When we crossed the border, the landscape didn’t suddenly change in a Kansas-to-Oz manner, but we did notice some differences as we moved northward. We drove through landscaped fields, neatly mowed and divided by low stone walls in a manner that reminded Abby of Virginia. The towns seemed a bit grimy, but less than they would be in Albania; however, it was after we hit the coastline that the difference became apparent. The Montenegran Riviera is stunning. We were high up on the mountain, looking down onto a gleaming blue sea. Everything just seemed clean, even the sides of the roads.
The Catholic presence is obvious on the coast; for example, we saw a small church perched on the rocks about 200 meters out from the coast. Later, we passed the Sveti Stefan, an impossibly picturesque fishing village dating from the 15th century which, we later learned, was closed in the post-season. According to Wikipedia, the last residents were evicted in the 1950s and the entire town was transformed into a luxury resort. We had arrived a few weeks after the tourist season had ended, so the gates were locked. (It generally proved to be the situation, as anywhere else, that the Montenegran coast is expensive and crowded during the tourist season, and much less expensive, but quiet almost to the point of desertion, afterward.) We came back after we checked into our hotel; here are a few of the scores of pictures we took.
Abby took most of these; I’m posting the rest to a Flickr photo album. Click here.
After wandering around the area, we drove into Budva to find the Stari Grad – the Old Town. On the way, we saw an amazing rainbow which we continued to photograph for the rest of the afternoon. (See Flickr for the photos.) We drove for a while, since the Old Town didn’t have very good signage, but we finally found it.
Budva was an Illyrian city which became part of the Roman, Byzantine and then Venetian empires. The Old Town carries many of the markings of Venetian architecture, but nowadays it also carries the mark of commercialization: most of the main alleys are loaded with souvenier shops, pizza cafes, and clothing stores. In all, it simply wasn’t very interesting. The rest of the photos are in the photo album.
After we cruised the alleys, we had dinner, which was probably most notable for the complimentary after-dinner drinks. Mine was a version of raki that could strip paint; Abby’s tasted like fermented marshmallow circus peanuts. With those flavors leadening our taste buds, we went home and watched Shaft on cable television. (No joke.) In the end, I realized that we hadn’t really lost time even with the three hour delay in leaving Tirana; there just isn’t that much to do in Budva and Sveti Stefan off season.