SO MANY MILES TO WANDER
There is always a reason for every trip that I make and the reason to go to Serbia and Montenegro was a train trip. What I knew about these two countries was the war, not a long time ago; and Kotor, which I always connected to cruise ships. However I read an article online on The Guardian about a train trip from Belgrade in Serbia to Bar in Montenegro; well I love trains so I simply had to do it, so I started to plan the trip and after maybe 5 plans, I finally got to the one I thought it would be perfect.
The less expensive flight was heading to Belgrade, where I spent two nights. I arrived on a Saturday, when the Belgrade marathon was still happening and the finish line was next to the place where I was staying. I needed to walk, so I went to visit Temple of Saint Sava and it was perfect timing, because a wedding was happening, so there where street musicians (at least it looked like that) playing music and singing. The guests were dancing just outside the church while the newly wedding couple was still inside. It was such a great moment. Next I went to Church of Saint Mark and I must say I liked this one more. The rest of the afternoon I strolled the streets and stopped at a nice coffeeshop, and there were plenty of cool ones. The day after I took the train to Novi Sad; the city was quite empty when I arrived, at least at Stari Grad where I rambled through the streets; but then you see people walking to the mass and the restaurants start to put tables and chairs outside. I spent the rest of the day walking in Belgrade and visiting the Citadel, which has amazing views over the confluence of the rivers Danube and Sava; and when the skies turned completely clear, it was really nice to sit on a bench and enjoy the daily life on a Sunday.
I decided to fly from Belgrade to Tivat to save some time, I knew the airport in Tivat is pretty close to water, so for a moment I thought we would be landing in the water. But it is worthwhile to fly to Tivat because the views are pretty awesome when arriving to the bay. Then I took a taxi to the bus station (there are no public bus, just beware of the price they want to charge, they will try to make you pay 10€ for a five minute trip, you can even walk). Then the bus to Herceg Novi takes me around the bay with a shortcut, the bus took the ferry between Lepetane and Kamenari.
Herceg Novi is pretty nice, I really enjoyed it, just keep in mind that to stroll around Stari Grad, you will have quite a few steps. I walked the Šetalište Pet Danica, a waterfront that goes from Meljine to Igalo, I enjoyed more the way to Meljine, it’s nicer; however I turned back when I come across some constructions. In my opinion the construction in the Bay is loosing control, I really hope someone will put an end to this boom, or else the beauty of the Bay might be ruined. Probably the highlight in Herceg Novi was visiting Kanli Kula, it was a small preparation to the Castle in Kotor, because I probably climbed more than 400 steps starting at the waterfront. The views from up there are stunning; and to finish my day I went to the waterfront close to a fisherman, the temperature was quite warm until the sunset, then it starts to get a bit cold.
It’s time to get another bus, the worst part is climbing the steps till the main road, I climbed half, stop at the bakery and then continued. I chose a bus that I knew it would go around the Bay till Kotor, and it was a great choice, because it is a very beautiful road trip.
When I arrived to Kotor, there were still some tourist groups visiting the streets and the main spots, so I looked for less busy streets. Before sunset, Kotor became almost empty when the groups were gone.
To climb to the Castle, there are two entrances to the Town Walls and you just need to climb around 1350 steps if you want to reach the Castle of San Giovanni. I decided to go early in the morning while the sun is still behind the mountains, so around 08 AM. There weren’t many people, probably less than 10 people; I wasn’t in a rush, so I just went slowly counting the steps and stopping to drink sips of water and to enjoy the view. It took me around an hour to get to the Castle and got a bit emotional because the view is breathtaking and that is why I stayed there one hour just appreciating the beauty of the Bay of Kotor. The path got busier when heading down, the tourists from the cruise ship where coming.
Honestly I thought it would be more difficult than it was, because it is a long way up and the steps are not very regular; but it’s easy when nobody rushes you, you make stops once a while just to get your breath back and start the climbing at the fresh in the morning.
In the afternoon, I went in a speed boat to see the Our Lady of the Rocks and Perast, the boat docked in both places, so we could visit the church and walk around a bit in the streets of Perast passing by all those palaces. However, it is pretty nice to see Perast from outside.
Even with the cruise ships coming to Kotor, fortunately they don’t stay for a long time and they don’t go everywhere (even being Kotor so small), so it was still possible to find peaceful streets. Also, outside (on the way to the Bus Station), where there are some fishing nets and fishers, it is a great place to enjoy the sunset.
In less than one hour by bus, again, I arrived at Budva, from the main station to Stari Grad is about 30 minutes walking, but for me Stari Grad is basically what Budva has of interest, I wasn’t interested at the parties as Budva is a bit known. However I was close to Sveti Stefan, so I took a bus to visit this forbidden place…well the rich people can go there. From the beach, you can see this fortified island village, which is a closed resort, so unless you have almost 1000 euros to spend the night; that is the only view you will get…what a pitty. I walked through a path full of pine and olive trees, till I reached Miločer beach, I could cross the beach, and there wasn’t a lot of people, however in high season I think a fee would have to be paid if you want to lay down. For me, that doesn’t make any sense, in my country we have a beautiful coast and fortunately the coast is all free (at least I was never asked to pay to lay down on a beach).
There isn’t a direct bus to Virpazar, so I decided to take the bus to Sutomore and then from there the train to Virpazar, unfortunately most of the train trip was inside a tunnel.
In Virpazar, I rented a boat that would take me in a tour to the Lake Skadar. For a moment, I felt I was back to Botswana, going through the reeds, however without the hippos. It was quite nice and peaceful, we visited the Kom monastery which has marvelous views of the lake and it can be reached by road when the water is lower.
The day after, I crossed the railroad and waited by the road for the bus to take me to Podgorica. I still had time to visit Podgorica, I wasn’t expecting a lot, from what I read it didn’t seem a pretty city, however I ended up enjoying it. It has a few nice gardens and it is very pleasant to walk by the river with crystal clear water. I also crossed the bridge to visit the Petrović Palace which is located next to the USA Embassy.
And then the day of the train trip has come, yes it would be 10 hours on a train…but it’s a train, it wasn’t definitely as bad as the 12 hour bus in Ecuador; on a train you can walk and strecth. It was like going back 30 years when the trains in Portugal used to have compartments and people were allowed to smoke inside the train. I shared the compartment with three girls, however I spent maybe the first 4/5 hours by the window outside the compartment, because it had the best view. So I started in Podgorica with maybe a 30 minutes delay and till we left Montenegro the rails were up in the mountains with a river at the bottom; I almost couldn’t enjoy the view, because as we exit a tunnel, we enter another one; so sometimes, I only had few seconds to enjoy those amazing views. After crossing the frontier to Serbia, the magnificent views continue, not so high in the mountains anymore and a different landscape, but still going side by side with the river. It is definitely an awesome trip with magnificent views.
I arrived in Belgrade at sunset, so not a lot of time to stroll around and I had an early flight.
My connection was in Amsterdam, a 12 hour one; I wasn’t going to stay at the airport and I had been to Amsterdam before, so I decided to take the train to Rotterdam and visit Kinderdijk, the mills. I walked around 2 hours in the paths that take you to the mills. Some of them are private and still working.
I visited a bit of two countries I had never had on my mind to visit and now after the trip I look forward to go back and visit the rest.