Montenegro Wonderland

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.

DSCF0760The 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.

DSCF0846We 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.

DSCF1003

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.

DSCF0882Julio 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.

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Highlights of 2009

Highlights of 2009

Favourite conversation

– Meeting a drunk, fat Neo-Nazi in the street who threw me a Seig Hiel and then started a fight with two girl guides. I told him to fuck off which he gratefully did, after another Seig Heil. I turned and almost fell over into a midget who was standing right behind me. That’s Budapest for you!

Favourite moments

<- Steve and Lucy’s wedding

– being short of breath in Ljubjlana

– the numerous babies born this year to many good friends

Haven’t seen in years highlight

– meeting Emma Dalrymple after 8 years. That was awesome Em.

Most beautiful place

<– Lake Bled in Slovenia

Greatest animal moment

– None. 😦

The zoo in Plock was depressing and I caught nothing fishing.

Best cities

– Krakow, Ljubljana, Budapest, Berlin

Greatest gigs

– the Killers in Berlin

– Basement Jaxx in Gdansk

Favourite New Music

– Spoon

– Girls

Best Boozer

– the Metelkova in Slovenia

Funniest conversation

– Chatting with Dave Gordon in Tallinn

<– with Dave Gordon, Gab and Dave’s bro-in-law who just happened to be in the same bar.

– Marcuz’s comment in Stockholm about being the token white guy

Sporting event highlight

– Err maybe the handball game in Poland. Poor year.

Best night-out

– With Linden in Warsaw

– The last night at Metelkova

– Out in the bars and nightclubs of Stockholm with Marcuz

Ragingly drunk night out

– With Linden in Warsaw. She did well.

– First night in Poland in Wroclaw with some Spanish lads from Seville

– 5 star hotel night with the big group in Riga. Ohh Agathe and her belly!

– Waking up at 3pm in my flat in Poland to find the front door wide open and my clothes lying in the porch. I don’t know.

Best films of the Year

– The Lives of Others

– Up!

Biggest disappointments

– Missing old mates this year

– no football/rugby/diving

– Clebson dying

WTF night?

– Getting strangled by the old Polish lady in Wroclaw

Biggest beer discovery

– Okocim Mocne

Best new buddies met

– Marcuz, Jacques, Piotr, Tamsin, Beau and Dave Gordon

<– with crazy Jacques

Best books read

– The Human Stain by Philip Roth

– The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz

– The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Best place stayed

– The Squirrel in Riga

– Linden’s place in Berlin

Best looking women

– Vilnius, Tallinn, Gdansk

<– Gab and an Estonian fair maiden

Cultural experience

– Living with a Polish family in Gdansk

– Working in Plock, middle of nowhere Poland

– The Hari Kristna rave in Budapest

– Hanging out with the bouncing crews in Stockholm

Best food

– That Polish restaurant in Krakow…mmmm pierogi

Greatest every cloud..day

– Missing the bus and flight from Slovenia, only to meet some great people

Most interesting bus journey

– The overnight train journey from Vienna to Ljubljana; fierce mountains covered in mist and vallies of petit, cute houses. I watched it for hours.

Feel like I am travelling again moment

– Searching for hostels in Budapest

Learn Much?

– Yeah. About myself, other folk and life’s meandering beauty. I like it.

See you this year.

Dan