Wonderful People of Montenegro

Letter 114

As I headed towards the border of Montenegro and Albania I encountered the city of Ulcinj. With few expectations I was struck with a charming city and overwhelmed by the generosity of the people there.

ulcinj old town

I had very little time in Ulcinj, only one full day, but in that time I made many friends, travellers and locals, saw a stunning sunset over the sea, wandered the ups and downs of the old town, relaxed on a tiny pebbly beach and stayed at one of the coolest hostels ever. Where do I start?

The old town I think…

ulcinj old town 1ulcinj old town 2ulcinj old town 3ulcinj old town 4

The cobbled streets may look similar to the other old towns you might come across in Montenegro (or Croatia for that matter) but Ulcinj was different. I saw only a handful of people in my wanderings from street to street and I enjoyed the peace and quiet very much. It’s not very touristy and as a result, the restaurant owners I passed were not very interested in enticing me eat and instead approached me kindly asking after my day and pointed me to various vantage points from the old town on the cliff.

ulcinj sea

I walked down to one of the beaches I was recommended which was covered with locals with crystal water lapping up onto the pebbles. There is one massive beach right in the centre of the city which I was advised to avoid because of the crowds – something I now also advise. I took only one photo of my perfect little beach as I quickly got lost in my music and dreams.

ulcinj beach

As the sun was beginning to set I headed up to a spot that the hostel owner told me about. Here I found peace and quiet along with some cats and a very friendly local. I bought a drink from his small ‘shop’ and sat on a bench to watch the sun setting over the Old Town. He soon came to join me and began chatting to me. As a Brit I found this strange to begin with but I soon realised he was just a friendly person who wanted to talk to someone new. He told me about how he works in a restaurant in the centre for the summer months and is a plumber for the rest of the year. He spoke of his tirelessly long hours in the heat for months and then struggling through the winter in this economically challenged country. I learnt about his family and he questioned me about mine and my university life. We chatted for hours as the sun set and learned a lot about each other.

He then went to grill some fish he caught that day and served it with warm fresh bread which I was dumbfounded at. He bought me a new drink and we ate his delicious creation whilst chatting. He asked for no money and refused to take my token of gratitude before I left. This generosity honestly shocked me and made me realised how wonderful the Montenegrins/Albanians are. Someone who works all day every day for a tiny wage was so willing to share his food with me, a lowly tourist. It was a sincerely special night on my trip and I went to sleep smiling in my lovely little hostel.

ulcinj sunset

My day in Ulcinj was perfect and made me want to return to this sweet little city and to make a trip to Albania in the future. The hostel I stayed at (Hostel Pirate – website here) was amazing. Such a cool vibe, great staff and lovely dorms and common areas. Would 100% stay again.

So there’s my quick letter about Ulcinj and the people of Montenegro. I hope you enjoyed.

From Lou

About Me

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The Best Hostel!

Letter 113

This is the first time I’ve chosen to visit a place purely on recommendation of a hostel, and it was one of the best parts of my trip. This hostel was a home from home, offered me so much friendliness and showed me more of beautiful Montenegro than I had ever hoped.

The Grove is nestled in Stari Bar in Montenegro, a place few travellers stop off at but I’m sure The Grove will change that. In this letter I want to tell you about why my 5 days here were an incredibly special part of my trip and explain why this little spot needs to be visited.

Stari Bar

A good friend I made up in Croatia and met again in Kotor practically forced me to go to this hostel and I am forever grateful. The hostel is a renovated Olive Mill which has been done beautifully, providing fantastic common spaces, outdoor space, a massive kitchen, giant walk-in showers (great for late night karaoke) and spacious dorms with DOUBLE beds. It’s truly a travellers heaven. The owners are British and Australian and have made this hostel everything they dreamed of as travellers and as a result it’s perfect. I have 0 pictures of the hostel so please check out the website here if you wish to have a look (I was having too much fun to take photos).

The hostel provides home cooked incredible dinners every night for a small cost (€3) and it’s such a great atmosphere sitting around with new friends enjoying food that isn’t cooked in a cramped hostel kitchen. After dinner we did various activities every night from heading to the local bar for many beers and rakias (the local deadly drink) to going to play ultimate Frisbee at the beach followed by a swim at sunset. We even stayed up through the night playing drinking games on pizza boxes swapping t-shirts and being dared to jump in to the plunge pool fully clothed and one night sat around the campfire listening to music and watching a talented guy playing with fire. How they make it so much fun I’ll never get my head around.

montenegro drinking gamesmontenegro The grove catmontenegro camp firemontenegro lazy days

The other amazing thing about The Grove is the free trips they take you on everyday which allowed me to see so much of the country from this quiet base. We spent a day on Lake Skadar enjoying views across to Albania, walked to ‘dead goat’ beach which required a cliff jump and a swim to reach but was unbelievable when we got there, hiked up to the freezing ‘Mr Cool’ lagoon and embarked on a mystery trip taking us to a couple of beaches down the coast, an amazing fish restaurant and a vantage point around the mountain looking out over Lake Skadar. It was a truly packed few days and I loved every single second.

montenegro beachmontenegro beach sunsetmontenegro countryside horsesmontenegro dead goat beachmontenegro dead goat beach 2montenegro hike blue lagoonmontenegro hike stari barmontenegro lake skadarmontenegro lake skadar 2montenegro view lake skadar

The best part about this hostel? The friends I made and the memories that can’t be captured in a photo. I will 100% be returning to this hostel in such a wonderful part of my favourite country. Please consider if you’re travelling in Montenegro. Or the Balkans. Or Europe in general. You won’t regret staying here and I can be sure that you’ll be extending your stay the second you arrive.

Hope you’ve enjoyed these sunny photos, especially if you’re in a wintery wonderland at home.

All the love,

From Lou

PS. It has indeed been more than a month since my last post by to say I’ve been busy would be an understatement. Imagine 9am-2:30am work days, little sleep, crappy food and a tonne of work to do. That has been my life for the past week and it is finally over. Today I finished all of my design work and can now slightly relax, which means time to blog! I am determined to finish writing about my summer trip – even if it has been about 4 and a half months since I returned. I love looking back at my trip and it genuinely pulls on my heart strings, I wish I could return to travelling so much. It also gives me determination to do my absolute best at university so that I can be done and get back out in the world again!

Thanks for reading!

Reminiscing about the beautiful Bay of Kotor

Letter 112

In a bid to start November the way I mean to go on, I would like to share with you all the joys of the Bay of Kotor, a place that holds a special spot in my heart and where a lot of memories were made.

I’ve spoke previously about my excitement towards Montenegro and arriving in the Town of Kotor ensured it did not disappoint. I found it completely captivating and like nothing I’d seen before. I was suddenly surrounded by a sprawling fjord of deep blue water and black mountains towering above. The town was a maze of cobbles and cats and I quickly found my bearings and settled in to my new favourite country.

1 montenegro first impressions

For my first day I headed out of the town and around the Bay to neighbouring Perast. This is a must visit if you have time, which I had a lot of. I took in the views from the church tower, walked along the waterfront and then relaxed at the Pirate Bar and watched over the islands. It was blissful and a much needed rest day after the chaotic few weeks in Croatia. I didn’t manage to swim over to the islands (which I was informed were very close and just a short swim – looked far to me) but I enjoyed exploring this little village and admiring the stunning views into the bay.

Kotor perast 1kotor perast 2kotor perast 3

When I arrived back at my hostel I bumped into some lovely people and decided to take a walk up to the monastery with them to catch the sunset. This ended up being the first of two nights watching the sun sink below the mountains in this wonderful spot. We headed up the gently sloping track which winded around the mountain passing a cheese seller and even a goat farmer, this route is much better than the stepped route up which you have to pay for. A couple of ciders and chilled chats at the top made for a lovely evening even if the weather turned grey and the sunset was slightly underwhelming.

kotor monastery night

I won’t give away the sunset view quite yet, but here is Kotor by nightfall…

The next day is one that unfortunately ties Kotor into my memory for negative reasons, which both saddens me and makes me happy. I got a phone call from my mum telling me that my cat of 17 years had to be put down. Honestly, it’s like losing a family member, and being so far from home made it harder. That was the only time in my trip that I wanted to go home. So for almost a whole day I stayed in my bed, chatted to people from home and watched films and cried a lot. I soon realised I didn’t want to waste my time in this beautiful place and needed to get out of the room to clear my head. I wandered the streets taking photos, visiting small shops and cuddling Kotor’s cats. To me Kotor was therapy when I needed it most. So although it has connotations with a sad part of my trip, it also healed me when I felt vulnerable.

kotor town 1kotor town 2kotor town 3kotor town 4kotor town 5kotor town 6

After a day wallowing and a good nights sleep I was ready to be a human again and face the world. Luckily there were three very friendly faces waiting for me in the kitchen and we all headed to the local beach together for the day. We bumped into a few more people and we all relaxed, chatted and ate all day. This was therapy part 2: travellers. I loved this simple day and getting a chance to swim away my thoughts was especially helpful.

kotor beach

That evening I headed up to the monastery for the second time with one of the guys from the hostel. We chatted for hours with the most spectacular backdrop and I enjoyed every second. These are the moments I feel luckiest when travelling. Spending hours in the company of a total stranger with nothing better to do that tell each other our life stories and admire a pretty view. God I miss travelling.

kotor monastery 1kotor monastery 2kotor monastery 3kotor monastery 4

I spent my last day in Kotor milling around the town, enjoying the company of the people I’d met and relaxing before moving on again. Four nights in any place is long for most travellers, but especially in a small town like Kotor. I doubted my decision to stay so long more than once, but ended up falling in love with the charms of the town and getting to know the streets and the people. I especially enjoyed spending time with my hostel receptionist who started off being a helpful local and ended up a friend who I sincerely hope I’ll see again. For my last night I caught up with a girl I met in Zagreb and had the best night sharing a couple of weeks worth of travel stories. We’ve since met up in London and I hope she’s a travel friend I’ll still know in years to come.

In the end I was sad to leave Kotor. I had no idea that Montenegro was about to get better and better.

Thanks for reading and happy travels if you’re currently on the road (in which case I’m very jealous of you)!

From Lou

About Me

PS. I visited Kotor 11th-15th July this summer. I realise it’s been almost four months (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE) since then but I’m doing my best to catch up with blogs from my favourite country so bear with me!

Bad at blogging and missing Montenegro

Letter 111

I’m pretty certain I’m one of the worst bloggers out there. Honestly, I’m not even sure I can call myself a blogger. Maybe I can when I’m no longer suffocated by deadlines and restricted to spending most of my waking hours in the studio I’ll get better. Or maybe I just need a little inspiration.

It’s been over a month since my last letter, and when I say I’ve been busy, it’s an understatement. After a fantastic 4 month break from my debilitating course, my life is back to being clouded by architecture and honestly, I’m struggling. The workload is too full on, it’s much harder than previous years and I’m struggling to understand computer programs. My diet has gone to shit, I’m spending more money than I would like and I never have time to see my friends. But the real downfall? I’m not travelling.

I had a tiny spark of inspiration last night when I remembered a program that someone I met in Croatia was telling me about. It was about helping people in Eastern Europe learn English by having lots of conversations and getting to know them. I had a quick google and found myself lost in possibilities and for the first time in a month, I had some excitement in my mind. Although it’s shit now, this time next year I could be off helping people improve their English in Poland. I began to remember why I’m still putting myself through this – so that I can travel after.

So after a pretty positive crit (where tutors make themselves feel important by pointing out the flaws in our models) I feel a bit better about life. In just over 6 weeks I will be handing in my design coursework and shortly breaking up for Christmas. I cannot wait. Right now? I’m thinking about Montenegro. Easily my favourite country I’ve visited and one I’m dying to get back to. So For the last part of this letter (because I’ve been unable to get some posts out about Montenegro) I thought I’d give you a taster of the land of the Black Mountains.

1 montenegro first impressions

My first impressions of Montenegro were from a bus on a boat. New experience and beautiful views to go with it.

3 montenegro kotor cats

If you visit Kotor you will definitely make lots of feline friends.

4 montenegro kotor streets

Whilst I saw many cobbled medieval old towns, I think this was the only one with a mountainous backdrop which was very beautiful.

6 montenegro kotor sunset

This view is one of my favourites I’ve ever seen.

7 montenegro skadar lake

Boat trip with a great crowd on the lake that sits in both Montenegro and Albania.

 

8 montenegro bar lagoon

Freezing cold lagoon hidden behind Stari Bar.

9 montenegro stari bar

Stari Bar is an underrated town with an incredible hostel.

10 montenegro ulcinj town

The old town of Ulcinj was silent and unexpectedly lovely.

11 montengro zabljak mountain

This is what +2,500m looks like in Montenegro.

12 montenegro black lake

The Black Lake in Zabljak – perfect for a swim after 8 hours of hiking with 10 companions.

13 montenegro walking

The moment I stopped to realise how lucky I was to be in this great country.

I’m hoping to be writing full letters about all of the places I visited and experiences I had but I just don’t have time. I will try to prioritise more now and get these letters written because I love reliving it and you need to know how awesome Montenegro is!

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

From Lou

About Me