Bar, Montenegro – Dec 2017

Yes, I had to move last night. The donkeys didn’t let up with their braying but, I think the next beach along was nicer anyway. It was certainly quieter.

I spent the evening in the Van with a bottle of red wine considering my next move. There was Zabljak (outstanding scenery even by local standards up in the north east of Montenegro) with a current air temperature -6 or; Podgorica (the Capital of Montenegro with it’s attendant culture), current air temperature +1 or; Ulcinj (40 km further south) at +13. No brainer.

The alternative beach – good decision

After an early breakfast I set off for Ulcinj but halted en route at a small city on the coast called Bar. Bar has an Old Town (Stari Bar) but otherwise it is a mostly modern city, unattractive and not at all appealing, except that it has a most amazing looking  Eastern Orthodox Cathedral – the Cathedral of St John Vladimir – which you cannot help but notice as you drive through the city. I parked up for a better look.

This is a new cathedral constructed between 2009 and 2012 and with the building being consecrated as recently as 2016 but there is a story to this place. The communist authorities had not allowed the building of an orthodox church in Bar because they consider religion of any kind an ideological enemy but, in 1979 a rather intrepid local priest, Bogic Femic, was not to be deterred and he started campaigning for the construction of such a church to be built in a prime location in the city.  For 2 years he campaigned (organising mass protests and even going on a hunger strike) and in 1981 after numerous protests and, most important, persuading more than half the city’s population (including several Roman Catholics and Muslims) to sign a petition in favour of the church, he won the day and was given more than 2 hectares in the city centre upon which to build. Because of the prevailing bureaucracy and a lack of funds it would still be some time before his dream was realised but the finished cathedral is amazing and quite unlike any other I have seen:-


The main door to the cathedral is beautifully detailed but once you pass through the doors…


… it is exquisite. It is one that will give the Roman Catholics a run for their money.

Ulcinj was a disappointment. The journey took me down a rather narrow street that turned into a cul-de-sac because the local drivers couldn’t find any parking and simply dumped their cars to go shopping.  This happened twice and, believe me, it is not easy turning the Van around in such confined places. I gave up.

For all it’s natural beauty  (and it does have some magnificent scenery) I will not be sorry to leave Montenegro. The standard of driving is without a doubt the worst I have encountered anywhere in the world – and that includes many countries in the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and Newcastle upon Tyne. It was a particular nightmare just south of Ulcinj, on the road to Albania. There had been a landslide of sorts and much of an already narrow road was lost. Road-workers were doing their best to make good the road and that required setting up a traffic light system to regulate the traffic over a 2-3 kilometre stretch of road that was very unstable and had very few places where vehicles could pass. The locals simply ignore such traffic lights preferring to risk life and limb and trusting more to luck than judgement when passing oncoming traffic. I was glad to get off that road in one piece.

Surely the driving in Albania will not be as bad?!?

Kotor, Montenegro – Dec 2017

This is going to have to be a relatively brief blog because I am having too much trouble with the wifi where I am parked up.

I made it to Montenegro this morning. The crossing from Croatia was straightforward and quick. I’d been told to expect a long delay driving into Montenegro but there were just two cars in the queue at the checkpoint and they both went through during the three or four minutes it took me to obtain a green (insurance) card for the Van. I followed moments later.

First thoughts as to Montenegro – the views are as good as any I have seen during this tour but, of course, I have a passion for mountains and water and here in Montenegro there are plenty of large mountains right alongside the sea…

The views as I drove south towards Kotor and then Petrovac were stunning (but, like I said, I have a thing about water and mountains)

I’m currently parked up on the beach at Petrovac na Moru which is I think about 30+ km south of Kotor.

Petrovac is the small town to the left of the first photo. I’m parked up on the next (deserted) beach along from Petrovac – see second photo. I may move; I can put up with the sound of the sea but there are two donkeys tethered about 100 yards away from the Van and they haven’t stopped braying for the last 20 minutes

I drove through Kotor earlier today and I had it in mind to spend the night there but ultimately decided against it. I’m disappointed about that because I was very keen to get up to the old fortress high above the town. The view from there is supposed to be one of the best in Montenegro.

At first sight Kotor would appear to have everything Dubrovnik has and more. It’s setting is tremendous. It sits on the calmest sea (the map below perhaps explains why the sea is so calm here) with the magnificent Mt Lovcen providing an excellent backdrop. As a town it appears to have as many places of interest (although I cannot for the life of me understand why there should be a “Cat’s Museum” – I gave that one a miss) and the Old Town has considerably more character than it’s counterpart in Dubrovnik.

What let Kotor down for me, however, was the number of tourists. I was advised that Kotor is Dubrovnik without the commercialism and the tourists. It was mobbed (far worse than Dubrovnik). So here I am in Petrovac.

As was mentioned previously, the views during the drive round the Gulf of Kotor were beautiful and I stopped on a number of occasions to take photos. The church sitting on the small island in the second photo above is “Our Lady of the Rocks”. According to legend the island was made by Croat fishermen who (after finding an icon of Madonna and Child on a small pile of rocks in the sea and then seeing a very sick fisherman recover after he touched the icon) swore an oath that upon returning from each successful voyage they would add a rock to the original pile. Subsequently, old boats were filled with stones and sunk at the same spot until there was an island large enough to build the church on. The practise of adding stones after a successful voyage continues to this day.