The first time I used the term wonderland I was on the very early morning train into Slovenia from Austria three years ago. I stood staring out the window, the crispy morning air rushing in as we cut through the valleys and past the small, sleeping town towards Ljubljana. The later sights of Maribo, fields of wheat and Lake Bled merely confirmed Slovenia was a lovely looking place.
The same term could be applied again 3 years later as we took the bus from Sarajevo to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. The sudden snow in Bosnia, after days of plus 30C, dumped snow on the early roads heading out through the national parks of the north (home to the best rafting in Europe) to the open fields of the centre and the blue water of the coast.
After days in Sarajevo, Jan and I decided to leave the town and the country, knowing we’d be returning for the next weekend. In the hostel we met some newcomers, Julio and Michaela who’d just got in. Their plans were to stay in Sarajevo but after some quick chat and beer from the Dan and Jan show, Michaela convinced Julio to come along with us. We had a travel team. The wilted and hungover pulse lifted.
We got to coastal resort of Budva late, around 10pm and then proceeded to get lost finding the hostel. Jan, dressed in total black climbed the gates of someone’s house only to be confronted by a neighbour wielding a stick who quickly gave us directions to the hostel. You can’t hit a face like Jan’s. The Montenegro Freedom hostel was a classic, run by two guys, generous, smiley and chatty, they booked us in and then made the best breakfast of the whole trip, cheese and ham toasties with fresh fruit and tea. Nomnom.
We spent the days going up and down the coast. Montenegro is tiny, nestled on the Adriatic between the old world sophistication of Dubrovnik and the old world, managed-chaos of Albania. The coast is stunning and littered with ancient forts, steep mountains, hidden bays and old, labyrinth towns. We went round Budva’s old town, to Sveti Stefan and then onto Kotor in one day. Kotor stopped me dead. I knew I had to come back to stay.
Julio lacked the time but the remaining three stayed over in a hostel in Kotor old town, climbed up to the fortress for some amazing views and walked around the bay trying to take pictures without the cruise liner which parked itself in the bay. It was like a tank on your front lawn. The hostel owner also turned out to be a nationalist who seemed to despise the Bosnian Muslims (only the Muslims care about the bridge in Mostar. I spit off it. Its only 5 metres). But that took little away from Kotor, a real gem town, smaller than Dubronvik but with tighter streets and knock-out views from the fortress at the top.
I’ll be back Montenegro and not just to throw that tosser off the roof.