Balkans 2014 travel blog

Storm flooded the streets

Double rainbow after the storm

The "Miami" of Montenegro

Sunset on the Adriatic

President Woodrow Wilson

My private bunk-room

The only plans for today are to get out of Albania!

My original plan was to visit one or more of the coastal cities in Montenegro: Bar, Budva and/or Kotor. I knew that there were no trains to any of these destinations and that Albania's bus system is difficult to follow. An Internet search only showed one transit headed to Kotor and it only ran on certain days of the week. One of those days is today! I did not want to spend three more days in Albania with feather pillows so I immediately called the company that listed the transit to Kotor. Yes, they had room for me. They had a car traveling from Tirana to Kotor today at 14:00 (2pm). It will leave from the Et'hem Bey Mosque. (I told you there are no bus stations in Tirana.) She said the driver's name was "Dean” (or, at least, that's what I heard). And, there would be a sign on the car saying: “Montenegro Travel”. She emphasized that I must get there by 14:00 or they would leave without me.

Since it was only 10:30, I figured I had plenty of time. I packed my bags, left them with the front desk, checked out of my room, and headed out. For lunch, I bought a large gyro sandwich with french fries embedded in the gyro for 150 lev ($1.50). It was delicious!

After a while, it started to rain, so, I headed back to my hotel and waited in their lobby until 13:00 (1pm). Then, I claimed my bag and had them call a taxi for me. They said the taxi would arrive in 5 minutes. After waiting 11 minutes, the taxi showed up. It was now 13:16, still plenty of time to catch my ride.

We would have been fine, except the driver didn't seem to know where Et'hem Bey Mosque is! He had me talk to his dispatcher. I carefully explained that I was meeting what I thought was a mini-bus in front of Et'hem Bey Mosque and added that the mosque was at Skandbeg Square.

By 13:36, we arrived at a mosque and there were mini-buses loading. The taxi meter read 1,450 lev. My driver didn't seem to know where he was going. He started driving around the block asking questions of bystanders. By the third time around the block, he left me off at the very same place we had first seen a mosque. It was now 13:50 and his taxi meter now showed 1,530 lev. I got out of the taxi and handed him 1,500 lev. It looked like he wanted to complain. Seeing my stern, disapproving face, he decided not to object and accepted the 1,500 lev.

I now had 10 minutes to find my transport. I walked up to the mosque and asked “Et'hem Bey?” Several people said, “yes”. Good! At least the taxi driver had left me off at the right mosque. Seeing my distress, a nice gentleman offered, in English, “Are you looking for something?” I tried to explain my situation but it was more than his English could take in. He walked me to a nearby office where he knew that someone spoke English. She found me someone who had heard of Montenegro Travel. And this man confirmed that I was in the right place. After a little searching, I found a car with the sign “Montenegro Travel” on the side. I gave a “thumbs up” sign to the three people who had just helped me.

Now, I had a different problem. There was no driver! OK. I now know for certain that I'm in the right place. Is this the right time?

At 14:15, the driver showed up and said we were waiting or two more passengers. Yeah! I'm actually going to get out of Albania today!

At 14:40, the other passengers arrived and we all got into the car. Apparently the instructions that I must be there precisely at 14:00 or be left behind were a little too optimistic on their part.

We now had 5 adults stuffed in a 5-passenger car for a 5-hour ride through mountain passes. Oh, what fun! There were three of us squeezed in the back seat. I kept reminding myself that I had found no other options. This was my only hope of getting away from feather pillows!

We stopped for a quick break at a beach called the “Miami of Montenegro”, which is actually part of Budva. It does look a lot like Miami. What do you think? (See picture.) Knowing that I'm from the United States, the driver pointed out a bust of President Woodrow Wilson. I guess he visited here and made quite an impression!

Although my earlier plans were to go to Kotor. We were now in Budva, which was one of the cities that I planned to visit. The driver lives in Budva and was only going on to Kotor for me. He made some quick phone calls and arranged for me to stay at the Montenegro Hostel in Budva.

The charge was only 8 Euro ($12) for the night.

First the bad news. This was for a bed in an 8 bunk-bed dormitory. I was to be in the “blue” bunk-room which is on the third floor. And, there is no elevator. The Hostel is in the center of the “Old Town” district, which my guidebook says is extremely noisy with the bars blaring music until 1am.

Now the good news. Because it is the off-season, very few people were staying at the hostel. They were able to give me the entire bunk-room to myself. Again, because it is the off-season, the bars were closed. The only sounds I heard in my room were the church bells (which rang every hour, on the hour, all night).

And, finally, the best news. No feathers anywhere. The hostel frequently washes their pillows so that were able to guarantee that they weren't feather pillows. They had no comforters just blankets, which couldn't possibly have feathers. A good nights sleep for only $12. Alright!

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