksandar Jahaj (@3in3ule) in his home town of Bar for a chat at 10am. Today has been the first day of cycling where I have been deprived of my normal access to 3G. My Vodafone ‘Eurotraveller’ package considers Montenegro to be part of ‘the rest of the World’. May I point out to Vodafone that Montenegro have a football team that are playing England at Wembley in the European qualifying group for the World Cup in the autumn and also enter contestants for the Eurovision Sing Contest. They are part of the EU for goodness sake [STOP: see comments section for this post], use the Euro and don’t give a toss about driving while they are using their mobile. They must be European! But not for Vodafone… So whilst in the country I’m limited to WiFi. The result of all this is that I realised just how dependant I have become about using Google Maps for locating my position. Today I was struggling with my 1:300,000 map. Had I already passed Bar? I really wasn’t sure…
Fortunately it turned out that I hadn’t and I managed to find the main square in the town and sat under a statue of Knez Vladimir. Anyone know who he is? I texted Aleks to say that I had arrived and within a few minutes he too was standing next to Knez. We walked down to the shore and drank a coffee and ate ice cream whilst chatting about what exactly Montenegro is, where it has been in recent years and where it is going. He did the job that Aida had done back in Tirana. Very interesting stuff. Aleks was also able to point me in the direction of some interesting stop offs en route to my destination of Tivat. In the end I didn’t stop at Petrovac but I did pause and delight in the beauty of the presqu’île that is Saint Stefan (see picture below) and then took a late lunch in the beautifully-preserved old town of Budva. As I approached Budva I did wonder what I was letting myself in for. Tourists everywhere! (I’m a traveller…) Cars containing tourists everywhere. Shops to cater for tourists everywhere. I kept following the signs for ‘stari’ town in the hope that the tourists would have been creamed off by the beach by that point. They had and the old town was delightfully calm and quiet. I wandered around for a few minutes before finding a restaurant where I ate pasta to boost my energy levels. One of the waiters was interested by my bike and we got chatting. He would like to get into cycle touring but he said there were no places to buy a decent bike in Montenegro. He asked for the type of bike that Reggie is and I wrote it down for him. He’s going to watch the England v. Montenegro match in September at Wembley (hence my detailed football knowledge above) and is going to investigate the purchase of one of Reggie’s cousins. He asked me if I knew of Yorkshire. Err… Is Patriarch Irinej an orthodox Christian? He had been to Bradford of all places and loved it. Bradford? Beautifully-preserved Adriatic coast town drenched in the sun? Where would you rather be? I’ll let that one hang. His mind however was made up and it was Bradford hands down.
Budva to Tivat was gradually uphill for 10 kilometres then gradually downhill for 10 kilometres. The drivers in Montenegro had, up until leaving Budva been a refreshing delight after the horrors of Albania but the road to Tivat had me thinking again and I am not proud to admit that the middle finger of my right hand saw some serious action this afternoon along with some Chaucerian expressions that would have given even Chaucer heart palpitations. It was a strange coincidence then that I was also experiencing heart palpitations upon seeing the campsite on the outskirts of Tivat called ‘Auto Kamp Bova’ which appeared to be run by Steptoe and wife. He was in the process of using welding equipment to dismantle a car engine at the entrance. I could feel Reggie trembling beneath my thighs and the guided tour by Mrs Steptoe gave me no reason to hang around and find out if he had reason to be fearful. The campsite in Carry On Camping would have been more welcoming so its rather ironic then that I have ended up in the three star Hotel Palma (again!) which could have a blue plaque outside the entrance stating that Carry On Abroad was filmed here. As I type I am one of the few punters who is sitting in the bar listening to the resident singer who is knocking out every hit of the 1980s you have heard of (and quite a few that you haven’t). The strange thing is that the others in the bar are actually tapping their feet… (OK, I admit it, I am too…) “We don’t need no education…” has just started. In a Serbian accent. “Hey! Teacher! Leave those keys alone…”. Perhaps he can read over my shoulder.
Tomorrow it’s Dubrovnik. Stay tuned for more adventures along the Mediterranean…
It’s not Kosovans, it’s Kosovars. Also, regarding off-line navigation. I use NavFree too — highly recommend it.
O.K been doing a bit of browsing this end and a lot of people are raving about NAVFREE , downloadable for iphone and android, Basically it allows you to download the maps and store them so you don’t use up data (Unlike google maps) The IKI page says it does slovakia and slovinia and most of europe. It uses openstreetmap, Which I use a version of in the u.k and it is more accurate than O.S on my bike GPS. It might take a bit of data so go wifi to download it… Best of luck
I really appreciate the mention,and the kind words! I hope we’ll see again,in ENGLAND! Haha! Have a nice trip!
It was a pleasure meeting you Blend. Good luck with your studies. I’m sure you will go far!
Thanks for the clarification. My assumption (which initially surprised me as I didn’t think it was in the EU) is based upon the currency but… http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montenegro_and_the_euro
Wondered what had happened to Reggies tracker this A.M… Must have been lack of 3g
Exactly! Back to business as normal on cycling day 16 I hope!
I really don’t understand how you manage not to find more and better campsites along the way. When you get to Croatia, there is always another campsite never more than a few miles away.
keep up the good work.
What about them?