The Junction
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The Junction

Musings from Montenegro

Journal and personal photographs, Day 6


Friday, March 23rd, 2018 — Kotor — Dubrovnik

The last full day in Montenegro was partly spent in Croatia. After the storm last night we were somewhat wary of road conditions, especially in Bosnia, where we briefly considered going to Trebinje until the forecast of light snow and rain shifted our attention elsewhere. Our last chat with Aleks put us on the trail to Dubrovnik. We left around 10:30, stuck for a while behind a slow-moving truck.

The route took us past Herceg Novi on the way to the border crossing. At first, there seemed to be a problem with the rental car. The border guard pointed at a passage in our rental documents and we assured him we were just heading to Dubrovnik for a few hours, then heading right back. D. suggested we made it through due to the power of my last name. Ha!

Just after crossing the border.

The difference between Montenegro and Croatia was immediate and stark in the quality of roads, which were much smoother and wider. The tourism money and investment from being a member of the EU appears to have paid dividends. Rather than looping around the mountains and bay, it was a straight shot of about 35 km straight into the heart of the city. Parking was a scarce commodity. Eventually, we found a spot down to the road from the cable car that headed up the mountainside.

Sure, I have a picture of just these spectacular walls but then you wouldn’t see this clusterfuck of cars.

I’m quite sure the view from up there is spectacular, but we gave ourselves only about 2 ½ hours to explore before we’d need to start heading back. It’s a shame, really, because the city is a breathtaking place. Perched next to the sea, it is astonishingly well-preserved, with the walls providing a tour around the city. Limestone is everywhere, and the pure white makes a nice contrast with the orange tiled roofs.

Of course, history reminds us of the Yugoslav Wars, which were a powder keg of ethnic conflicts, insurgencies, and the quest for independence, eventually leading to the dissolution of Yugoslavia. I was reminded of the Siege of Dubrovnik, when Serbian forces shelled the city. Montenegro was a part of Serbia in those days, and Croatians have not forgotten. In the face of invasion and death, they stood their ground, won their independence, and rebuilt.

After climbing up some steps to get a better view of a Jesuit church, we had a fine lunch outdoors with blankets and heating lamps — Croatian beer (Ožujsko), a starter with beetroot gnocchi, boar stewed in wine sauce, and breaded veal with salad and shavings of parmesan.

Some more walking, really just a narrow slice of the city rather than a sightseeing tour, then we had to start making our way back to Kotor. There just wasn’t enough time to do everything. It would have been interesting to spend a full day there to be able to see all that it has to offer. Perhaps another trip to, say, Split, will provide an opportunity to return and explore it further. As it stands now, I can’t give a full opinion.

The center of Dubrovnik.

On the way back we stopped for a few photos of the coastline and sea. Croatia, what other secrets are you hiding?

Crossing the border a second time involved more waiting on other people. But after Herceg Novi, it was like cruise control, no need even for the GPS anymore. A brief stop at the inn and we drove back to downtown Kotor for a meal in old town. Except, surprise! Almost every restaurant was closed. It was dead and cold, so we did the only thing worth doing. We stopped in at BBQ Tangja, a small cash-only diner that specializes in grilled meat. It wasn’t exactly the cleanest place but clearly a local favorite.

Would you believe it’s the #1 rated restaurant in Kotor on TripAdvisor? The food was good — huge quantities for the price — but those seeking a fancier, more gastronomic dining experience would be better served at the delicious but more hoity-toity Galion or the more laid-back Ladovina Wine Bar.

Still, that was a tasty burger, with pickled white cabbage, red onions, pickles, and a spread of spicy cheese.

Wake up is at 6:15 for the 2 hour drive back to Podgorica, flight time @11:40. Lovely Montenegro, with a mountain view at nearly every angle, we shall miss you.

The Bay of Kotor at night.

Addendum — June, 28th, 2018 — Angers, France

I didn’t write anymore in my journal after the last full day there. But, that last car ride through the countryside proved memorable. The first half of the week we were there felt like a temperate spring. There were some sunny moments interspersed with rain. By midweek, however, with the weather turning colder, we began to see snow at the peaks of the surrounding rages. For a Midwestern boy like me, who grew up in the flat prairielands of southern Illinois, mountains are still an arresting sight, filling me with awe and whimsy.

When we returned to the airport, we had to pass through a long tunnel that took us back to Lake Skadar. When we emerged on the other side of the range, we were shocked to see a healthy accumulation of snow on the ground. We stopped at the far side of the lake to take in the view. It reminded me of a can of Busch beer.

Head for the mountains.

While there, an old man flagged us down, noting our interest in the lake. He carried a large map with him, and spoke some English. We quickly discerned that he wanted to interest us in visiting his nearby village. He gazed wistfully across the crystal waters of the lake, eyes filled with pride. We said unfortunately we were on our way to the airport, but would keep him in mind should we ever make it back.

This is the last entry of Musings from Montenegro. If you missed out on the others, here are links to days 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

The façade of the B&B in Kotor.
Croatian landscapes and seaside.
More cats & miscellany.

Sittin’ here resting my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone, listen
Two thousand miles I roam
Just to make this dock my home, now

I’m just gon’ sit at the dock of a bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time



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Stephen M. Tomic

Stephen M. Tomic

Fiction writer, Founder and Editor of The Junction :