Western Balkans – Day 4 – Montenegro

The downside of a late breakfast only served at 8 a.m. is that you leave very late, to be confirmed again today. We took off at 9:30 when the sun was high and the temperature as well. The view from our small room overlooked the harbour, not so bad. Outside Dubrovnik, there was a scenic look back:

Dubrovnik

I tried to wait as much as possible to fill up, in the end it was shortly before the border. To my surprise, the consumption was below 5L/100 km (over 47 mpg), demonstrating the relaxed riding style the day before. Soon we arrived at the border with Montenegro, having to queue for a while at the Croatian post and the same at the second check point with the Montenegrin police. I took a deep breath and remembered the border crossing from hell to Russia. Compared to that, this was nothing. We entered Montenegro and realised that the living standard was not so high than in Croatia, but still remarkable. The downside was the slow traffic.The plan was to ride the whole Bay of Kotor, but taking the ferry seemed to be the better option. Not only to make up some time, but to see the mighty mountain range that forms the background of the fjord. We took the ferry to the other side of the Bay, a nice change.

Crossing the short of the Bay of Kotor.

This was indeed a good idea. Opposite of the mountain rim, we could see the massive geological formation and ride through the small villages until we reached the town of Kotor.

Bay of Kotor

The traffic jam in Kotor did not pose a huge problem for us and soon we climbed up the hairpins above Kotor, occasionally climbing up “goat tracks” as shortcuts. The traffic was hilarious: Camper vans, trucks and even tourist coaches tried to share a road that often was not more than five meters wide. Hairpin by hairpin the road went higher and the view on the Bay of Kotor was nothing short of being called “spectacular”.

Bay of Kotor

The hairpin would not end and up on the mountain, we had the full one view on the Bay of Kotor and the full coastline:

The small road turned into a wide, new road and higher and higher we rode until we arrived at a scenic spot on the top of a mountain. Here, the Mausoleum of Njegoš is located, interring Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, located on the top of Mount Lovćen. He was a Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, poet and philosopher whose works are widely considered some of the most important in Montenegrin and Serbian literature. The path or rather a tunnel to the mausoleum on the top of a mountain seems a bit megalomanic. A long tunnel with more than 400 steps leads to the tomb and a statue of 28 tons of granite.

A bit “too much” for my taste. Anyway, the views were fantastic and before leaving, I downed a large glass of freshly pressed orange juice. It was already rather late and our next stop was far away. We returned to the heat in the plains and passed by Podgorica, the capital. It was bloody hot again (35 degrees) but we tried to escape the heat by riding towards the north on a new dual carriageway that was not fully opened and the traffic had to share two lanes. The system showed a disturbing lack of planning and safety measures. Weird. At least the road was in a good condition and we could make good progress. After an hour, we turned to ascend to the monastery of Ostrog, another special place for Montenegrin or Serbian sentiment. After 12 km of a tricky road, we arrived at the monastery.

The Ostrog Monastery is a monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church situated against an almost vertical background, high up in the large rock; it is the most popular pilgrimage place in Montenegro.The sights overlooking the plain were great, the exterior is special, the interior was interesting at best. If you’re orthodox or interested in iconostasis, that is. Entering a tiny room I was almost baptized by a monk but I could retreat in time. Apparently a huge place in terms of Serbian history, but somewhat underwhelming in arts history. Or maybe I just missed the good bits.

We descended to the main road again and enjoyed the quick ride ascending into the mountains. After an hour, we arrived in the area of the Peja Canyon where we filled up and had a short break. The water in the nearby lake had a turquoise color, indicating a high concentration of loam particles.

We took the turn to the Durmitor National Park and climbed through hairpins and tunnels until we had a good overview in the area. Spectacular views, to say the least!

Soon the winding road reached a plain at 1500 m altitude with rolling hills and lots of farms in between. This was a sight I had never seen before.

A small, but decent road, no traffic, the setting sun in the back and cooler temperatures made this a hard-to-top ride in the early evening. The road went up to 1900 m altitude with a great scenery of stunning geological formations.

Beyond the highest point, the road dropped quickly, but we still had great views:

Shortly after 7 p.m., we arrived at the hotel Pavlovic, a good hotel where I had booked an apartment that now contains all our gear in different places. My socks were contaminated beyond fixing and went directly into the bin; no point carrying this toxic material for few more days. After a shower for me AND my underwear we visited the restaurant where we tried the smoked lamb. Our guess was it was more mutton than lamp but it filled our stomachs nicely together with some deserts and a very good mokka Turkish style. It is quite fresh here at 1500 m altitude, very welcome after the humid coast. Prices are reasonable here, not like at the coast. Tomorrow there will be two more countries: Kosovo and Albania.

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