Secret Honeymoon in Montenegro Part 1: Adriatic Coast and Airbnbs

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We finally got to our honeymoon destination... but to the wrong airport. A day late, thanks to an agent oversight. We were just glad to have arrived.

Our rental car had been cancelled for failing to pick up on the booked for date. The only car they had on hand was of a better quality but of course way more expensive than what we had planned for. We were lucky there were any cars available at all, considering the teeny size of the airport, nothing more than a warehouse.

Also lucky that Montenegro is a small country so we could get to the actual city we were meant to go to within a few hours. The sun was bright and the sky was clear blue and cloudless. It's summer! It's holiday time! Oh my goodness the Montenegrins drive bad! If the car in front is driving too slow, you overtake. It doesn't matter if there's a bend in front and you can't see if there are cars and trucks coming towards you, you just go for it. If the car fits, it's a parking spot. It's crazy.

I loved that each of the accommodations the hubby had organised were all so different. Most of the Airbnbs we stayed at along the coast were more like hotel apartments or condos.

Day 1: Kotor

It was a small place but in the heart of the town, with a commercial mall to one side and the attractive Old Town to the other, all within easy walking distance. We got a SIM card for our phone - 5€ for the card, 10€ for 10GB of data, an extra 5€ for calls and texts just in case - then headed to the walled Old Town.

Our first meal was salad for him, black risotto for me, and a beer each. I mentioned how the first impressions of Old Town reminded me of Venice, with its maze like cobble stone paths and light coloured stone houses with terracotta rooves. I could hear another couple commenting between themselves behind us at overhearing my remark and wondered why. Turns out this part of Montenegro had huge Venetian influence under their rule in the past. No wonder!

Pumped at getting started on our honeymoon journey, we decided to tackle the Old Wall, to the ruins up high on the mountain side overlooking the Old Town. At high afternoon the sun was beating down. The stairs kept continuing up and up and up. Our knees started shaking. Our throats parching. But the view from top was worth all the effort. The dark forest green mountains on all sides sloping down towards the deep blue waters twinkling away, luxury yachts in white stationed in orderly manner, and the clusters of Italian influenced houses basking their baked terracotta roof faces towards the sun. It was pittoresque, serene, Mediterranean magnificent, breathtaking.

That evening we needed to take a nap just before dinner and ended up waking up at 4.30am, exhausted as we had been from all the dramas on getting to Montenegro.

Day 2: Sveti Stefan

We filled up the car and drove the long way round to Tivat, past the airport and towards the Adriatic Coast. The view towards Kotor from the other side of the water was even more beautiful.

Along our 40 minute walk up to the village of Gornji Stoliv under the peaceful shades of chestnut trees, we met some cows and even some skinny brown snakes. Oh my goodness we were out of shape. A note to ourselves to get our fitness levels up when we get back home.
The island of Sveti Stefan is a private resort, only to be appreciated from afar. Our accommodation for the night was a mission to get to: the Airbnb map set us on a goose chase up the top of a hill full of beautiful but empty houses, and a crazy dachshund barking and chasing us around. Thankfully Google was more helpful. Once found, we relaxed by the pool, lounging in the hot sun for as long as we could. As hunger got the better of us we tried to make our way back towards Sveti Stefan - but only made it as far as the nearest restaurant literally across the road.

Day 3: Prznó

While the Bay of Kotor was all about Catholic Churches, hydrangeas and fig trees, we saw a gradual transition to more Muslim mosques, hollyhocks and olive trees as we travelled East along the Adriatic Coast.

Day 3 was our diving day. The first dive was a 10 minute boat ride from Prznó, where the water was warmer and calmer than we are used to in NZ. There were not as much underwater life but some small fish and starfish. The second dive was further away where there was a horizontal tunnel we had to squeeze through - so much fun!

In the afternoon we checked into the best Airbnb in Montenegro. The host welcomed us with a huge water pack and a bottle of typical Montenegrin red wine and nibbles. Outside the apartment was a private rocky beach with long chairs to deck out on. Jumping into the seawater for a quick swim in its coolness was the best thing ever after a long day of exploring the nearby villages.

Day 4: Haj-Nehaj Fortress to Ada Bojana

Morning hike up to Haj-Nehaj Fortress. It was a mission trying to find the entrance to the obscured path, but with a little help from the elderly neighbour, we found it in the end. Body language is pretty effective in these cases.

The wind was strong and we felt like the Scouts weaving through overgrown tracks and ducking under and climbing over fallen trunks barring our way. We stumbled upon a bigger brown snake and saved a turtle from struggling on its back. Not sure how a turtle came to be up a mountain in a forest!

We finally got our first ice cream we'd been craving at Stari Bar but since it was too early for lunch we drove all the way down to Ada Bojana. There is a certain hippie vibe to this place, which is also a nudist island. I got to try my first Montenegrin fish soup at a restaurant recommended by a man we had bumped into in Kotor. It came in a traditional tin pot on a stand. It was also only 2€ but could have fed two people. Too bad my husband doesn't eat fish.

The cloudless sky made for a very hot evening. We had another dip in our rocky beach and had our first dinner at home - tomatoes, bread, smoked beef slices - overlooking the setting sun. Hubby said that this was the first place in Montenegro he could picture himself living in. We would have our last dip in the sea in the morning after before heading inland.

From now on it would be goodbye Coast and hello mountains until the end of our Montenegrin trip.

Day 5: Lake Skadar

Mission for the morning: to find a hat for hubby. Not an easy task, given his huge head - he says it's his huge brain inside. No one sold above the standard size but we managed to find one that fit better than most. Only 3€ though.

I wanted to witness some wildlife so we stopped by Lake Sas but only saw some dragonflies. There was a restaurant by the Lake entrance where we had an octopus salad and grilled pepper salad. Yum. For dessert we took our chance on the homemade dessert called tespidza, which turned out to be a very honey buttery torte with coconut flakes. Real sweet.

The road kept going on and on and on today. The scenery changed from forest green lusciousness to yellow dried barrenness to green foliage. We also got to see Albania across the border.
Tonight we are staying in Rijeka crnojevića, near Lake Skadar. It's a small village on a muddy river. Fish soup for dinner again. I love all this seafood here.

Days 6-7: Kolašin

We woke up as late as we could before going down for our breakfast- a huge affair including Burris, ham, cheese, bread, fruit, juice & coffee.

The windy road overlooking Lake Skadar and river, then the Morača Canyon, took us to the 13th century Morača Monastery. As one of the important orthodox monasteries in Montenegro, there were plenty of tourists snapping away and making wishes.

The lamb with grilled zucchini and pepper with potatoes on the side, our lunch at a rustic restaurant in Kolašin, was the best lunch in Montenegro, according to hubby. It was also the cheapest meal by far.

We went for a walk around Lake Biograd, at a national park in the area. It was pretty but all the national parks here have entry fees! Too bad we didn't get to see any bears, wolves, foxes, eagles or even owls that apparently live here.

In the late afternoon we went to swim and sauna at Bianca hotel. I could just imagine enjoying the jacuzzi here in Winter, looking out at the pine trees covered in snow. Right now at its off peak season the hotel was a half dead place. All the more peaceful for us.

We didn't stay at this hotel though. Our accommodation was just outside of Kolašin, in a minimal circular chalet like cabin in the shape of a mushroom! It's like glamping, super cool. This was the last Airbnb for the trip. From here on in, as we head more up North, it'll be hotels.

Half way through, another week of adventures to go!

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