That is me: the Earl of Black Mountain.
I am not entirely sure where I left off on my last blog, but it was probably sometime before I left Split. My intentions were to leave on a bus towards Podgorica around 2330 – which started off fine. The bus had a stopover in Dubrovnik, at which time I would catch a second bus at 0700 to Podgorica. Except the bus from Split didn’t arrive until 0800. Also, that particular bus company only offered one route to Podgorica each day. Therefor, I would be forced to either spend an entire day in Dubrovnik and catch the next Croatiabus, or spend a solid 11 hours in Dubrovnik and buy a ticket from a competing company. Having not slept much on the bus, I set myself up for the long haul in the bus station and dozed off whenever possible in the sweltering heat and between the bustling crowds. Let me just say that it WAS not a pleasant eleven hours. Eventually, I was on my way to Montenegro.
We passed through several towns on our trip, most notably Kotor and Budva. Looking back, I wish I had taken an old traveling friend’s advice and stayed in Kotor for a few days before traveling onward. Even Budva looked like a nice place – the little that I saw on a bus at almost midnight – compared to Podgorica. Technically, I could have easily departed the bus at any of the numerous stops it made. But both of the tickets I bought were for Podgorica, so that is where I was determined to end up. We arrived very late – after 0130. I made my way to a hostel close to the bus station and up the three flights of stairs. There was a Korean girl in the lobby, and nobody else. Apparently she showed up just a little before I did and was in the same position as me: hoping to get a room late at night. I messaged the numbers listed behind the front desk until one of them replied that the owner lived downstairs. I rang his bell until he answered. I felt bad and apologized for waking him, but I feel that he was just glad to have customers. The rooms were actually better than I had assumed. Each was a single-bed room (for about 14 Euros) with a TV and air conditioning. Half of the television stations were in English, too.
The next day I contacted a couchsurfer, Eugene, that allowed me to leave my bag at his place for the day while I explored the city. I walked and walked and walked…from City Kvart to University Center to Old Town to Downtown to Malo Brdo and just about everywhere in between. I was none too impressed. By about 1600 a different couchsurfer messaged me that he was finally off work and we met up for a beer with an Australian girl that he was hosting. From there the three of us met up with two Norwegians that the Australian girl had met while hitchhiking. We stopped at another bar for a few more beers, then Eugene met up with us. We walked from one side of the town to the other, stopping for Asian food in between, to the set of apartments where Eugene lives. The ground floor of each building was converted into shopping centers, cafes, bars, and markets. We got a table at Havana Club and the six of us drank for a few hours. After about midnight Eugene and I left to go into town and get some food. We had some pizza and then I saw crepes and couldn’t resist a little dessert. I crashed on Eugene’s pull-out sofa overnight, although the actual sleep attained was little.
And here is why: for as long as I can remember, every 2-4 years I get horrible Strep Throat. I usually ignore it for as long as possible, twice until I was hospitalized. Today I am fairly certain that it has come again, with all the typical symptoms: swollen lymph nodes, throat so sore I can barely drink water, headache, earache, runny nose, and just a general feeling of death. After much research, I discovered that it may be easy to find antibiotics in Albania without the trouble of actually going to a doctor. I was planning on staying in Montenegro for another week or more, but I may have to leave for Tirana early in the hopes of not dying. My hostel owner in Ulcinj (I’ll get to this in a minute) is incredibly nice and helpful, and he bought something called Fervex that you mix with hot water and drink a few times a day. I’m really hoping it does the trick.
Anyway, I got a bus at about noon to Ulcinj. The bus was a run-down van that couldn’t have been newer than the mid-80’s…but the air conditioning was surprisingly adequate. The ride took about 3 hours, and only cost 6.5 Euro. On the way I reserved a room at Hostel Breshka, booking the arrival time at 1600. Arriving a little early, figured I would at least figure out where the hostel was and drop my backpack off so I could explore a little. I was about 100m from the hostel, when a guy biking past me waved and said “hello! I have a hostel.” Informing him that I already booked one, he replied “I know, it’s right here. You are Brian, yes?” I don’t know how he knew that was me, especially since I was an hour early, but he brought me in and introduced me to his brother and the cleaning employee (hostel employees in most cases, such as this one, fellow travelers from around the world). I didn’t get a chance to ask where she was from, but she offered conversation since she spoke English better than the owners/brothers. Pjeter is the owner I have talked to the most. He is super nice and offered extensive information on the city. You can tell he enjoys running a hostel and wants to make each person feel as comfortable as possible. I tried a restaurant that he recommended for dinner – goulash for only 3.5 Euro – and when I told him I was sick he tried to get me some amoxicillin. Fervex is the best he could do, but he still went above and beyond what most hostel owner’s would do. I’ll have to remember to leave him an excellent rating on hostelworld.com.
I toughed up my illness and walked into the main part of the city – the Stari Grad. It was packed with tourists and natives alike. I was FINALLY able to make it seaside, after almost two full months of traveling! Pjeter informed me that only the main beach was packed. There are 16 kilometers of beach just a half hour walk outside of downtown that are much nicer and easier to enjoy. I am going to check that out tomorrow, health permitting. I can wait to even-up these annoying traveler tan lines on my arms and neck. And maybe getting a little extra Vitamin D will help, too (I know, mom: Vitamin C. It’s in the Fervex). On my way back to the hostel I was able to find some postcards. Sorry, Angie, but I couldn’t for the life of me find any in Podgorica.
So the time now is 2000 on Thursday, July 21st. I am attempting to get everything caught up that I wasn’t able to do in the last several days due to lack of an actual place to stay for longer than eight hours. I just got an email update from my complaint to Croatiabus (the email was professional yet stern). They claim to have issued me a refund for the FULL price, not just half since I got stuck halfway. If it actually shows up on my bank account then I will upgrade them from ‘avoid’ to ‘use if no other option presents itself’. Hopefully I will recover enough to be able to spend a full week or so in Ulcinj. I like it here: the hostel staff are awesome, I love the beach, and I haven’t stayed in one place for more than two nights since Poland. I need to relax a bit!