Monday, 22 August 2011

Days 4-5 - 22-23rd August 2011 – Ulcinj, Montenegro

Since we're scheduled to go to Albania tomorrow, we had the whole day free today. As we had already done everything that it's possible to do in the area where we're staying, we decided to take a bus to the centre of Ulcinj to discover the delights of the city. Taking a bus here is not such a simple endeavour as it back home here, however. The Montenegrins here have no real sense of time (who would, if they lived here?) so you simply go to the the established point for being picked up (which every local knows) and wait for a minivan to arrive. Each of these minivans carries 8-10 people, costs €1 per person and doesn't set off until the bus is full. However, the end of the season is approaching now and we were the only two in the bus, so the driver took us to the centre for just €1.50 each, which we thought was very reasonable.

We started our exploration of the city by going down the main street on which we had been dropped off and looked at the connections to other places from the bus station. There are buses from here to other cities in Montenegro (Bar, Budva, Podgorica and so on) and buses to other cities in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and so. Although in theory you could simply jump on any of these buses and pay for the ticket, it's important to think about where you're going in advance and whether you will need more than just a valid passport to be stamped upon arrival. Although things are progressing quite swiftly in the region, some of the countries are still somewhat politically sensitive areas that have not yet fully opened up border access.

After leaving the bus station we headed towards the main part of the city, down the long street leading to the Mala Plaza (Little beach). Along the way are plenty of shops selling holiday essentials, fast food and ice cream, and all at a very reasonable price in comparison to Western European holiday areas. Since we didn't fancy fast food however, helped ourselves to a banana icecream before heading down to the beach front, where a completely packed, but very cosy beach stands in front of us with amazing views. The good thing here is that it's possible to swim safely as in many places the water isn't deep and there are barriers across the water to indicate how far it is safe to swim out, so there are generally no problems.

After spending a little time on the seafront, we made our way up to the Old Town (Stari Grad), the only part of town not to have been levelled by a 1979 earthquake. The Old Town is a maze of narrow lanes and tall(ish) stone buildings and is in complete contrast to the somewhat run down modern centre of town, which is almost completely devoid of any real character. The Old Town has the feel of somewhere eastern or oriental such as Morocco or somewhere in Turkey, and is very appealing. Since it also stands on a rocky promontory, the views are sensational. Also up here are some of the better restaurants and places to eat. We decided to choose one of the places with a nice view and ordered potatoes and salad and chips and cheese omelette for Dad(!!). Surprisingly, the omelette was very good and had the most wonderful cheese on top and inside – at only €4 this was quite a bargain and I think we'll definitely return for more. The potatoes and salad servings were also more than enough for two people so it's possible to eat and drink plenty for €10-15 per person, even less if you're careful.

On the way back down from the Old Town, we finally bumped into Damian and Ira, the friends we came here with but got separated from on the first day. It turns out they are staying down here at the small beach whilst we are out of town at the big beach. Although this might seem fortunate for them at first, we are in a quiet location in a residential area and have water all day, whilst they told us that theirs turns off at night, so they don't have a constant water supply. This is a problem in some regions of the country, especially in the summer time when the system can be overloaded. Damian told us where he and Ira are staying and invited us over later, but when we called they weren't in so we are just going to meet them tomorrow on the bus to Albania instead.

After this we ate another ice cream for only 50 cents (Chocolate and vanilla for me, kiwi and vanilla for Dad), got a few more essentials from the supermarket in town, which had a bigger choice than the one where we are, and went in search of one of the minivans back to where we're staying. Fortunately, there were quite a few waiting and one was nearly full so we got off in good time. Since it's getting dark I'm not going to get chance for a swim today (again!!) but sure I will try it at least once before going home. Now we're off out to the internet cafe!

Link to Day 6:

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