Monday, October 19, 2009


Our bus ride from Split to Budva was interesting. The bus was fairly small, only having room for about 30 people or so. The seats were small as well. One woman ended up having to seat in the very back where the seats were unbroken by the empty middle aisle and ran the entire width of the bus. Not too far into the journey the three of us begin to look around in confusion. The distinct scent of cigarette smoke was suddenly heavy in the air and we didn't know what from. It took about another hour to finally realize that the bus driver was smoking. There were no windows on the bus that opened, so the smoke just spread through the cabin and hung in the air. I was stunned into laughter by the situation. It wasn't very pleasant to be inhaling lungfuls of smoke for the entire trip, but it seemed like it must be commonplace. No one else showed any reaction to his smoking. The bus driver, aside from smoking, was a bit of a loose driver. The entire trip was, once again, along the beautiful coastline. He swung around the never ending turns with hardly a tap to the brake pedal. I shrank back from the window a few times as we sped along just feet from the edge of steep cliffs. I smiled at the wild pomegranate trees that passed by, heavy with yellow-red fruit, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. In one small town we drove through the three of us were pulled from our book-reading or sheer boredom by the sounds of honking and shouting. At first I thought there was some sort of protest going on. There were men on the side of the road cheering and encouraging passing cars to honk their agreement. I think it was actually a wedding though. The traffic was going very slowly and hanging out of one car were two guys dressed in flashy tuxedos. I think everyone was just cheering and honking in celebration of a marriage. It was pretty cool! By the time we arrived in Budva it had been dark for several hours. We didn't know precisely where we were going because google maps hasn't deemed Montenegro as worthy enough to fully map yet. So Chuck bravely asked a random man sitting in the station which way it was to the main street. He didn't just tell us directions from his chair - he was nice enough to get up and walk us out of the main gate of the station and point us in the right direction. I thought it was very kind of him to go out of his way like that to help us. We found the hotel pretty easily, thank goodness, and had no trouble checking in. We were in bed shortly after that.

After breakfast and some ever-important internet time in the morning we headed toward the beach. On the way we were distracted by the sound of music. My ears perked up and I looked around, trying to pin-point the sound. Robyn led us down a little street that came out in front of a church. We took a seat and watched as a wedding party, accompanied by a very bad but very enthusiastic brass quintet, took pictures with the national flag as well as each other. After the photo shoot they all climbed into three cars - cars that one would expect to see in a junk yard. We laughed as the bride climbed into the most dilapidated of the three. They crawled down the street honking repeatedly as they went. A lot of other drivers responded with honks of their own as they passed by, cheering out their windows as they went. As we continued our walk to the beach we commented on how loud their horns were. It was like skull-splitting banshee screams. The beach itself ended up being less than amazing. It was pretty plain and the water wasn't what I would call beautiful. A boardwalk ran the length of the beach and was lined with little jewelry and shoes shops ass well as restaurants and some craft stands. Some food stands had really delicious odors wafting out to tempt people. Chuck got himself a panzzerotte. It was basically a pizza flavored hot pocket. I myself opted for an ice cream instead. I asked how much one scoop was. Eighty cents she told me. Ok. I got a scoop of peach gelato and handed her eighty cents. She looks at it and tells me it's a euro thirty. What? But...eighty cents. You said so. Turns out there's a hidden fee for the cone... That's just malicious! The peach gelato is good enough that my annoyance fades away quickly. At the end of this boardwalk is what they call the Old Town. It's, well, the old town. The labyrinth of old shops is completely surrounded by a fortress wall. The shops mainly sell jewelry and clothes. There are a few restaurants and pubs as well, one of which we stopped at to satisfy Robyn's craving for a Guinness. Once we were seated and comfortable at a little table outside we were joined by a very scraggly pigeon that I decided to call Simon. He was a pathetic looking thing that stood about 15 feet away from us, eyeing us with his abnormally protruding eye. His feathers were ruffled and didn't seem to be able to lay straight and flat against his body. He seemed lethargic and lacking in motivation. Somehow I ended up in the position of being egged on by a laughing Robyn and Chuck to pick the poor thing up. I accepted the challenge. Robyn whipped out the camera to catch the whole thing on film. I nonchalantly strolled past little Simon until he was between me and the wall. I then sneakily turned around to corner him from behind. Being the sad creature that he was he just sort of stumbled away from me as I made my move, reaching out to try and grab him. He didn't even try to fly! His inability to easily escape caused a knot of guilt to rise into my throat and for a moment I just wanted to sit down next to him and make cooing noises. But instead I chased after him, butt in the air, until I managed to get my hands around his emaciated little body. I was surprised at how much of his body was actually skin in bones - he felt so tiny under all those feathers. Holding him away from me with slight disgust, I carried my prize over to Robyn and Chuck for a close-up. Once his cameo was finished I placed him back on the ground where he scampered back to his original spot 15 feet away from us. I felt so bad for him! I immediately asked for hand sanitizer and made sure not to touch anything all the way back to the hotel. Back at the hotel Robyn and Chuck picked up a 2-liter plastic bottle of beer and we all took swigs while playing on our computers. Later in the evening we went out for a surprisingly cheap dinner at a place down the street. I ordered something called muckalica leskovacka which was like a thick beef stew with lots of peppers and dark red oil. Robyn got some goulash and Chuck got some cevapi. The whole meal ended up being less than $10! Quite the deal.

We woke against our will early in the morning on the 28th. I took a shower for the first time in two days and found it to be less than satisfying. I turned it on and waited for the water to get hot. Frowning after a while, I realized it wasn't going to be getting very hot. I gritted my teeth and stepped in anyways, quickly splashing and scrubbing all the important parts and then hopping right back out. I know that some places we go might not have hot water and I'm not sure I'll be staying clean in those places! I think I'd rather stink than talk cold showers. A cold shower is a terrible thing. After breakfast we trudged down to the bus station, our pre-bought, 8:45 AM bus tickets in hand. We stood around waiting. People came and went. Bus employees chatted and laughed. A woman came by and swept and mopped the floor. We jumped up at each bus that pulled into the station hoping it was ours and being disappointed. Fifteen minutes after our bus was supposed to leave we asked what was up at the information window. The girl behind the glass was less than helpful. She told us with a glazed look in her eyes and a flat voice that there was no 8:45 AM bus (despite the 8:45 AM tickets we were holding in our hands) and that the next bus to Ulcinj was at 1:00 PM. Great. We decided to get a second opinion and asked one of the tall and slightly intimidating bus attendants. He shouted out a conversation with his buddy and confirmed that there was, indeed, no 8:45 AM bus. But he was nice enough to explain that we could take the bus that that had just arrived to Bar and from there go to Ulcinj. He quickly took us and our tickets to the ticket counter and got everything set-up for our new plans. We thanked his profusely and jumped on the bus just in time to take off.

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