Recap of the Best Year of My Life

If I measure 2016 by the one yardstick that matters to me, how much I travelled, it was the best year of my life. That’s hard to reconcile with how horrible the year was to the world in general, but it’s my truth.

This was a rare year of my life where there was enough money to do what I wanted to do. I prioritised paying for the big stuff, like making sure I had a roof over my head, could get from point A to point B, and that I stayed healthy. I savoured the little stuff I could afford. I refused to be a glass half empty person and bemoan that I couldn’t do X, Y, or Z because of a tight budget and instead celebrated that I was wherever I was at that moment.

I covered so much ground this year that you might have forgotten where I started. So here’s my 2016 travel retrospective.

January started in Mazatlán, Mexico. It was the second year of my life starting there and the novelty hadn’t worn off! I spent many hours cantering on a beautiful tropical beach, a weekly ritual that made me feel like the richest and luckiest woman in the world.

The lagoon at the Isla de la Piedra botanical gardens.

The lagoon in Mazatlán’s Bosque de la Ciudad.

February brought me to Mérida, in the Mexican state of Yucatán, on a scouting mission in anticipation of possibly moving there!

I saw ancient Mayan ruins!

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

March had me discovering the wonderful botanical gardens right in my backyard on Isla de la Piedra.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra's botanical gardens.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra’s botanical gardens.

April found me seeing Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

…and exploring Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

…and the town of Moab, Utah.

May took me to Cody, Wyoming

downtown Cody, WY

downtown Cody, WY

…with plenty of time to explore the Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

… and a Japanese internment camp

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

… before going home to Haven…

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

… before getting on a plane and technically visiting my last Canadian province.


So June took me to London, England (really!)…

London from the St. Paul's Cathedral

London from St. Paul’s Cathedral


… and to Bulgaria!

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria


July took me on two trips to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

August took me to Plovdiv

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

… and across Bulgaria in a Chevy to Nessebar

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

…to Soviet ruins



Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

…the scenic town of Teteven



Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

…the Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

…and a the magnificent 15th century Glozhene Monastery.

inside the Glozhene Monastery

inside the Glozhene Monastery

September saw me quit Bulgaria for Serbia and finish the month in Belgrade.

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

October found me in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, BiH

Sarajevo, BiH

Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

…blipping through Albania

an Albanian fortress

an Albanian fortress

…staying out too late in Prizen, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

…not being impressed by Skopje, Macedonia

Archaeological Museum, Skopje

Archaeological Museum, Skopje


…ambling through Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


… then through Alicante

Alicante, Spain

Alicante, Spain

… before settling in Almería for seven weeks.

The port of Almería

The port of Almería

November was spent in lovely Almería learning to live in the real Spain.

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

December saw me in Málaga for a few days…

Málaga from the top of the itinerant Ferris wheel.


…before jetting off to end the year and ring in 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands!

Quintessential Amsterdam scene


What a journey 2016 was, from getting more and more comfortable in Mexico to becoming a seasoned European traveler!

But the most amazing thing that happened? I was offered my key to Mexico. So my 2017 is well plotted. But before I return to the blistering tropical heat of the Yucatán, England, Quebec, and Haven beckon. So clichéd as the saying is, the best really is yet to come.

Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers!

Kotor, Montenegro to Prizren, Kosovo (by way of Albania)

It was a late start yesterday since I didn’t have to take the bus till noon. My host brought me coffee and treats for a final breakfast on the deck and I had a note prepared thanking her for her hospitality that I think said what I hoped it said… I had her call me a taxi around 11:15 and was correct in thinking that she’d get one not driven by a scammer. I actually gave her a hug before getting into the car!

There was a cruise ship right in town. I could not believe how huge this thing was and that it was practically parked on main street! Not a single one of these was taken with a zoom!






I didn’t know how to pronounced Ulcinj, so I had it written down. The ticket seller look at my paper, then up at me and said slowly and kindly, “Ool-seen.” So there you have it! The bus showed up a bit late, enough that those waiting for it were starting to look concerned enough for the guy manning the gate onto the platform to call the driver to make sure he was incoming. I think we ended up leaving five minutes late, at most.

There is so much traffic coming into Kotor, not very practical for busses trying to leave town! Here we are stuck trying to make the left-hand turn.


I was sent off with a giant bag of mandarins and I promptly tucked into it. This was the best one yet. Some have been super tart.


It was lovely to do the return drive to Budva in daylight!












I kept seeing this graffiti in several towns and it made me laugh every time. It says “PFK,” which is KFC (the chicken place) in Quebec. I have no idea what the letters mean in Montenegro, though. All I could find was the Maritime Faculty in Kotor or a Russian sports team.


We arrived in Ulcinj around 3:00. At this point, I had no confirmation that there really was a 4:00 o’clock bus to Prizren, but there was. Woohoo! But I was disappointed that there was nowhere nearby to grab a quick lunch and that the convenience store was useless, having only junk food, nothing with which to put together a picnic. I didn’t fare any better at the grocery store next door as there was nothing in individual-sized portions.


As I sat down to have a small snack in lieu of lunch, a stray cat jumped into my lap, burrowed in, and started purring. I was shocked… but not as much as when a second cat did the same thing! Do I reek of cat pheromones or something?! I named them Watson (the one with white) and Holmes. 🙂


My layover went by really quickly and before I knew it, the bus to Prizren was boarding. I was a little disconcerted when I was asked for my passport by a kid without any sort of ID and it wasn’t returned to me by the time we pulled out. But everyone else had handed over their documents, so I figured it was okay.

We headed into the mountains again.



The road was twisty and narrow. We frequently had to pull over to let cars pass.


Before I knew it, we were at the Albanian border.


We were at the Albanian border for a long time. The kid who had taken my passport kept coming to ask people to follow him into the customs building and the people returned looking a little harried so it was a bit disconcerting. But we were finally cleared and got our documents back. It ended up being just one stop, so it probably wasn’t really as long as it felt. I was really disappointed that I did not get an Albanian stamp in my passport. 🙁

I hope to come back to Albanian properly one day. Because I’m heading to Spain a little early, I had to choose Tirana or Prizren and going to Kosovo felt more pressing.


I liked the coloured houses we passed in Albania. Here’s a bright yellow one.


Another land of mosques.


A Pepto-Bismol pink house.


Another mosque.


And another. I never get tired of these, the way I never get tired of beautiful churches.


There was a fortress on top of this mountain.






Yet another mosque.


Yet another pink house.




We eventually got onto a proper motorway and then what I noticed was the number of gas stations. It was just one after another after another. And then, it got too dark to see anything. 🙁

The boy passed out candy at one point and when I saw that they were coffee-flavoured, I accepted. Yum!


He also passed out Coca-Cola, but I refused that.

We finally reached the Kosovan border and a very surly officer came on board to get our passports, then promptly returned them. It was a super fast crossing! I didn’t get a stamp again, but this time it made more sense, because having a Kosovo stamp can cause problems with entering in countries that don’t recognise Kosovo’s independence, such as Serbia and Russia.

Prizren was right over the border, so my journey was almost done. But when we got to the bus station, I didn’t know if I was really there because there was no signage. As I looked around trying to figure out if I was at the bus station or just at a bus stop the gal in the seat across from me said we were in Prizren, so I got off.

I was immediately accosted by taxi drivers. I told them no because I had seen food coming into the bus station and I was really hungry, but once I realised how cold it was, I just wanted to get to my hostel to find more layers before going to search for food. So I finally got in a cab and did not get scammed! 🙂 It was only a 1KM ride, but it was late and dark, so there was no way I was walking.

The owner of the hostel, a fairly young guy, immediately came out to get my luggage and take it up to my room while he had another guy get me a beer. WOW. Welcome to Kosovo!

They let me drink most of my beer while we chatted and then invited me to join them for dinner. Oh, awesome! I assured them that I eat meat and off we went to a nearby restaurant that serves typical Kosovan food.

The official language of Kosovo is Albanian and I’d been warned about how different it is from the other Balkan languages and unlike any other language on Earth. Well, that’s complete horse hockey. Visually, I can see a lot of French, Italian, and even Spanish influence to the language. The menu at the restaurant made more sense to me than most Serbo-Croatian or Bulgarian menus ever did. But I had my host order for me as this was my first time going out for dinner with locals and I wanted to see how they do it.

First, a giant salad came. It had two kind of marinated cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, potatoes, and more. The guys (five of them) told me to help myself and that they would just eat off the plate together.

Then, French fries topped with shredded cheese came. I had a few of those.

Then, our mains came. Mine was a huge steak stuffed with ham and cheese and topped with a creamy sauce with a side of carrots and broccoli! Wow! I hadn’t had a nice piece of meat like that in ages and dang was it good! The meat was marinated so it was flavourful. There was a basket of flatbread as well for mopping up the sauce.

We were there for a long time, which explained to me why people in the Balkans eat their food tepid to cold — they linger over it so long. I would never have thought I could get through that steak, but I found my second wind. 🙂 I had a nice glass of white wine with dinner as well.

The guys then decided we were going to move on to a bar for more drinks. I wondered how the bill would be split and the guys told me I just had to pay 5 Euros for my steak and part of the tip and they were covering the rest. WOW!

We went to a nice little bar not too far away and I had a few beers and shooters. We gabbed, mostly about Canada and my travels, and it was a very nice time. But as we got close to 2:00, I knew I had to get in. I only have the one day in Prizren and didn’t want to spend all of it in bed!

Prizren is small and, like the rest of the Balkans, safe, so I had no issue with the thought of getting back to the hostel on my own without an escort. My host gave me the most foolproof directions back to the hostel, not the most direct, and made me repeat them to make sure I’d get back okay. Sure did! And, get this, the guys said they would cover my bar tab!!!

I got in, had a shower, and lost consciousness. 🙂

This is the artwork in my room. I get such a giggle out of it as this is from a show, La Linea, that I used to watch as a kid. It is really good and the link takes you to a compilation of segments.


Getting Turned Around in Old Kotor

It was overcast, but not raining when I got up this morning.


I went straight to work and was delighted when the owner surprised me with coffee and mandarin preserves! My first project of the day went quickly and it still wasn’t raining at 11:30 when I finished it. So I thought to take a break and make a run for Kotor before the inevitable rain came. But guess what showed up just as I was able to shut down? Yep, more coffee. 🙂 So I figured I might as well get the other job done (it would take less than an hour). A heavy downpour arrived at the same time as my coffee. I wouldn’t have gotten very far…

I was finally done around 1:00 and the rain appeared to be letting up a bit. I gave it some time and it finally stopped altogether. I hurriedly headed out, hoping to at least make it to Kotor before another downpour.

En route, I noticed this pomegranate bush. Wow! I’ve never seen pomegranates in their natural habitat!


So pretty!


This one that was open is what caught  my eye and made me realise what the fruits in the bush were.


I made it into Kotor with nary a drop from the sky and decided to continue on to the bus station to double check my departure time for tomorrow.









There really isn’t much to Kotor. People come here for the old city and for the beaches. There were barely any restaurants and no fast food type joints.









This building is right across from the bus station.



I was able to confirm that my bus for the first leg of my trip tomorrow leaves at 12:15. As long as the information I found for the second leg is correct, I will be in Prizren, Kosovo, by about 10PM.


This sign reminded me of one I saw outside the Ley in San Carlos, inviting customers to have their meat grilled by the store.


I was famished by this point, so I headed back towards Old Kotor to get a slice of pizza at a place across from the Museum snack bar where I had my Kotor breakfast.


The pizza was really good, but 2Eur (3.06CAD), wow! I’ve had equivalent quality pizza for 1BGN (0.78CAD)! I then got an ice cream (comparable price to what I’ve paid so far in the Balkans for half the quantity) and then just wandered aimlessly in the old city, delighted that the rain was holding off.

I purposely did not look for landmarks and frequently found myself going around in circles and completely turned around. It was so much fun!






Marco of Montenegro…


Rather reminded me of Neelix of Canada…






I was ready to head home when I noticed people walking along the top of the Old City walls. Curious, I decided to find the way up there. It wasn’t from outside the city, so I went back in.


And managed to find the way up without too much trouble.







I was standing down at the lion when I noticed people above me. I rather felt like I was in a video game and had found my way to the next level! 🙂






I love the old aerials on these houses!










The terracotta roofs in the Balkans are interesting. They use cement to keep everything together. I’ll have to see how the Mexican roofs are constructed.



And, boom, a dead end! I had actually come up a staircase on the other side of that yard the other day and was disappointed that there wasn’t much. I think the homeowner would be better off letting people walk that very short bit through their yard with a prominent, “Passage: 0.50Eur” sign. 🙂


I turned around and marvelled at how different the view was in the opposite direction.




Here’s the main entrance, with a lot fewer people than there were on Sunday!


October Revolution Square.




I couldn’t believe the rain held off all that time! What a gift! It’s pouring now.

What was not so much of a gift was that I got ripped off by the taxi driver with a fast metre (same scam as in Belgrade) who charged me a whopping 6Eur to get home. 🙁 I’m going to have my host call me a taxi tomorrow if it’s raining as I’m sure she’ll get someone who is reputable to take me to the bus station. I would actually rather walk since it’s only 3KM and straight downhill, but rain will probably be an inevitability.

The taxi ride not withstanding, what a great bookend to my Kotor getaway! This stay was exactly what I was hoping it would be! I got as much work as I was hoping I would, but not so much as to be overwhelming, and with two non-rainy afternoons, I completely got my fill of Old Town Kotor. This is a super expensive and touristy area, so being able to self-cater at the hostel (and having a host who kept bringing me coffee and fruit!) was a bonus. With prices being at Canadian levels, this was definitely not a “vacation stop” for me.

So I’m off to Prizren tomorrow for two nights. Accommodation there was twice what it costs in Kotor, which is about twice what it has cost me in the rest of the Balkans, so it’s another hostel and non-vacation stop, I think, but I did want to spend a full day there. Then, on to Skopje for the weekend ahead of my flight on Monday. Can you believe I’ll be having my first dinner in Barcelona at this time next week?!

A Salvaged Day in Kotor

Let me tell you, I’ll take the adhan at 5:30 am over church bells at 8:00 am any day… I had a late night and that was a rather rude awakening! I tried to go back to sleep, but failed. So I got up and my only thought was food. I woke up in the middle of the night to raid the peanut butter jar! I can’t believe I’ve woken up twice in as many nights to eat. I’m pretty sure I’ve never done that in my life!

I’m in Kotor for three days and there’s endless rain in the forecast. Today seemed to be the lightest day of it and my best bet for heading out and exploring as it would also be the warmest day. Moreover, I needed food! It made sense to go find some breakfast and then come back with some groceries as there is a conveniently located fridge right by my hostel room.

I debated what to wear as I knew I was going to get soaked and settled on my iPanema sandals (gals, remind me to do a shoe review), a pair of jeans, a long-sleeve top, my fleece hoodie, and the “rain coat” that was wonderful in London but has since failed me. 🙁 I thought I might be able to pick up a cheap umbrella “in town,” about 3KM away. I specifically picked this hostel because it’s walking distance to Old Town Kotor, so I was in the mindset of walking there this morning, needing a leg stretch after yesterday’s long bus ride. The rain had let up somewhat, so I figured the stroll would do me some good. I obviously get stupid when I’m hungry because any sane person without adequate rain gear would have taken a taxi to as near an umbrella shop as possible. No… I walked the whole way, it started to pour halfway there, and I arrived soaked in Kotor.


The directions to my hostel said it’s above the cemetery. Literally!





Even English-only speakers should be able to recognise what part of this sign made my French self cringe.

Let me pause here to say that I’ve never been a fan of umbrellas as I tend to be in climates that are rainy and windy. I don’t really have a lot of extra room in my luggage, so I decided I would get a cheap folding umbrella along the way if I needed one. Today was apparently the day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So how did I come to be in Kotor? The Serbian couple I met in Zemun told me about it and it seemed a good alternative to very expensive Dubrovnik as a scenic destination on the Adriatic Coast. I had hoped this would be a bit of a working holiday by the sea, but it’s not looking that way yet.

The mist does give Kotor quite a bit of atmosphere. Here, I am approaching the walled Old Town.



There are three gates into the city. This is the main one.







I wandered a bit looking for that elusive place that serves both real food before lunch and coffee. I was shocked that I found it, a cosy restaurant called “Museum Cafe” that serves a full menu all day and knows how to make me a coffee with just “a little” milk. I had two coffees by the time my delicious balsamic vinaigrette chicken and roasted veggie wrap came. The food did me a world of good! But, of course, going back out into the rain was uncomfortable and I felt chilled after the warmth of the restaurant.

In my wanderings to find food, I’d spotted the Maritime Museum and decided that if I could find it again very quickly, I would head there. Otherwise, I was going to find a food store and head home to change.

Old Kotor was purposely built like a maze for defensive purposes and is full of alleys going off in all sorts of directions. One of the things I looked forward to was getting thoroughly lost and disoriented in it. I figured it would be easy because I never did manage to truly orientate myself in Baščaršija, even with all the walking I did in it. But for some reason, I had no trouble with orientation in Old Kotor today, probably because it’s so small. So I refound the museum without any trouble. It is inside a beautiful old house.

The entry fee of 5Eur surprised me, but made more sense when I learned that that included an audio guide.

Let me digress here for a second to say that Kotor is very expensive compared to what I’ve experienced since coming to the Balkans. I don’t know if this is because of the touristy location or because they use the Euro, but I would feel the pinch if I was here for any length of time and trying to keep up the pace of the last few months. Western Europeans seem to find prices cheap, but they are expensive by what I’ve been used to. 1Eur is 1.53CAD (almost at par with USD), so something like a cab ride that is “only” 5Eur is almost 8CAD. I found bathrooms, ice cream, and groceries to be comparably-ish priced to what I’ve been used to, but coffee, beer, and restaurant meals have been high.

So back to the museum. There are two large floors of exhibits, plus a few things to see on the ground floor.  I was thrilled when I was told to, “Please, make many pictures!” But here’s a tip: do not get too close to the exit door with your audio guide or it will start shrieking and the museum personnel will get very cross with you…

I headed up the first flight of stairs to start my tour. The walls were lined with old maps of the area.




The exhibits are themed and of high quality. I was very impressed by this museum. There wasn’t a ton of signage as you get most of the material from the audio guide So I don’t have much to remind me of what things are and all the interesting stories I heard, sorry. Guess you need to come to Kotor and visit its Maritime Museum for yourselves. 🙂 The audio guide, by the way, was really good, narrated by a native English speaker and quite entertaining.



This guy was interesting. He was a slave of the Turks for eight years and eventually rose up against them.




Some of the shields of Kotor.








I had never heard of lemonwood before today, but a bit of Googling tells me it can refer to many different species from all over the world, so I still have no idea what this furniture is made of!


Original flooring. Stunning!





This is an oil lamp, not a candlestick.



I love this painting!




I had never seen black on white “blue willow” before! For those of you who haven’t been following me since forever, I used to collect blue willow china in my pre-RVing days of travel and still have it all.





If I ever get a “forever house,” I’d love to get a desk like this as a statement piece for my office!


Amazing pottery from “the Orient.”









The little boy in this painting? He would become the best known photographer in the region! What an amazing overlap of time periods. He was born the year photography eventually started (1830s, I believe).



I have to say that firearms used to be works of art…







This is Herceg Novi. Another gorgeous painting.








Here, I am on the second floor of the museum.




This captain circumnavigated the globe!






My favourite thing about history museums is seeing period documents showing the mundane details of daily life at the time. This is a travel permit/log book for a sailor.


A navigator made this incredible log book with exquisite drawings detailing the Bay of Kotor and environs.










This painting is almost photographic in nature!



Especially when compared to this one!


This top floor was dedicated to maritime education, as symbolised by this painting of a captain with his students.


Notice all the modern, for the time, tools of the trade.


A French atlas of the ports of the Mediterranean.









Here’s my audio guide. You hold it up to your ear to listen.







I took a second to peek out the front door to see if it was still raining. Yes. Harder. So I went through the museum a second time!









The museum covers maritime history in the area through the Second World War, so you get photographs of captains in addition to paintings.


You can see in my reflection that I took off my top layer in the hope that my fleece would dry out a bit… I have to say I was shocked by how comfy my jeans were, even when wet. I tend not to like to wear jeans because I don’t have the body type for them, but I went to a jean store and had a professional look me over and find the best style for me. So I have “skinny jeans,” which are rather like socially acceptable leggings. I’d avoided jeans all summer, but am rather happy to find them now as I’m getting rather sick of my skirts!



I thought it was neat how the lock on this door is curved.




It was still pouring when I was done, so I decided my day was done. 🙁 I managed to get a picture of the exterior the museum and then ducked into a conveniently located full service grocery store almost right beside it!


I picked up a few things to leave in the fridge by my room and I came out of the store by its exit door to find myself facing another store that sold cheap foldable umbrellas at a price I was willing to pay (5Eur).


I wandered around a bit more, but I was soaked through. My bottom half wasn’t uncomfortable in the least (not even my wet bare feet!) as it was quite warm (in the low 20s), but my shoulders were for some reason. I conceded that the weather had won and that it was time to back to the hostel.








I had no trouble getting a taxi and the ride was just under 4Eur. I had the driver let me off at the bottom of a very short hill to save him the trouble of trying to turn around at the top. I got in one last picture before I hurriedly headed off in direction of a hot shower when…


I got “ambushed” by the owner who offered me coffee!!! I wasn’t that cold, so I happily accepted and went to wait on the covered terrace. She brought me a small pot of coffee (about 1.5 mugs worth), milk, sugar, and this:


The mandarins come from her garden! They were fresh picked this morning! After I enjoyed my coffee and thanked her profusely, she sent me upstairs with the fruit! I just had several pieces of both fruit with my picnic supper. YUM. I think the purple things are a sort of prune. She said they come from the store. I like them too. 🙂

I had a hot shower and changed into dry clothes, which included my second pair of jeans! It was that or my skirt, and, let me tell you, a heavy soaking wet skirt wrapped around your ankles isn’t very comfortable!

Then, get this, the sky freaking CLEARED. The forecast had been adamant it would be 100% rain for 10 days straight and was worsening, not improving. Yet, after about an hour, the rain hadn’t picked up again! So I decided to head back out and try to get a bit of dry time in Kotor.

There were cruise ships in port.


What an unusual cemetery!



It is about 2KM to the end of my road and the limits of Kotor and then about 1KM to Old Town. I barely got away from the hostel when a man pulled over and offered me a ride. Funny how this is something I’m okay with here in the Balkans, but would never consider back home! It’s just part of the culture. The man spoke English, was very nice, and had no “creep” factor. He said he would drive me to the end of the road/to Kotor town limits as his house was right at the corner, and that’s what he did, saving me about 20 minutes of walking.

Can you see the fortress?


How about now?






Since it wasn’t raining, I was able to enjoy my amble and actually notice things, like these fish in the river by the entrance to Old Town.


Kotor’s Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site. I was starting to understand why!



The old town is roughly triangular in shape. It must be incredible to live here. Can you imagine trying to give directions to your house?!


What a difference sun made!


So many alleys leading into squares!


This is where I had my breakfast.













This is the way up to the fortress. I wasn’t shod for that and didn’t want to get caught on slick rock when it would start pouring again, so I didn’t head up.




This is their garbage truck! There are a few golf carts for folks to get around, most of them being affiliated with the hotels.



It took a bit of work, but I finally found a restaurant that was happy to serve me a late lunch. One of you lovely readers who knows who she is sent me a gift this week that was expressly for a meal out, so thanks for lunch today! 😀

I was going to go with some sort of seafood, but couldn’t believe the prices. This is grilled veggies (same as what was in my wrap this morning — peppers, eggplant, and zucchini), with chicken breasts, and smothered in gorgonzola sauce. I had picked out a pasta with shrimp even though this is what I really wanted (I mean, gorgonzola!), but when the server came to take my order, he asked if he could make a recommendation. I said sure and this is what he pointed out! It was almost half the cost of the pasta, so it was a no-brainer. I did not eat the potatoes since the garlic bread was so much better (but, no, I did not eat the entire basket of it!). It was a pretty pricy meal by Balkan standards, but still quite reasonable (almost 20CAD with the beer).

Eggplant is not something I normally eat. I remember eating it once 20 years ago when I was in Colorado and possibly more recently (within the last 10 years) in an aunt’s ratatouille, but that’s it. It’s something I’ve been wanting to experiment with and with today’s experience with it being so positive, I’m further motivated to cook with it!


After lunch, I noticed that not only was the rain still holding off, but it was getting quite warm. I had a lunch to work off and inappropriate shoes be damned, I was going to climb to the fortress! I took a few detours along the way to the entrance, though, to make sure I covered as much of Kotor Old town as I could!































I like to send my friend Bast a postcard from every country I go through. I was unable to do so in BiH as I never found postcards for sale nor a post office. It seemed like their postal system is a mess as they have two. So I was hoping I’d have better luck in Montenegro. Well, what do you know, there were tons of postcards and the post office was open on a Sunday afternoon! The clerk stuck the stamp on the card for me and even mailed it herself instead of sending me out to the mailbox.


Kotor is known for its stray cats and there are a lot of collection boxes set up to support their feeding. The cats are necessary — I saw a rat evading a flood this morning!


The cats museum sounded interesting, but it was closed today.









I finally circled back to the entrance up to the fortress. 3Eur entry fee. I started to climb…









And climb some more. I was surprised by how “grippy” my iPanemas were and not as inappropriate for the climb as a rude man made them out to be.








There were often long columns of people coming down. I got out of the way when I could.


You can really see Kotor’s triangular shape here.


There was a woman selling cold drinks out of a cooler at this church. I decided that if she was still there on the way down, I would pay the hefty surcharge for a cold bottle of water to reward her enterprise for getting the cooler up there!







The climb wasn’t too difficult thanks to my Bulgarian conditioning, but I was not dressed for it at all as it was getting super hot! What a contrast to the morning!


















I still had a surprising amount left to go when I checked the time and saw that it was past 5:00! That was it for me! I knew that even though it was blazingly sunny out (!), the sun would start to set any minute and it would get dark fast. There was no way I was going to pick my way back down to the bottom in the dark in the shoes I had on. It would have been great to reach the top, but I thought I wouldn’t get to climb at all and I was quitting for a valid reason, so I was okay with turning around.

The descent was slow and much more difficult. The water vendor was still at the church and a bottle was 1.50Eur. She accepted 1.20Eur as that’s all the change I had and would have otherwise had to pay with a tenner. Dang was that water good! 🙂

I knew I  was taking a taxi home and with the guy this morning having a hard time giving me change off a 10Eur note, I decided to get an ice cream to break my bill. Ice creams tend to be very small, hence why they’re cheap, so I was shocked by how much the gal piled into my cone, thinking I’d been had. No, my cone was still 1Eur! She was very put upon with me for paying with a “large” note. Even the gal who sold me my umbrella this morning did not have 5Eur change for my umbrella. I am going to have to figure out a way to break my two remaining 50Eur notes! My host says there is a grocery store five minutes in the opposite direction from Kotor, so I’ll head there tomorrow for more food and see if they’ll break one of the notes.

Here’s the map of Old Town found outside of it by the main entrance. It’s much smaller than I expected. I’ve covered the whole of it.


I wandered a bit out front and along the water after coming out of Old Town.









The parking fee structure at a shopping centre was unusual. The bottom language is Russian, but, dang, it is super close to Bulgarian. I was bemused on the climb to the fortress that I noticed the Russian/Bulgarian word for “caution” (внимание) before the English word! On the way, I chatted with some Spanish, American, and French folks and frequently said “Excuse me” in Serbian, so I can say that I used six languages on my climb! 😀


I found a taxi stand by the mall and got one there knowing this was the point of no return for getting a taxi. My written instructions for getting to the hotel got destroyed after my bag got soaked (and transferred dye to everything!), but the driver knew where the hostel is and spoke a bit of English anyway.

Here is my host’s mandarin tree… and her lemon tree!!!


The carpark is over her apartment!


Kotor Old Town was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. All I wanted was one clear afternoon to explore it and I got it. The odds are ever in my favour!

There’s lots to see and do in the region, but I never meant for this to be a tourist stop because of the higher cost of living. The point was to get to the shores of the Adriatic and just breathe a bit. So what I’m hoping for is a work project to cover the next two days, but I know I can’t count on anything tomorrow as it won’t be Monday in North America. So I’m probably plop myself down on the terrace to catch up on bookkeeping and other admin tasks and also start working on a few blog posts I’ve been meaning to do. I also need to figure out how I’m going to get to Skopje!

I’ll be back to the shores of the Mediterranean before I know it!

Sarajevo, BiH, to Kotor Bay, Montenegro

I had a lovely stay in Sarajevo, but I would lie if I didn’t admit that I was relieved to go this morning. It is good that I went, but I felt such overwhelming grief at being there. Everywhere I turned was a reminder of what a lost cause humanity is. I came to Sarajevo with so many questions and left with no answers.

The alarm rang at 7:00. I’d had a pretty good night, but hadn’t slept the night before, so I was rather groggy. I was almost all packed, so I finished that, dressed, did a final tidy up, and was out the door by about 7:30, with the bus being at 9:00. I made my way down to the taxi stand at the bottom of the hill and arrived to find… no taxis. It was 7:45 by this point, I had no idea how traffic was going to be, and I didn’t know where to get my bus ticket once I got to Lukavica station. So I really didn’t have much time to wait. I looked around trying to pick out a business that was open that might be willing to call me a cab when one came down the hill! I flagged him over and not only was he was available, but he quoted me a flat rate of 20KM! That’s what I paid for my transfer on arrival and a full 5 to 10KM less than the expected cost of a taxi to East Sarajevo. I was very happy with that!

There was no traffic down “Sniper Alley” and we got to Lukavica just past 8:00. As it turns out, the bus station is tiny. I followed the “tickets sold here” sign (prodaja karata/продаја карата) and found two windows. One had no lineup and an attendant who appeared to be on break and the other had a short line up as well as a sign for the Sarajevo-Herceg Novi route I wanted. So I got in the line. Got to the head of the line, gave my destination, and the man pointed to the other line. Ah, I love buying bus tickets in the Balkans. 🙂

My destination was Budva, Montenegro. I was ultimately going to Dobrota, but there was no direct route. The owner of the hostel where I’m staying said to get off at Budva, take another bus to Kotor, and then take a taxi from Kotor. I was going to go to Tivat, which is closer to Kotor, but when I looked at a map, I understood why she said to transfer at Budva as going to Tivat would mean having to double back.

I noticed today how much calmer, for lack of a better word, I am about getting around. I remember when I was looking up the route to Belgrade and freaking out that I’d have to get off in Nish and figure out how to get buy a ticket for the Belgrade leg! But today, I was serene. Research told me there were a bunch of buses from Budva to Kotor and if there weren’t, a taxi would be less than paying for a room in Budva and the room here in Dobrota. Might as well sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Ticket bought, I went into the very smoky onsite café and ordered a coffee, then went back to the terrace to wait for it even though I could see my breath! A great espresso was just 1KM (0.78CAD)! I can’t get over how cheap coffee good coffee is out here. I drink my coffee black in restaurants, not willing to pay the hefty surcharge for milk. But I’m not quite ready to drink it black at home.

Before getting on the bus, I decided to brave the toilet, expecting a squat one. Nope!

I was surprised that we got a little bus, not quite a mini, but not full size, and was pleased that it wasn’t packed. I was able to spread out and be really comfortable for the very long ride to the coast of the Adriatic Sea.


Leaving Lukavica station.


Countryside mosque.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was pretty as a postcard, all verdant green under the fog.




We began to climb a mountain and before I knew it, SNOW!








But blue sky at last!






We stopped for our first pee break in Foča. Google the name of this town at your peril. I wish I hadn’t.

I really hoped it was our pee break as we’d been on the road almost two hours, but nobody moved to get up until the driver stood and said something of which I understood “pause” (pronounced “pa-u-za,” just like in Spanish) and “15 minutes.” I was out of there fast! 😀



From Foča, we continued climbing on the other side of the river. This would be the day, just going up and down switchbacks at a glacial pace. Thank goodness the scenery was great!



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I saw lots of beehives today and honey (med) for sale.


We sometimes got way too close to the edge of cliffs.


This was terrifying! The bus was bouncing so hard I thought we were going to bounce of the road entirely!



We eventually reached the border of Montenegro, which had the cutest border control officers ever! 😉


It was here that I had a I’M SUCH AN IDIOT revelation. I had crossed from Bulgaria to Serbia, Serbia to BiH, and now I was going from BiH into Montenegro. With the first two crossings, I thought that we went through two different checkpoints, one customs and the other immigration. No, no, no, no. The first one is basically an exit interview! This is why the guy on Serbian border day was so interested in how long I’d been in Bulgaria. He was a Bulgarian, not Serbian, official! It was only today that I realised that his stamp was to mark my exit and so, no, I did not get two entry stamps into Serbia. So this is why they collect and return the passports twice!


Take my word that this is a welcome to Montenegro sign. 🙂

The area we had just passed is rafting country and apparently the deepest canyon in Europe.


It was at this point that we actually went through the Montenegro checkpoint. The official came on board and asked the driver how many passports were on board (as opposed to national ID cards) and the driver replied two. Yes, I understood that exchange! I’m getting enough of an ear for the language now that it’s not entirely gibberish and I can pick out some words. I was really excited listening to the radio this morning when I heard, “Good morning! And now, for the football results!” 😀

Interestingly, the other passport on board was Canadian. But owned by a Montenegrin, who was not as excited as I was that there was another Canadian passport on board and just glared at me when I asked her where she’s from…

Instead of taking the cards and passports, the official came on board with a portable scanner (kind of like a debit machine) and swiped all our documents one after the other. Then, he went out to get a huge stamp. He opened my passport on top of the seat back in front of me and stamped it there. So informal! But I was in, no questions asked again.

The scenery continued as before, but grew exponentially in its faery tale nature.




There was a pothole or something right in the middle of the bridge and the driver had to conveniently nearly stop completely.







I couldn’t believe this place exists.




I was surprised by how many roofs in Montenegro are metal, rather than the terracotta tiles I’ve been used to seeing.




We stopped at a little cafe before Podgorica for another pee break. I was disappointed there wasn’t any food. You see, I woke up at 3:00 this morning famished and could not go back to sleep unless I ate something. So I ate my breakfast for today, which means I had my lunch for breakfast and my snack for lunch and ran out of food. 🙂


Our little bus.

I’d heard that some bars out in this part of the world serve hard boiled eggs in lieu of, say, peanuts, but had never seen it. Until now.


We continued on.


Then stopped minutes after the break to get fuel. I’ve only ever seen fuel pumped into Coke (or other “non-approved”) containers in Mexico!


It was late, nearly 4:00, when we reached the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica. I’d heard of it described as “the armpit of Europe” and as a shockingly unappealing city in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Indeed, I saw nothing in our long meander through town that made me want to stop there, just new construction next to tenements. I know bus stations are rarely in a good part of town, but there didn’t seem to be a good part of this city.

Except maybe this view.




I’d be annoyed if I lived in the building behind this one and lost my view and light through my windows!


This appeared to be the pedestrian core and should have been appealing, but wasn’t.



But, wait, palm trees!


“Crnu Goru” is Montenegro in Montenegrin.


I had thought that the Podgorica bus station would be a good place to get a snack, but the driver said “Five minutes!” so there was no time to go exploring.




First glimpse of the Adriatic Sea/Mediterranean Sea high above Budva.


We went down an impressive series of switchbacks. The effect was rather like landing with an airplane.






The promised rain appeared to be incoming. 🙁






We arrived in Budva around 5:30. I went to the ticket counter to ask about a bus to Kotor and there was one in 20 minutes! Unfortunately, there was no food other than pastries or junk food, so I preferred to stay hungry.

The Budva bus station is in scenic surroundings.



The bus to Kotor pulled up and left a few minutes early! Thank goodness I had stayed by the platform! For some reason, I thought it would be another hour to Kotor, but it was less than 30 minutes. From there, I had a five-minute, 5 euro taxi ride to the hostel. I did have to argue with the driver and threaten to get out as she wanted to charge me 7 euro. I was told that a ride should be 3 to 5 euro!

I’m glad that Montenegro’s currency is the euro because I’m starting to have quite a bit of small change left when I leave each country. Always less than 5CAD because I’m pretty good at budgeting, but those piddly amounts are adding up. I’m also going to get some experience with a currency I’ll soon be using for several weeks!

The hostel wound up being disappointing so far, although the host is super friendly (I appreciated the offer of a coffee upon arrival even though I declined!). I was sure I’d booked something with a private bathroom and desk, but she does not speak much English and we couldn’t sort it out. I checked my booking and I think she’s correct and that I looked at the wrong picture. At any rate, it’s super cheap compared to everything else I’ve seen out here, clean, has a comfy bed, is convenient to Kotor, and there’s a kitchen I can investigate for self-catering. I also appear to have the floor (and bathroom) to myself at this time. So it’s a bit of a shock going from my cosy Sarajevo flat to this, but it’s only for four nights and, again, a bargain for the location. I will make do!

I regretted not investigating food around the bus station as there is no restaurant handy. My host wanted to send me off in a taxi, but no. Thankfully, I had a smooshed bit of a loaf of still fresh bread and a full jar of peanut butter in my suitcase and I made myself a couple of sandwiches for dinner. Emergency rations at their best!


Here’s a map of my day.


And here are the Balkans and my journey from their east to west coast over the last four months. 🙂