Decrepit planes and uphill hikes in Montenegro…

I’ve got to say, Montenegro and I did not get off on the right foot…

To be fair, the day was not going very well long before we even arrived into the country.

A delay in our first flight leaving Istanbul resulted in us arriving into Belgrade airport 5 minutes after our connecting flight was scheduled to depart. After a mad dash through the terminal with the help of a Montenegrin man onboard our flight we sprinted on board to find the whole plane begrudgingly waiting for us.

Such pretty air hostesses, such dodgy planes!

The JAT airways flight was an experience in itself. The air hostesses were absolutely stunning, but I think perhaps the airway spends the majority of its money on recruiting from model agencies instead of on the plane itself?!

Whilst waiting for the bathroom I leaned slightly on the wall next to me only to have it completely collapse, exposing the luggage storage area behind it! Seizing the opportunity, I quickly assessed the bags I could see. Nothing looked familiar, so I reluctantly accepted that although we had managed to make it onto plane, it seemed that our backpacks might not have been so lucky…

The wall collapsing incident was clearly not an entirely unusual occurrence as some thick gaffa tape was already positioned on one of the corners of the wall, allowing me to roughly pull and then stick it back upright. Needless to say, after this concerning display of the plane’s structural soundness (or lack thereof) I was more than a little relieved when we eventually landed in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.

This relief at surviving the flight aided in counteracting the frustration I would no doubt usually have felt when we discovered upon our 11pm arrival that, surprise surprise, our baggage hadn’t joined us! Will managed to get himself yelled at for not paying attention by the gruff woman manning the lost and found desk before we were told that we would simply be given a phone call whenever our bags arrived in the next few days.

The quick glance we had of Podgorica gave us little desire to hang around the place. It was lucky then that our baggage arrived early the following morning – allowing us to collect it quickly before hightailing it on a rickety bus to Budva.

The edge of Budva’s city walls

Budva is situated on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro and is occasionally referred to as the ‘Miami’ of Montenegro. I could definitely see the origins of this comparison as we wandered the streets amongst swarms of Russian tourists dripping in bling and tacky printed t-shirts.

The rain finally clears in Budva…

Tacky tourists aside, Budva’s old town itself was quite charming, filled with narrow cobblestoned laneways and ledges and windows spotted with potted flowers. Sadly, the Montenegrin weather gods were not happy that our second day in their country was so far without a hitch and decided to rectify this by unleashing a torrential downpour of rain for the following 6 hours.

An under-cover wine and cheese feast!

With nothing else to do we prepared an indoor picnic of prosciutto, cheese and olives and hoped that the following (and our last) day in Montenegro would be slightly less trouble-ridden.

We awoke in the morning to find the sun brightly shining – hurrah! Finally it seemed we were catching a break! A short but windy 40 minute bus trip brought us to Kotor, a beautiful town nestled on a secluded part of the deep and narrow Kotor bay that winds its way inland from the Adriatic Sea.

The old town of Kotor from above

We wandered in through the high stone city walls and discovered a charming old city filled with churches, cathedrals, gelato stores and tiny laneways that twisted and curved their way through the maze of terrace-style buildings. These buildings were quite striking and in pristine condition, making it easy to see why Kotor is considered one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Mediterranean.

The hike uphill begins, this was a flat section I swear!

The inactivity of the previous day had left us both feeling quite energetic, so we opted to pay the 3 Euros entry to take the ‘moderate’ 40 minute hike up the hill to St John’s fortress, nestled high above the town and surrounding bay.

In turns out the phrase ‘moderate’ was used a little freely! The hill we were hiking up also felt a little more akin to a mountain. Funnily enough the rigorous previous day spent indoors doing nothing but watching movies and eating cheese had done little to aid our faltering fitness levels, and we were both fairly drained after the first 5 minutes of continuous steps!

The view – thankfully worth the climb!

We passed by various groups as we continued the ascent, and I think the fact that we kept consistently bumping into a cheery group of American 60 year olds (who genuinely didn’t seem very puffed!) eventually swayed us to quicken the pace and push ahead!

Half an hour later, after several close calls with blowing out my havaianas (probably not the most appropriate of hiking footwear) we reached the lower section of the fortress – and holey moley – if anything was ever worth that climb, the incredible sweeping view we had upon our arrival was!

Will in the throes of his ‘Lord of the Rings’ role-play…

The beautiful view definitely wasn’t all the fortress had to offer. As we delved a little further into the crumbling remnants of the structure we discovered a myriad of little peeps holes and ‘arrow slits’ –  narrow vertical slits that were cut into a wall to allow arrows to be fired from the inside out towards the approaching enemy. Will immediately slipped into his awkward ‘sci-fi / fantasy novel enthusiast’ mode and started bounding around yelling out ‘I am Legolas!’ whilst miming shooting arrows. Sometimes I wonder about the boy, I really do…

Once the obligatory amount of Lord of the Rings imitations were completed, we began the descent back down to the town of Kotor – during which both sets of our legs started shaking uncontrollably. It truly seems I’ve really outdone myself with my ever-decreasing level of fitness, I tell you!

Upon the complete of the wobbly descent I rewarded myself for the rigorous hike in an appropriate Montenegrin manner – by tucking into to a giant ham and cheese crepe. Quite bizarrely (as if the meal wasn’t already as calorically dense as possible) the whole rolled crepe had been deep fried before being served to me. I had the suspicion that this diet consisting primarily of cheese, prosciutto and deep fried crepes was going to result in my leaving Montenegro a kilo or two heavier than when I arrived!

The view that made it all worthwhile…

Ultimately I have to give to a special thanks to Kotor and the amazing views from its fortress for dragging my 2 days in Montenegro from the ‘I’d rather not talk about it’ file and securely into the ‘my favourite moments on the trip’ one. The town was beyond charming and the view absolutely stunning – probably so spectacular that I’d risk another JAT Airways flight to see it all again!

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