It’s a shame we,ve got to leave Croatia, it’s grown on us a little.
Best bits of Croatia,? the amphitheatre at Pula was nice, the many cobbled streets worn smooth and shiny by the thousands of tourists sandles, golden sunsets over the Adriatic, long empty beaches, cheap wine, the ‘look-out for wild boar’ signs, thousands of kittens, big blue skies over calm, clean water and the stunning dramatic coastline, some great camp sites …ho, and Lidl, the last one is just south of Dubrovnik, until we reach Greece.
And so into Montenegro, the border was always going to be a bit of an unknown. No visa required, but I didn’t know how keen they were on other stuff, like insurance or beer, wine or potatoes. Less than an hour south of Dubrovnik, the Croat exit police scan your passport, smile wave you on, shortly after that, the Montenegrin border leaps out at you from a very ordinary looking corner. At least 25 cars in queue before me, so we sit baking in the sun for nearly an hour, ‘Monty’ the man-in-the-box is in no rush, no matter how many vehicles back up. How on earth he stands the heat in that little box in full-on summer sunshine, is beyond comprehension, there’s no evidence of air-con.
We eventually roll along side, the aroma emanating from the box is akin to a teenagers bedroom, “passpor…-vehikl-paper…-green-card!” he barked at me. Handing him the Passports and Charlie’s V5, I was just about to launch into a story about losing the green card, when he barked again “park over there, get green card… come back here!”. He had no intention of hearing any stories, it’s simply, you have one, or you don’t…fact!! Retaining our passports, he pointed out the large parking area next to the office block containing a door with a large green sign, (a nice touch I thought) ‘GREEN CARD OFFICE’. Lady behind the desk, who looks like she hadn’t been let out of the office for a week, relieved me of €18 and informed me ‘15 days is the minimum’, I asked if that ‘includes break-down cover?’…she didn’t seem too impressed by my attempt at humour. Just less than £1 per day, less than I was expecting, still more than I wanted to pay…but hey…we’re legal in Montenegro baby!
Over the next few miles, being officially out of the EU, the differences were not as striking as I would have imagined. But subtle things occasionally did leap out at you, the road condition worsens and varies in width, there’s a bloke on the scooter with no helmet, another scooter bloke with a helmet, but it’s all held together with parcel tape, one careful previous owner. There’s more road-side selling, just lean-to’s gathering as much shade as possible, flogging whatever they can that day. Open ‘Service’ garages spilling out onto the pavement where ‘skilled blokes’ with oil-black hands squat and whack steel wheels with a 5lb lump hammer, always. And rubbish…more rubbish than Croatia. But it’s not all bad, just simpler, more rural…real and…er, ‘unkempt’ may be the polite word to use at a dinner party. The bloke at the post-card manufacture’s who edits the photo’s of Montenegro is going to be very busy. On the plus side, we are back using the Euro…how does that work? we’ve just officially left Europe! There are stories of money laundering on a colossal scale in a country using the Euro, but not in Europe. Roads built with (EU money) that never saw a vehicle, hospitals that never saw a patient, the list goes on…some one’s got a big house! possibly in Russia. While everything around you looks a bit tired, a bit, ‘unkempt’, the umpteen fuel stations look brand new. Pump jockeys polish gleaming equipment and sweep pristine floors, when have you ever seen a fuel station floor without stains? There are so many of them too, almost one every kilometre! There’s money in retail fuel, of that, there is no doubt! There also seems to be a set price of €0.99c/l across the board, every brand of station…how odd!
You have the option of 2 routes when entering Monty from the north, jump on a ferry from Kamenari to Tivat, or drive around the ‘Bay of Kotor’. Is it the sheer-sidedness of the hills that plunge into the water that make it look so stunning, or are we back in Norway? We pootle around the edge find a spot next to a graveyard on the road out of Kotor (city?) and have a stroll around the old town inside the walls. Again, a limestone ‘walled-in’ settlement of old, like Dubrovnik, Ston and Trogir, pleasant enough in autumn/winter but I should imagine it’s a nightmare in July & August when rammed with tourists. The cat theme continues!
I noticed on the map there’s an interesting looking section of road behind Kotor on the R1. It has 24 zigzags straight up the hill for a stunning bird’s-eye-view of Kotor and the valleys, bays and towns below. On a clear day like today…stunning, though the road did get the old ticker going a bit, up and down. I only had to reverse 3 times, twice uphill and around hairpin bends to allow full length coaches pass us coming up…nutters!…such fun we have!
The drive down the Monty coast was interesting enough, but much of the coast is obscured from view due to private property on the water’s edge, the road darts inland again and again to avoid them, unlike Croatia. I’d read on the web that Sveti Stefan island was closed up for the winter, so we just swung by for a quick glimpse, then pushed on.
Just as I finished commenting on how good the roads were, soon after a town called ‘Bar’, our Oracle of all things tarmac based suddenly piped up -“Sharp left”, so as instructed, I turned off the nice smooth E752 onto a ‘just wide enough for two cars to pass at 30mph track’, having to slow down and run off the road several times to let stuff pass for the next 10km. But we passed interesting ‘back-water’ villages along the route, eventually popping back onto the E752. Main roads are so boring! Imagine driving the full length of the A1 in the UK & declaring “we’ve done England!”.
Only 2 days in the country, but at only 75 miles long from top to bottom, Monty’s mostly reasonable coastal road is over in a flash, certainly before we expected it, the Albanian border was suddenly upon us.
Sleep Spots, Montenegro- Kotor bay, n42.44714 e18.75459 as in the video above.
Albania very soon…Cheers Wayne.