Totally its own country!

Trip Start Mar 11, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Monday, July 3, 2006

This post could really have been placed anywhere between Istanbul and Dubrovnik, but I chose to list it here because Montenegro was the only Balkan country in which we actually spent the night in a real bed, not on a train.  I was tickled by the fact that Montenegro is in fact now its own country (that 6-0 thrashing by Argentina in the World Cup first round must've been the last straw leading to Serbia and Montenegro's breakup) and also that we met a guy there from Cal, who runs a hostel in Budva , which is in Montenegro, which I might mention is its own country now.
Please also forgive this not being the most coherent post, as it was a pretty blurry two-day crossing overland from Istanbul, Turkey to Dubrovnik, Croatia.  First of all, despite the wonderful power of the internets and the google, we believed it could be done overland but found no conclusive or instructions how.  The first step, we reckoned, was to get to Nis , Serbia via Sofia, Bulgaria, where I was able to use one last bit of Russian to buy potato chips during the brief stopover.  Arriving in Nis , 3 hours late due to delays in Turkish, Bulgarian, and Serbian/Montenegren customs, we continued to raise the bar on our record for most bass-ackwards lucky travelers ever, arriving in town just a few hours before a train that is not even supposed to exist was to leave for Bar, Montenegro.  With a little time to kill and needing local cash to score the tickets, we headed into town where Ryan, true to his duty, got a pizza in him (Bulgaria didn't count on his quest because he never left the train).  We walked back in a hurry beneath the light rain to catch the train that doesn't exist to Bar on an imaginary rail like that is made of moonbeams and powered by unicorns.  Scheduled for 8:50pm, it predictably didn't leave until 11:00, probably because they were still building the tracks.
Striking gold with an empty reserved cab that allowed us to avoid sleeping next to the shady guy who smelled like feet, we had a rest and woke up in Montenegro which, as it turns out, had been de facto separated from Serbia for many years to that point but just voted it in officially 4 months or so prior, and even were to shortly have their own UN representative.
We got to Bar at 1pm, walked to the nearby bus station, and I broke one of my personal rules of travel, which is "never get hurried or quickly hustled into anything: if it's legit you'll be allowed to take your time."  Nevertheless, we were urgently waved onto the bus by the young woman with cracked yellow teeth and told it was was the "only to Dubrovnik" that day.  Fair enough, but when we ended in Budva instead and were told again that another bus was the "only to Dubrovnik" that day, I was not about to get snookered and we firmly stepped off to the side to plan our next move.  The first part of our new plan was to realize 3 minutes later that, in fact, the bus that we just watched roll away was the "only to Dubrovnik" that day.
After a brief flirtation with the notion of hitchhiking to Croatia with Frankie the vagabond Scot who had only 25 euro, 50 unexchangeable bits of Romanian currency, and 2 weeks to get to and survive in Budapest, we had a good and needed chat to clear the air, settle on a plan, and set on a quest for Hippo Hostel, the only in Budva , in the middle of a freak rainstorm.
While settling at Hippo's I caught a glimpse of both Oski and matrushka dolls as it turned out that Dave and his Slavic bride Nadia who together ran the joint represented two of my favorite sets of folks: Cal alumni and people who laugh when I speak Russian.  A what are the chances moment: we were the 3rd and 4th Cal alums to come by Hippo's in the past several months since the place had opened, all of being Engineering Physics majors.  To complete the randomness of sleeping at a place run by a Cal guy who attracts EPers in a city I'd never heard of in a country I didn't realize existed, we played 8-bit Nintendo baseball, watched Anchorman, and tool the international crew out to a Eastern European dance club right out of Eurotrip , with a full 2L of something strong for only a euro and a half!
Late the next morning I had a walk into town on the beat of my iPod to exchange our thousands of Serbian dinars for about 20 bucks.  The fact that no one in Montenegro gave two rats asses about my wad of dinars further clued me into the fact that Montenegro is, in fact, its own country.  We went for a bite and Ryan somehow managed to keep his pizza streak alive.  Well, in the interest of full disclosure, he failed in Ukraine but I contend that we ate so much
Sbarro's in Russia every time that Lenin ne rabotayet that the mozzarella couldn't have possibly managed to completely leave his system by the time our time in Ukraine were up, especially as I believe he was back on his Imodium regiment at the time.  Plus, as Ryan was convinced, the place was the "same as Russian anyway."
Same or not, soon thereafter we were on our way on the actual "only to Dubrovnik" that day with the older woman in back batting her eyes at us much to the anger of her bus driver husband.  From what I gathered, she does this a lot.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes the best plans are none at all.
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