To set the scene, Hamish and I had taken a taxi from Northern Albania into Bar in Montenegro, before catching a train to the Montenegrin capital………
Our arrival at Podgerica signalled our last train journey on this Balkan trip; it was buses only from now on sadly. First stop Kotor, situated on the Balkan’s largest fjord.
Hamish has the in-built ability to choose the correct side of the bus to travel on. The side where “there will be no annoying sun in your eyes or the side that will give you the best scenery during the journey. This is probably really straightforward to most people, but I do not have a clue how you work it out. Pot luck it is for me, with about a 50/50 success rate.
Hamish hit the jackpot again, a nice shady journey hugging the coast with a window view out into the deep blue yonder.
This was one of those rare great bus rides, as we cut through the mountains and down to the coastal waters of the Adriatic. Budvar looked especially lovely sat by the sea with its terracotta roofs glinting in the late afternoon sun.
We soon arrived in Kotor, a medieval walled town with a castle high above. It was a lovely tranquil place where we stayed two nights and apart from an energising yomp up to the castle on our first morning, it was generally a time to relax.
Up at the fortifications Hamish and I witnessed what we both agreed was potentially the worst accident waiting to happen that you could possibly imagine.
A crater in the ground led to a twenty-foot drop. Hazardous enough, however this hole had a coup de grace. Growing out of its perimeter was a large shrub, catnip to hordes of wasps, hornets, bees and unidentified red-winged beasties.
To trip and fall down this hell hole could see you taking a large portion of shrub with you, of course accompanied by an angry mob dressed predominantly in black and yellow.
The thought of lying at the bottom of the pit, legs buckled, with all those winged guests for company made us both shudder. Dante’s Inferno, Pandora’s Box and Room 101 all rolled into one!
We bravely teetered over the edge for a photo of the nest of vipers and shuddered once more. It would have made ‘Touching the Void’ a picnic in comparison if either of us had lost our balance and crashed through the seething throng – in our biased opinions only of course!
“I will give you a pound if you take a run up and jump across the crater wearing only your underpants,” I suggested to Hamish. (Such wagers are known as ‘One Pound Dares’, outrageous challenges that never have a hope of being undertaken, but feature all the same throughout the book).
Moving swiftly on…
The view from the top of the hill was marvellous with the bright blue fjord stretching away to our left and around the mountain-flanked bend. A riverboat bobbed gently on its moorings and as far as the eye could see terracotta roofs stood proudly, interspersed with plenty of greenery. This really was a lovely place to live it seemed.
Back down hill after a very pleasant stroll amongst the ruins, the old town was equally lovely and we ate in some great restaurants and cafés. We also took in England’s hugely important Euro 2008 qualifier in Russia.
Sitting in a picturesque square with a few other English, drinking dark beer on a warm pleasant evening and watching the pretty local girls working in the shops, bars & cafés made all seem well with the world. When Rooney put England ahead, the portents were even rosier.
It didn’t last though. England lost 2-1 and eventually bowed out of the competition finishing behind Croatia and that day’s hosts in the qualifying group – some of you may remember the ‘wally with the brolly’ (soon to be ex-manager Steve McLaren) at Wembley as elimination was secured against the Croats.
Never mind, another dark beer and pizza soon erased the bad taste. “I will give you a pound if you buy a marionette and then set yourself up as a street entertainer on the corner of the square,” I challenged Hamish. We made do with photos of the large puppets.
Kotor was another one of the lovely European destinations that I have vowed to take the good wife to in the future. Like Norway and Istanbul, we are yet to make it together, but they do remain on the ever-expanding list.
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