Friday 2 September 2011

August 17-20 :: Montenegro

Once we cross the border from Albania into Montenegro we head for the Adriatic coast and then follow it north along the scenic coast to Budva. We arrive at Hotel Kangaroo late afternoon and immediately set off for the bay and then walk along the coast to the Old Town.

Church of St John…,    from Balkans 2011
The Old Town is Venetian in style and the buildings are in great condition since they were rebuilt after an earthquake in 1979. The Old Town sits on a peninsula, that was once an island, and has great views along the coast in both directions. There are four churches and a couple of museums as well as the shops and restaurants you would expect to find in this major tourist destination. One evening we ate an excellent meal at the tiny restaurant Knez Knoba.
On we take a bus to the nearby medieval walled town of Kotor, another UNESCO World Heritage site. From the bus station it is a short walk to the Old Town which we enter through the South Gate. We meander around for a while before arriving in the northeast of the old town and Church of St Maria which is where the start of the walk up along the old fortress begins. Lynn had sprained her ankle in Ohrid and wisely decided not to make the climb. The serpentine track includes stretches of steps, many of which are worn, leads past the Church of Our Lady of Remedy and eventually to St John's castle (San Giovanni castel). It took me 25 minutes to reach the top and that included stops to explore some of the fortifications and take in the view over Kotor and the bay. From bottom to top it is a vertical climb of ~225m.
Once I return to the Old Town I have a couple of hours to kill before I meet up with Lynn, the climb took much less time than I had been led to believe. I walked from the north gate along the north wall which borders the Skurda River and took advantage of the elevated view of the Old Town. I revisited a few areas before settling in to a small bar tucked away near the Church of St Luke.
After meeting Lynn we made our way slowly back through Kotor before catching a bus back to Budva. Lynn took the opportunity for one more visit to the sea before spending the evening back in the Old Town for dinner.

Ostrog Monastery…,    from Balkans 2011

It is time to leave the coast and we head inland over the mountains and skirt the capital city of Podgorica and turning northwest through the Bjelopavlici plain towards Nikšic. Our destination is the Ostrog monastery. Our accommodation for the night is Hotel Koliba, Bogetici, a longish walk, or short ride to the monastery. The hotel is very pleasant with nice rooms, nice views and good food.
We are still in our private minibus so we opt to use it for the trip to the monastery. The bus breaks down and some of us decide to walk rather than wait for it to be fixed. As is turned out we were only about 15 minutes walk away so it had been a good decision. We start at the bottom with the Ostrog Monastery - lower church. We then start the climb to the upper church but after only a short distance we find another church, name unknown. You could walk a long gently inclined route along the road to the upper church, alternatively you can follow the much steeper, but shorter path. Lynn's ankle was still unreliable so she continued to explore the lower church while I took the path to the top. It was a hot day but much on the path in th shade of trees so not too much of a problem. The complex at the upper church is quite extensive and there was a long, slow moving queue of people waiting to enter the Ostrog Monastery. I have queuing and gave the opportunity to see inside a miss though I did look inside some of the other features. There were a lot of pilgrims visiting and a lot of them were camped out waiting for a miracle. After a while I realised that our guide was here and that she had arranged a replacement bus and everyone was now at the upper church. A few of us, including Lynn, arranged to meet back at the lower church before walking back down the path. I must have been intent on climbing up and didn't notice fellow walkers but on the way down I noticed a lot of what must have been pilgrims climbing barefoot.
That's it for Montenegro, now we head for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Map of the route.

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