Monday, August 31, 2009

Peacful Cetinje and Montenegrin/Albanian Ulcinj 07-08.08.2009

…or how we finally get some rest and plan the further journey.

We spend in Boreti one more day. This time we’re hitchhiking to the first real Montenegrin city. The old capital of the country. Cetinje. And that’s where we find the hidden charm of Montenegro. Peace, silence, signs of history, almost no tourists, normal, not overrated prices… Yes, that’s what we needed. The old embassies in neglected, abandoned houses, churches (also Orthodox ones), calm cafes.
We’re enjoying the local food, because it’s finally here (I don’t know why, but on the coast the country denies to serve anything but omnipresent pizzas, kebabas, pasta, etc.). And when we’re coming back, we meet the same driver, who took us to Cetinje. This time he’s with his friend. But on the way (the road is narrow, leads through the mountains and there’s a lot of phone numbers to emergency road services written on the rocks) we stuck in a huge traffic jam. The driver calls police and finds out that we’ll have to stay in the jam for more than 30 minutes, because there was an accident, so he turns back and goes to the town to spend the time in a café. And we’re going with him. His friend (only she speaks English, the driver speaks only Serbian and Italian and is not eager to talk although I do understand most of what he says) tells us that there’s plenty of accidents of the road, because Montenegrins usually disrespect the traffic regulations. She also says that Montenegrins don’t like to work and compares them to the lazy Spaniards. One we get to a café, the driver offers us coffee and beers all the time, he drinks 4 alcohol drinks, gives money to his friends’ kids, everyone calls him the “King of Budva”, because he’s a parking chef in Budva, comes from Cetinje and everyone knows him here. And finally after 1,5 hour we get back to the car. And we reach Boreti safely.

Thus the day passes quite lazily and pleasantly. In the evening we meet two crazy hitchhikers – Milena and Adam. They’ve been on the way through Europe since 3 weeks now and also plan to go to Albania. Soon we all go to the beach, which is the most beautiful in this time of the day. Because it’s empty and mysterious, although the water is quite cold. But we do swim anyway.
And the next day we leave our camping and 3 cars give us a lift to Ulcinj. It’s supposed to be as an Albanian town. That’s what our last driver said – a student from Kotor, who works as a supplier, drives around the country almost every day and often takes hitchhikers with him. Most of them are from Poland and from the Eastern Europe. He’s surprised that we don’t need visas to get to Montenegro. Here everyone needs one to an almost every country. The exception is Greece, Turkey and the countries that once built Yugoslavia. But from January these restrictions should be over.
But for now I’m disappointed again. Contrary to all the promises there are many tourists in Ulcinj, it’s also dirty and not really interesting. Although we still haven’t visited the old town. On the way to a camping, which was supposed to be 6 km away, we and a French couple are offered a room for a price of a camping. Which is 5 euro. That’s how we stay on a peaceful outskirts of Ulcinj, in a village, far away from tourists.
And now we’re planning our journey to Albania, because we still don’t know much about this country. Oh, and almost everyone who we meet goes to Albania, especially hitchhikers. The Poles are almost storming this country. Usually - the young ones.
And now I want to say hallo to our travel companions – Dorota, Ania, Mariusz and Marcin, who got lost somewhere on the way And to Milena and Adama, who are probably in Albania now And for Alicja and Piotr, who help hitchhikers a lot and treat them with things they haven’t seen for a long time

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bye bye BiH, hello Montenegro! 01-06.08.2009

Or how long-awaited Montenegro disappointed me and how I came to like Bosnia and Hercegovina...

We hitchhiked to Mostar from Sarajevo with a very friendly driver. He kept on joking a lot, said that Bosnians have usually no sense of humour, rather a black humour. Then he invited us to a cup of coffee, talked about his job (he’s an “ecological policeman”, there’s no job like that in Poland, but surely there’s in Germany) and various nuances from every day life in his country.
And Mostar is attractive, of course. Unfortunately, it’s already attacked by tourists. The old town – especially the bridge from 16th century, damaged during the previous war, and then rebuilt according to the ancient techniques – it attracts crowds of travelers, especially coaches heading to Medjugorie. We spent only 1 day in the city, admiring the omnipresent contrasts. Outside the old town the charms of the city disappear and a new landscape appears: neglected streets, buildings damaged during the war, beauty interlaced with ugliness. Mostar and other cities in the country remind me of the Indian chaos. But we run away quickly from the place and headed to Montenegro, expecting to see even more unusual things...
Unfortunately, Montenegro is like Croatia ten years ago… Oh, and talking about Croatia: we stayed there for one night in an extremely expensive city of Dubrovnik. I went there about 10 years ago and already then the prices were just crazy. Now the city is under the siege of tourists from around the world. Well, maybe it is beautiful, the white walls look quite good, and the harbour by night is quite amazing, but the mass tourism is definitely not for me. So again we run away after 1 day. Oh, and we met an Italian couple, who was also looking for an accommodation. Finally, we stayed all together in an apartment for 4 people, because there was no camping in the city.

And it turned out that leaving the city is not easy at all. Looking for a good place to stand, we walked up the road about 3 kilometers. Finally, a man with a son took us to the nearest town and left us near a shop. Then, we went few kilometers with a Croatian, a road-worker. The next driver gave us a lift to a place near an airport and then a car of diplomatic corps stopped for us. Thus we reached Montenegro with a Slovakian, who works in embassy in Podgorica.
Finally, we arrived to Hercegnovi, or to be precise – to Igalo, because that’s where a camping is. And here we were quite shocked. Crowds of tourists. Camping – a poor image of Poland from 1970s with huge tents, camp kitchens etc. Outside the camping – commercialism at every step, a lot of Montenegrians, few foreigners. But all in all – it was just too much. And camping was quite shoddy, in fact we had to share it with… chickens  We met there also four nice Poles (Ania, Dorota, Mariusz, Marcin), who then went with us to the next camping in Lepetane. But before it happened, we managed to visit the old town of Hercegnovi, full of narrow streets and old churches. We went to Kemenari, and then to the camping in Lepetane by ferry (which was free for pedestrians). This time the conditions were much better. Instead of a shower without light and hot water we had a coeducational bathroom with two showers without curtains or doors. But it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that there was water. Hot water And under these circumstances we experienced the first rain and first storm in the Balkans. Even our drivers claimed they’re surprised that it rains.

We also visited Kotor – a students’ town, where a carnival is celebrated in summer and winter. The old town is charming indeed, but the crowds of tourists really discourage. (yes, I know, I said that already). We went to few cafes, walked past nice narrow streets, went to the places where there are no tourists, but a bunch of cats and nice nooks and crannies appear…
And soon we hitchhiked to the next town, Boreti. With a friendly driver (well, who was not friendly? the fact that they stop makes them already friendly…), who claimed that a family business is the best business. He used to be a sailor, he came to Poland, where a lot of girls asked him to help them get out of the country. And it was over 20 years ago. He also complained that foreigners and people from the previous Yugoslavia make a huge mess in Montenegro, that Budva – a city close to our camping – is world-famous (Madonna and Rolling Stones had a concert there, this year Tina Turner is supposed to come) but it’s very crowded. There are no parking loots, beaches are overcrowded, and there are just too many people during the high season. Soon, when we went on an evening walk to Budva, we experienced that as well. I couldn’t even take a photo, because everywhere huge groups of people appeared (I think it’s the best to go to a beach in the evening and explore a city in the morning… ). I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the narrow streets and the old town neither, because it was impossible to walk and look around and see anything… We went quickly through the streets with tacky stalls, funfairs, circus and other commercial “money-exploiters’ and soon we arrived to our peaceful camping…

Oh, and we also hitchhiked to a town called Sveti Stefan. Admired in all the tourists guides because of the island, which hosts a castle. But it was closed. Well, maybe it is charming, but not as attractive as I though it might be. Then we cooled down in the sea and decided to go through Montenegro as quickly as possible and visit Albania and then Bosnia again. But before it happened we also hitchhiked to a town called Perast. It boasts the staggering number of 600 dwellers and is quite interesting. It spreads along one main street, near the harbour. Perast attracts may tourists, though these are not wild crowds anymore. We crossed the calm streets of the town, admired the landscape with the sea and wonderful mountains and then we hitchhiked to the next place…