Day 141-142: More of the Balkans

14 Oct

After bidding ‘auf Wiedersen’ to Sr Christina, Sr Micheala, Tamara and Michael, we rode the short distance to Albanian-Montenegran border.

It’s actually just one border – the first window is Albania, then you move along 2 metres to the Montenegran side. While we’d got away without buying additional insurance on our first entry into Montenegro, this time we were compelled to buy cover. We protested that we were only intending to be in the country for a matter of hours, but this time there was no getting out of it. We got 15 days cover for E10.

The mountain road we took from Serbia was breathtaking, but the coastal route through Montenegro to Croatia was something else again. Who’d have guessed Montenegro has such an incredible coastline? All afternoon we wound through hills and valleys and at every turn we were greeted by views of idyllic beachside settlements, increasingly dominated by resorts and luxury residences.

Montenegran Riviera

We exited Montenegro without any trouble at all. But getting into Croatia… another story. Our green card insurance had the HR for Croatia crossed out, but as we understood it, the form the Bulgarians had used was old, and didn’t account for Croatia’s recent acceptance into the EU. The green card by nature covers all EU nations, so it should be valid in Croatia regardless. Unfortunately, while the border officials understood our argument and sympathised with us, they could not let us into the country without purchasing further insurance. Oh, and you can’t just get it for Croatia (which is what we’d done in Montenegro), you have to buy it for all of the EU. And it’s E90.

We said “screw that, Croatia” (just in our heads so we didn’t incur the wrath of the border officials wielding pistols, mind you), turned around and went back into Montenegro. That’s our third trip into this tiny nation in four days. We assessed our options:
1) catch an overnight ferry from Montenegro to Italy for about E160 – a solid plan, but as it’s the low season the ferries are only going twice a week and only to an inconvenient port in southern Italy. While we liked the sound of it, it just didn’t make sense logistically to end up 200km further away from our destination.
2) go back to the border with our tail between our legs and cough up for the insurance. Not our favoured option.
3) spend the night in Montenegro and in the morning try a very small border crossing about 5km away and hope they don’t check our paperwork too carefully.

Option 3 worked a treat!

We found a reasonably priced apartment for the night in the nearby seaside town and parked up for the night. It’s low season, so there’s plenty of accommodation available for about E25 a night. On a side note, the owner told us that Michael Schumacher and Naomi Campbell own property around here, along with a bunch of Brits and Russians… apparently your pound/euro/ruble buys a lot in this very young and as-yet under-exploited nation.

In the morning, we rode to the border at Granitca-Konfin. The border officer in Montenegro checked our insurance and stamped us out, and on the Croatian side they asked for our bike papers and green card. We duly handed them over – she looked through the papers, handed them back, stamped our passports and waved us through. Telepathic high five!

The Croatian countryside was a continuation of the beautiful scenery we’d experienced yesterday The buildings and gardens here would be right at home on the Italian coast.

‘The riviera’

Croatia

Narrow tree-lined streets in Croatia

It’s hard to imagine that these similar seeming nations have been bitter enemies in very recent history. I’m utterly confused by the machinations of the Balkan Wars in the 90s and the various ethnic allegiances, but it’s something I really want to get to grips with – in each of the Balkan states we’ve seen great outpourings of national pride, verging on nationalism, and disdain for people of one or other of the neighbouring countries.

Later this morning, we stopped in Dubrovnik but we were run out of town by the hordes of middle aged British and American tourists. The old part of the city is walled, and is reminiscent of the meandering alleys of Venice. It suffered great damage in the Balkan Wars. At every turn we were met by an oncoming tour group, and every narrow street was blocked by a huddle of bewildered looking tourists. We spent an hour or so wandering the Old Town and taking in the restoration that has taken place since the city was sieged by Serbians and Montenegrans in 1991-2, but then we had to escape.

Dubrovnik

Wandering Dubrovnik

Busker (but he only played one riff over and over and over and over…)

We then travelled on to Split, further north up the coast. En route, we briefly crossed into Bosnia. By briefly, I mean 8 minutes. It’s just a weird little stretch of road that gives Bosnia access to the coastline, we presume.

Small islands off the coast

Picnic lunch in a tiny seaside village. All the houses seemed shut up for the winter, but we’re still enjoying warm days in the mid-20s.

We arrived in Split at our typical rush-hour time, and searched the city for a while for a likely hostel or apartment. Evenutally we tound one, and discovered that the guy next door is Australian. Of course. We’ve settled in for a night of MTV, a bottle of red wine and a packet risotto.

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2 Responses to “Day 141-142: More of the Balkans”

  1. Rob October 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Such beautiful countries we know so litte about, until we get your blogs. Safe crossing to Ancona!

  2. beth October 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    So happy you didn’t have to spend the extra money for another green card. Shows you that it all depends on the border official of the day! Hope you are now enjoying your dresses and shoes (motorcycle boot don’t really count), and I’m envious if you get your hair cut.

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