At the borders, there are two stops. Twice, Drago has to leave the bus with everyone’s passport. It does not take long. Out of Croatia and into Montenegro, the guards are pleasant. Drago does not like driving in Montenegro; he thinks that his fellow Balkans are “too slow”. “In Croatia, he said, we do things fast.” We, all five passengers taking the trip, do not care much, we are on vacation.
We drive though the mountains. Breathtaking scenery. Impressive. Cetinje is the administrative capital, Podgorica is the commercial, cultural capital. We want to avoid both. We are not into capitals. Let us head toward the party/swimming/shopping/fun places.
Drago, 38, electrician, talks about his country, his family, his future. He is Croat. His wife is Serb. His son is 8, he is bright, too bright. He wants the best for him. He wants the best for his country. He does not want to leave; but he may have to.
It is 10:00 am. It is already three hours since we left Valvamar Lacroma Resort in Dubrovnik, we need a road rest. We drive toward Herceg Novi. Suddenly, across the Bay of Kotor we can see the small town. An Adriatic post card. It has been there since 1382, through wars and storms, through thick and thin. In the bay, lie two islands, side by side, artificial, built by two brothers, two sailors, who married two sisters, and sailed away for ten years. When they came back, both sisters had committed suicide, they could wait that long. The brothers named the islands Saint Marko and Our Lady of the Rocks.
We walk through Herceg Novi. There is a castle, but no real beach. We enter a restaurant whose name is Restoran (simple). Just for coffee and soda. Next stop: Kotor.
The weather is gorgeous; there aren’t many cars on the mountainous roads. Drago wants to know if it is a good idea for his son to skip grades. Not all the time. There is an element of adjustment attached to it. He will have to discuss it with his school psychologist…
We are in Kotor, major destination in Montenegro. Another walled city, founded around 500 BC. Five thousand people live within its walls, 17,000 live outside. I spend two hours visiting the squares, the churches, the arsenal, the clock tower, the barracks, the three gates, and the walls. I buy souvenirs. I take pictures; in a year, I am not sure I will remember what these photographs were about.
Final stop. There would be many more beaches, towns to visit. But it is already 3:00 p.m. Let us drive toward Budva, the Kuwait of Montenegro. It is quiet now. But in a month, it will be summer; it will become party town, for all party animals of the ex-federation. Traffic will be impossible.
The best beaches in Budva are: Mogren, Petrovac, Buljarica, Drobni, Beach for Two (!!)…
At night, for dancing, everyone swears by Trocadero and Sparta. However there is a new club coming to town, not on the beach, but in the mountains. It will be appropriately called Mountain Club. It will be huge. It will have several bars, several floors and a… pool. I guess you can swim after each dance. Will you have to dance in swimsuit?
On the way to Budva, we stop to admire Sveti Stefan, a jewel-island, owned by Marshal Tito. Well, in fact, he did not own it until he decided to kick everyone out and establish his datcha there. Now, it is an hotel. There are several islands in that category in Montenegro. Exclusive. You cannot get in there, unless you register at the hotel for a room ($1,000 to $5,000 a night). Madona and the Rolling Stones gave beach concerts in Budbva, during the last couple of years; I am guessing they stayed at one of these in the company of the Italian and Russian heavyweights who own the places.
The Queen of Montenegro, our hotel, is on top of the hill. We can see it from the highway. Drago has some difficulty getting the bus up there. Finally, we make it. Very, very nice hotel. From the concierge desk, I can see the pool, overlooking the beach. On my right, guess what, a huge flat TV screen. I smile. That is where I will be watching the game; the final between Barcelona and Manchester United will start in five hours. I am sure a large crowd of Partisans will join. I am in room 254….
Herceg Novi Featured Photo via Wikipedia by CC