October 14, 2011: Only eight people rode the 20-seat bus from Shkodra to Ulcinj, at the southern tip of diamond-shaped Montenegro. Lonely Planet had advised arriving early, but at this time of year that was a waste of time. My plans were fluid: the room I wanted at the Villa Drago in Sveti Stefan wouldn’t be available until the next day. I could stay in Ulcinj, and move north the next day. I could go as far as Bar, Montenegro’s port. Or I could go past Sveti Stefan to Budva, which sounded the most attractive option. Having seen the museums in the old capital, Cetinje, and been driven over the impressive mountain roads of the interior, on a day trip from Dubrovnik back in 2004, this time I was concentrating on the coast.
The border crossing went quickly, and Montenegro looked a bit better cared for than Albania, but here in the south still quite empty. I only saw the outskirts of Ulcinj, as a bus was leaving for Budva just 15 minutes after I arrived. Ulcinj looked small and quiet, whereas Bar looked busy and industrial, and I was glad to keep going to Budva, spreading around a pretty bay and up a hillside. I followed the Lonely Planet map from the bus station to the Kangaroo Hotel, where I rejected the first room, with the smelly bathroom I had read about on tripavisor, and settled happily into the second, with a little balcony.
I spent the afternoon a fair trek from the Kangaroo at Budva’s tourist central, the walled old town. After my time in Albania, where I had encountered a bare handful of independents, plus a couple of bus tours at Butrint, Budva came as a bit of a shock. It might be the tail end of the season, but there were still more tourists than I had seen in a while strolling the narrow marble streets of the old town. Given the number of souvenir shops and the size of some of the cafes, it was clear that in season the place expected to be mobbed.
I enjoyed the views from the walls, I admired the old buildings, and I had a lovely time in the library in the museum, with its extensive collection of books on the Balkans. After an expensive coffee in one of the cafes on the pebbly beach beyond the walls I walked around the nearby headland admiring the strata lines. On the way back I met an Austrian woman who said she visited the town every year and was thinking of buying property. I, on the other hand, would prefer to move to Austria…
With the Austrian I visited the Orthodox church and enjoyed its interesting iconostasis, and then she found the T.I. for me. I had searched for it in vain, and I was glad to be able to pick up the timetable for the bus I would need in the morning. She also recommended a seaside restaurant for dinner, but the weather had turned cold and windy, and I chose to eat at the Kangaroo instead.