Exploring The Balkans travel blog

View of the old fort as we sail out from HertzegNovi

Ou lady of The Rock church built on a man made island...


Couples married in OLR leave a bouquet or piece of wedding apparel...

An embroidery in OLR made by 1 lady with gold and silver...

Catholic cathedral at Kotor destroyed by earthquakes 3 times and rebuilt

Bazaar at Kotor

Marble Altar in one of the chrches

Drinks before final convention dinner

Kotor walls at night

View towards Our Lady of the rocks

Bud a playground of the rich and famous including James Bond

Madonna held a big party on this beach

More Montenegro coastal views

Coastal Montenegro

Island of St Stephen now a hotel of the Annan Group

This is a small country. Only 600,000 Montenegrins. We came down to Herzeg Novi by bus and that is where we’ve spent 2 nights. It is the Palmon Bay Resort with 2 pools, 1 indoor and 1 outside with bar etc. There is gym equipment, a spa and it’s located right on the Bay of Kotor at it’s northern tip — for those who can be bothered looking at a map. But we’ve been busy and sadly have not been able to make use of all these facilities. There are lots of middle aged couples staying here as well, the women of all sizes (mostly pretty plump) all in their bikinis so I was looking forward to putting myself amongst them in my demure 1 piece bathers and feeling thin for a change! Yesterday was a nice sunny day and we spent half of it in the conference room. We have been dutiful delegates at the conference which finished yesterday. Mark has found the medical lectures interesting and appropriate and I have been in the practice management parallel conference. If Pat hears of this please reassure her that I am not after her job! In fact I spent the first little while in there wondering what was wrong with me since I won’t be working for much longer at all anyway. But I found the camaraderie great and the information too. A lot of it helped frame and name a lot of what I’ve experienced over the years working in the practice and that I found really interesting. We have met quite a varied lot of people and that has worked out well. A whole lot depart today for various places, quite a few home and others on to Greece/Italy/London etc. I’m not sure how many of us continue on - all will be revealed in about half an hour when we hop on a bus and head over the border to Albania.

But first, more about Montenegro. We walked around Herzeg Novi - a town considerably smaller than Albury and felt a bit disappointed in this allegedly wealthy country with lazy workers. Too lazy to pick up their rubbish was our first impression. A slightly tatty, down at heel looking place. But it was evening and all the locals were out of their apartments, hanging out on the beach promenade. It’s a great social event every day in so many European cities and one I think lots of Aussies enjoy because it’s so different to us, going to our homes at the end of the day, closing the door and turning on the tele.

As soon as the morning’s meeting was over we hopped into a funny looking boat and headed off to Kotor through the extensive Bay of Kotor - nice calm protected waters. We took Travacalm just in case then, without thinking, drank the glass of wine that came with lunch and I spent the next couple of hours feeling appallingly sleepy while stumbling around the old town of Kotor. Traveling by boat is the best way to see the stunning scenery. Tall, craggy, lightly vegetated mountains dropping all the way down to the waters edge with villages cut into them at various places. We haven’t been to Lake Como but several people seemed to find similarities. The sun was out and we could stand up the top of the boat without being blown away. It was lovely. We all sat at tables and chairs when we first got on to the boat and were served a 3 course lunch. We are constantly overstuffed!

Kotor was all surprise to us. We haven’t had time to do any pre reading about this area so didn’t have any pre conceived ideas. Of course it’s built around the tip of the bay in a beautiful location. There is a modern town but also, like so many places in the Balkans, an old town and we spent all our time there. A short guided tour thankfully with me nodding off in the cathedral as we sat and listened. Then we wandered around the narrow passages hoping to buy some souvenirs/trinkets for the grand girls but couldn’t be tempted by most of the painted magnets and crafty jewelry. There won’t be too many more shopping opportunities so hopefully Albania will be better!

The old town of Kotor is lovely, solid limestone buildings many of which have survived or partially survived 3 earthquakes so there’s been much restoration. These towns are all well preserved and maintained and are just a delight to wander around. It’s no wonder film makers come to these places and feel inspired to film them! As usual there were several churches, an interesting little maritime museum and lots of restaurants. We enjoyed a Campari and soda at one of them. All these towns have walls including this one and the walls climbed very steeply up to the fort positioned on the hill top and then down again - sort of looking like part of the Great Wall of China. At night they light up parts of the wall and it was a very pretty backdrop for our dinner.

This was the last day of the conference so we had the final dinner in Kotor. This was outdoors-our first one-and a lovely mild evening. The 4 course dinner with wine (we haven’t had a bad glass of wine yet) ensured that we all slept the hour return trip on the bus despite a guide talking to us all the way home. We were in bed by midnight.

So a short time in Montenegro. Impressions? Another country blessed with magnificent natural beauty, cheerful people and probably, like the other ex Yugoslav countries, will change substantially over the next 20 years as they break further free from the influences of communism. They use the Euro here even though they’re not part of the Union. Apparently the use of it just ‘came about’ and as they are a relatively insignificant sized country, the EU just went along with it!

Well that was a little premature....we spent another couple of hours driving through Montenegro on our way to Albania and were suitably impressed as we went along. We went through the town of Budva known for being the town where Casino Royale (the Bond movie with Daniel Craig) was filmed. It is a very popular holiday town and looked quite prosperous with many flashy cars driving around. There are lots of hotels being built along the coast near here and yet again this will be an area that will look quite different in just a few years. There is an island along there, accessed by a sandspit with an old monastery that is owned by the super luxury Annan hotel group with rooms starting at €300 per night.

Tonight as I finish this we are ensconced in our hotel in Tirana, Albania up on the 13th floor overlooking a surprisingly modern and large city. The hotel is the newest in town, the tallest building in the city and very nice! It has been an interesting day. More of that soon.

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