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Days 9 & 10: Kotor to Dubrovnik via Budva

Sunday was a relaxing day in Kotor. We were slightly perplexed when we woke up and found that there was no electricity, but our landlady soon appeared and reassured us that there had been a power cut in the whole area. I was glad that in an idle moment I had memorised the obscure phrase "Is the heating gas or electric?" from the "Renting a flat in Zagreb" chapter of one of my Croatian textbooks, or I wouldn't have had a clue that "struja" was the word for electricity. Our landlady was amazingly friendly but had taken my admission that I spoke a little bit of the language as a licence to carry on detailed conversations at full speed! My Croatian/Montenegrin was at the stage where I could almost always get the gist of what she was saying, but found it difficult to reply coherently in real time. We managed to communciate though, and the only time she lapsed into broken English was half an hour later when, with the power back on, she reappeared to say that she was baking us burek, but we needed to sit on the terrace for an hour and wait for it. The confusion on my face was more a result of the surprise that she was offering us a burek than that I hadn't understood what she meant, and the general confusion only became greater when she translated this into English as "My cake is ready at one clock" (the word "sat" in Croatian means both "hour" and "clock/watch"). When the burek appeared they were amazing; enormous, still warm and filled with cheese.

The view from our terrace during the day was marred somewhat by the arrival of a massive cruise ship in the Bay of Kotor.


I looked up the name of the ship on the Internet and found it had space for almost 3,000 passengers; a shocking number given that the population of Kotor itself is around 5,000. The majority of those 3,000 people spent the day traipsing around the old town in organised excursion groups and presumably being pleased that they could spend their Euros here after the inconvenience of them not being accepted in Dubrovnik. Montenegro doesn't have its own currency and, after a spell of using the Deutschmark, has adopted the Euro despite not yet being a member of the European Union.

I doubt many of the cruise tourists made it to the top of the fortress and I bet even fewer of them were able to pronounce the word for fortress (tvrđava), which is probably one of the most difficult words I have tried to say this holiday! They certainly all missed the spectacular sight of the fortress walls being illuminated as dusk fell across the bay.


We got a bit complacent about booking bus tickets after our successes on the holiday so far and didn't head out to the bus station a couple of kilometres away until late afternoon in order to book our tickets to Dubrovnik the next day. Imagine our horror then at finding that what we believed to be the only bus of the day - at 14.45 - was already sold out! Thankfully, it turned out that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays there is an additional bus which runs at 15.55 and there were plenty of seats left on that one.

That meant we had almost another day to spend in Montenegro, so the next morning after kissing goodbye to the wonderful landlady and getting permission to leave our suitcases in her garage until later, we set off on an excursion to the nearby town of Budva. Or, perhaps more accurately, we tried to set off on an excursion to the nearby town of Budva...

The timetable at the bus station in Kotor indicated that there were several buses to Budva every hour. Arriving just after ten, I purchased tickets for us on the 10.17 bus and we stood on the platform waiting for it to arrive. Our tickets indicated that we had been allocated seat numbers 33 and 34. No bus appeared at 10.17, but being aware of the relaxed attitude to time-keeping which is prevalent in this part of the world, I wasn't unduly concerned. About 10.25, a minibus pulled into the station. In appearance it was similar to a Ukrainian marshrutka (ie. twenty years past its best!) and, while it did display a small sign on the front indicating that it was going to Budva, it also clearly indicated on the door that it had a capacity of 27+1 people. It couldn't be our bus, then, because we had seats 33 and 34.  There wasn't much space left on it anyway and there was a big queue of people trying to pile on, so we decided to ignore it and hope that our bus would arrive soon.

A few minutes later another bus did arrive. This one was also a minibus, but much emptier, and also displayed a sign on the front which, at first glance, suggested it was going to Budva. Perhaps this was ours, then. Unfortunately, when I approached the bus driver to confirm, he explained that this bus had come from Budva and was going to Herceg Novi. We should have got on the other bus, which had just departed. Oh dear.

Tim went back into the bus station to seek clarification from the woman in the ticket office. When she stated that the 10.17 bus had already left, he explained that there wasn't enough space; we had seats 33 and 34 but there was only place for 27. She shouted back at him in English that the numbers didn't refer to the number of seats on the bus but to the number of tickets which she had sold, ie. she had sold 34 tickets to a 27-seater bus. Right. Okay. In our defence, the numbers did appear next to the word for "seat", but there was nothing for it except to buy two more tickets for the 10.44 bus!

The 10.44 bus, when it arrived, actually resembled a proper bus and had enough space for all the passengers to have a seat. Within half an hour, we had arrived in the seaside town of Budva. We had been motivated to visit it after seeing a beautiful postcard picture of its old town, although the Montenegro guidebook did warn us that it was a busy coastal resort and extremely popular with Russians and Ukrainians on package holidays. The guidebook's adjective "Eurotrashy" was probably a bit unkind, but it was immediately clear that it wasn't quite such a classy resort as Kotor. The extended sprawl of the town gave the impression that anybody who owned a small patch of grass was in the process of selling it to build holiday apartments. There were various signs for strip clubs and the like which gave the impression that it could be a bit seedy after dark. The driving around town was nothing short of manic and the best strategy for crossing the road seemed to be to say a prayer to the Orthodox God and just start walking in the hope that some vehicles might stop.

That said, the old town itself was impressing, with big foreboding walls like in Kotor.


The majority of the historical buildings were destroyed in a serious earthquake in 1979 and the town spent the best part of a decade rebuilding them. The stonework on this little church certainly looked rather new.


Some of the little streets were still very atmospheric though.


The day was a bit cloudy, but from the edge of the old town there was still a lovely view out to sea.


Once we'd seen the main sites, we decided it was better to be safe than sorry and jumped on an early bus back to Kotor. It was a minibus this time, but we managed to get a seat after the driver made two Americans move their oversided rucksacks into the boot. We arrived in Kotor with plenty of time to have lunch, retrieve our suitcases and get back to the bus station for our 15.55 bus to Dubrovnik.

Edited by Clare

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