Ulcinj, Montenegro

Trip Start May 27, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

8/4 It was really wonderful to fly back to Dubrovnik with so many great memories from the trip last summer with Ruben and Lee. It was also sad since I wish they were with me again since it would be so much more fun.

I had decided to visit Montenegro first and then come back to Dubrovnik later on my trip. The busses to Montenegro don't stop at the airport despite going right past it so I had to take a taki to the main bus station in town. Along the way I kept remembering times from last year. Not much has changed. The taxi driver said that it had not rained in 70 days so the city wasn't as green as last year.

The non-stop bus to Ulcinj was full so I had to break the trip up and just do individual segments that would get me there. I had read about what a nice beach town Ulcinj was and I entertained thoughts of going to Albania since Ulcinj is on the border. My first full bus went to the busy beach town of Herceg Novi.

Herceg Novi was an absolute zoo. There were people everywhere and the only real road in town was the two lane highway that was practically pedestrianized. Cars were all backed up but we eventually got through. My next segment was to Bar. My nerve pain had finally started to subside so I was able to finish The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Matt made the recommendation and it was a terrific book! I don't know how any one person can possess the vocabulary that the author has but the writing was riveting and the story memorable.

At Bar another bus was getting ready to leave for Ulcinj so I hopped on and had no wait time. Thankfully this bus was not full. This stretch of coast was easily the most scenic of the day. The coast was populated with small cliffs and the occasional sandy beach. Taking the bus the length of the Montenegran coast was a good idea since I could see the places that looked attractive and figure out if I wanted to spend more time on the way back to Dubrovnik.

Arriving in Ulcinj, I had no place to stay but had read that private accommodations were plentiful. I walked across the street to an information office and a man there told me of an apartment he had. It was only 20E so I took it. The apartment sounded nice and I was tired.

The town is pretty spread out and the bus station is in the boonies. The apartment had a sea view with a nice patio under a canopy of grape and kiwi vines. The sea looked beautiful. The apartment was up an unpaved road which is not all that unusual here. The apartment would be fine although it was missing a window in the bathroom which provided open access to thiefs.

I unpacked and walked in to see the town. It was a short walk but all along the way I saw plenty of litter. People seem to treat the cities in Montenegro as their own personal garbage cans. There are more trees here than in Croatia despite Ulcinj not having had rain all summer as well.

Little Beach is the main beach right in the middle of town. It was packed. There was not a sliver of space anywhere. I think all of Montenegro and Albania must come here. It is a pretty beach in a perfect setting. The town reminds me of those classic small beach towns like Carolina Beach, Jamaica Beach and Rehoboth Beach. There are only a couple of hotels with most everyone staying in private lodging.

The town did not have Coke Light or Coke Zero anywhere. Granted the people here are in great shape but I was disappointed with this void. I did take note of the lower prices here than what I had been paying throughout Europe. There were numerous Internet cafes for only 1E an hour which is a fraction of the usual price.

I worked on the Internet and then left to return to my apartment. I was trapped in this mass movement of humans on the way. The small promenade between the street and the rock wall of Little Beach were jammed with bodies. Lots of high school kids were in town and they were all dressed to impress. Lots of people had ice cream while they strolled. It was really quite a pleasant sight to see so many people enjoying a nice summer night at the beach.

There was a pizza place very close to the apartment so I stopped in for a pizza. Again, I had another great pizza. This one was even better because it was cheap, 3.5E or about $4. I started the new Lee Child book on the outdoor patio. The weather was great with a cooling breeze.

8/5 I slept well with the breeze coming through my hurricane shutters. When I walked into town the beach was already filling up with people claiming their spots very early in the morning. I walked through the small town and most shops were either food outlets or some other travel-related function. Through town there was still a serious litter problem. There were also countless buildings in a state of disrepair or initial construction.

The most beautiful beach in Montenegro I was told was Ada Bojana which is very close to Ulcinj. I hopped on a minibus which took me there for 6E. Along the way we dropped people off at different beaches that all were packed and seemed very family-oriented. You had to pay to enter each one.

I was let out at the entrance to Ada Bojana and went over to ask these two guys at the entrance if I needed to buy a ticket. With their limited English they told me that the island was private and for hotel guests only. I protested and said every guide book talks about Ada Bojana and nowhere does it mention that the island is private. While I was there a German girl came up and she had the same issue. There was not another nearby beach so I was faced with the prospect of getting another taxi to take my back.

Instead I crossed back over the bridge and walked along the Bojana River to the beach opposite Ada Bojana. It was an ugly beach because it was full of trash. In the private beach areas the sand was generally cleaned but in the other beaches the trash was scattered everywhere. It was such a disgrace since the beach could have been so much nicer.

I walked down the beach looking for a good place to settle. It was extremely windy and there were several kitesurfing schools as well as plenty of windsurfers. I knew I would have to take a minibus back to Ulcinj from the Copacobana Beach since it was the first big beach I would come to. I settled close to Copacabana but not in it to avoid the charge.

The minibus back was only 1.5E but we just sat in traffic the whole time. The little 2 lane coastal roads are not built for all of the beach traffic. We just inched along. I wondered where all of these people were staying since there are just so many private accommodations available. In town the streets were bustling with tons of tourists having descended upon the town.

I walked back to the Internet place and enjoyed the busy evening scene on the Promenade. The Internet cafe actually had 10 of its terminals outside so I could get a breeze, hear the sea, and enjoy the atmosphere. I was trying to figure out where to go after Ulcinj. There were plenty of very pink people walking around.

Afterwards I went back to my pizza place and ordered the mushroom pizza again. I just loved the low prices in Montenegro! A small bottle of Coke was 79 Euro cents in Ulcinj compared with 2.50E or 3E in Viareggio, Siena, Budapest and others.

8/6 I was up early again and tried to figure out what I should do today. Originally I was going to Albania but I scratched that. I walked along the ridge above town to see the old town. It is mainly private apartments with a couple of restaurants so the buildings themselves are the only sight. I then walked along the coast to find a quiet beach. After the private beaches I actually found a free one that had a few lounge chairs. I finished the Lee Child book which was another excellent thriller from him.

Our Croatian tour guide last year told us that Montenegrans are the tallest people in the world. I believe her. The men all look pretty gaunt but typically have 6 pack abs that I would gladly trade for. The men here have a lot of Arab features which is not a good thing but seems OK on the women. All of the women look a lot like Cher and have a harsh, deep voice.

The people don't seem very friendly and customer service is still a foreign concept. I'll get answers to questions that I'll find out later are wrong. Typically if you ask a "can you" question the answer will be no. Can you take the bus to xyz? No. But you can. It's frustrating. Maybe they just say "no" if they don't know. Maybe if I understood the language better I wouldn't have these problems but I have heard similar comments from people that do speak the language.

8/7 Last night I had spoken with a girl from Basel, Switzerland staying at the same apartment I was. We talked for a long time and she told me of her month in Serbia at a language school. We were both going north on the bus today so we agreed to walk together to the station. It was a long, long way! I was a total sweaty mess by the time I got to the bus station. Headed north after an interesting few days in Ulcinj.

I was really disappointed with all of the trash everywhere and the incredible lack of personal responsibility shown. The people were not friendly and there were no real sights to see. I had hoped to see Albania but after visiting this Albanian-dominated town I quickly changed my mind. It was educational but I'm headed north now to a more civilized society.
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