Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Departing from Dubrovnik in Croatia and Arriving in Budva, Montenegro

Sunday, October 2, 2016
Dubrovnik, Croatia-Budva, Montenegro:
            Chriselle  and I woke up excited because soon we would be on the road again. However, for the start of the day, we’d be in Dubrovnik and since it was a Sunday and we had not yet managed to get inside the Church of St. Blaise, it made sense to go for Mass there.

We washed, showered, dressed and packed our bags and kept them ready for our departure and then we set out to pay a visit at the church—not sure if we would get a Mass as the church did not have a website and I was not able to confirm timings. To our good luck, the church was open when we got there at about 7. 45 am and we soon discovered, by the numbers of people who kept trooping in, that Mass was at 8.00 am. Needless to say, we attended Mass and received Communion and then left quickly. The church is gorgeous—it is again decorated in the Baroque vein with lavish gilding at the altar and beautiful marble cherubs and saints scattered all around. We also found deep Catholic devotion in Croatia and a congregation of a wide age range.

Outside, vendors were getting their goodies ready for new buyers—we later discovered that the open-air market was part of a two-day festival that occurs once a year. We were lucky to have caught it. Chriselle bought a jar of preserved cherries which she absolutely adored. We also returned to the same bakery to buy ourselves something for breakfast—croissants and ham and cheese twists with coffee—and we sat at a square that was just coming to life, we chatted with other tourists who had just arrived in Dubrovnik and were clearly enchanted by it.

With our breakfast eaten, we took a couple of last strolls around the place and then returned to our hotel to pick up our bags. We then made our way to the bus stop from where we caught the 1A bus that took us to the Main Bus Station.

Off to Montenegro:

     Our bus to Montenegro left promptly at 11.00 am. We were scheduled to arrive in Budva at 2.00 pm. We did go through another border check-point when our passports were checked and stamped and as we entered Montenegro, we found ourselves growing more and more charmed by the scenery. Leaving Dubrovnik was also wonderful as it offered us exciting views of Old Town from a height as it receded from us.

            Our arrival in Budva brought us to the main Bus station past the many twists and turns that make up the gorgeous Bay of Kotor. The drive snakes around the water’s edge for a good couple of hours offering stunning scenery that combines water, mountains, small red roofed hamlets and many luxury hotels and spas that have been completely taken over by Russian tourists. We passed by the main town of Kotor and other much smaller settlements that hug the water’s edge and finally arrived at Budva.

Arrival and Check-in at Budva:

      In Budva, I had made reservations at Hotel Kangaroo which Lonely Planet had recommended warmly. Its name derives from the fact that it is run by an Australian couple. Asking for directions at the bus-station, we managed to find our way to the hotel after about a 20 minute walk—which was not very pleasant given that we had baggage with us. Still, once we were in our hotel, it reminded us much of Goa—with its shack-like appearance and its lush greenery. No sooner did we stash our bags in our very spacious ensuite room than we realized how hungry we were—luckily, our hotel had a very large restaurant attached to it and it was there that we ate our first meal in Montenegro. I ordered the Beef Goulash which turned out to be a very large and hearty helping of an Indian–style beef curry served with a bit of mashed potato. Chriselle chose to have the grilled fish with chips—potato fries. This turned out to be much too large a helping for her—but the food was tasty and very reasonably priced.

            Our first impressions of Budva were that it reminded us a lot of suburban Bombay. It is a very modern city with the kind of urban sprawl that is not very attractive despite the fact that new high rise buildings are apparently being constructed for clients with money—more Russians, perhaps? After the charming, old-world, medieval ambience of Dubrovnik, we were a tad disappointed, but we hoped we’d find antiquity in Old Town.  

Going out to Discover Budva:

     Having sustained ourselves well for the evening ahead, we decided to go out in search of Old Town which was a good 20 minute walk from our hotel. We took a map and directions from our hotel receptionist and as we began to cross a large garden towards the waterfront, we felt the first fat drops on our faces. Soon the drizzle became a steady downpour and we had to take shelter in a restaurant as neither one of us had an umbrella. After a while it seemed to clear up and we raced towards the main walls of Old Town which were just a few meters in front of us.

Caught in a Massive Downpour:

     Well, all we managed to do was get into the town walls. Within a few steps, the rain re-started and we had no alternative but to seek shelter again. This time we sat in a restaurant and ordered cups of tea which felt really good as we were cold and quite miserable at being caught in the rain. However, we also reminded ourselves that this was the very first time we had to deal with rain on our entire trip—indeed we had been hugely fortunate with the weather—so we could hardly grumble.

     The rain drummed on and on. The two of us looked at it as a great time to just sit and catch up with every aspect of our lives. But for the two of us, the restaurant was empty and we had the wait staff pouring attention upon us. It was not just the rain but deafening claps of thunder that alarmed us and streaks of lightning that shot across the sky. We talked about our past, about our future, about friends and family members that we now see so rarely, etc. It really was a great way to bond and get in touch with all the happenings in our lives. About two hours later, after Chriselle felt the need to order a bit of dinner (I was still too full after our late lunch), we nibbled at a dessert that she ordered and after darkness had fallen over the city and the rain had thoroughly drenched everything, we found our way back to our hotel. In the end, we did not see anything of Old Town—but tomorrow was another day!

            There was little else to do but a spot of reading before we got to bed as the TV in our room did not play anything in English. By 9.30 pm, we were switching off the light, wishing each other a good night and hoping for better weather tomorrow.

     Until tomorrow, cheerio…           

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