Back on the road after had experienced the truly Balkans’ hospitality – as did happen From Mostar to Dubrovinik – had upon us an amalgamation of feelings – confidence, doubts, joy and somehow something akin to fear.
Memories of that day were rather uplifting but for hitchhikers even 75 km (Dubrovnik To Montenegro) can be a long journey. We were well aware but we started hitchhiking a bit late, at 6pm. We knew the risks but we had the feeling Montenegro would soon welcome us on its territory.
Between Montenegro and Croatia the story of our journey was flowing slowly. Nevertheless we quickly understood that locals don’t normally travel to the neighbor country due the the bloody conflict that divided the two countries, we were therefore relying on the mercy of tourists which, at that time, was unlikely to happen.
The first car that could have take us belonged to an Israeli-Serbian couple, they couldn’t take us due to the lack of space on their small blue Renaut. For a hitchhiker sometimes get stuck can be ascribed to the absence of a persuasive word, one have seconds to convince someone that there is always a way to fit two big guys with their rucksacks in a small ca. We would over-think about that moment for the next few hours. “If we had insisted they could have taken us” I kept annoying Johan though I knew dwelling on what it’s gone makes things even harder.
Hours later, we figured out the airport should be our next stop and have a lift to there became our goal.
After a fallow period and between an unfriendly police check and endless “No, I am not going” or “The car is full”, we managed to seduce a man, who first was afraid for reasons he didn’t want to specify but then convinced himself that he should help us. He took us to the airport where we had to spend the night – again we spent the night thinking about the next stop – Montenegro -not very far from Dubrovnik but for Croatians this place is mentally distant.
Next morning we had 15minutes online and we found out a teacher – a couchsurfer- was wiling to host us in Dubrovnik. Because we had already spent half of our 30 planned days in only 3 countries we were to take heed of our limited time.
I was tilted to stay another day, it would have been our first CS experience. I tried to convince Johan to postpone his return which, though was not booked, was likely to happen days later.
Way to Montenegro
After awhile waiting, a gentleman did stop and asked me if I could speak German. He quickly realized Deutsch was among the languages I could speak but he was happy to have us on board. It was the first time we were picked up by someone who couldn’t speak none of the languages we speak, therefore we used all the tools available to establish a dialogue.
Sometimes the silence was the option even though we were keen to understand why he was driving to Montenegro. After few km we diverted from the main road, following his hand we glanced a cute colorful house, he clearly uttered “My house”.The message itself was still unclear and wouldn’t totally unfold until he stopped few meters from the border. “He wasn’t going to Montenegro, “he just wanted to help us get here” we both gleefully agreed after he left.
I felt like a soldier holding a white flag bringing peace and adventure to this part of the world sadly affected by conflicts. The war left indelible marks on people’s life: the gentleman, for instance, who magnanimously took us on his car, was a soldier during the war against Serbia for the dispute of Dubrovnik, he told us on the way. The Siege of Dubrovnik lasted more than a year and left more than 1000 deaths on both side.
Because of the intervention of Montenegro in the war, Croatians avoid visiting the neighbor country, that must explain why only foreign cars were seen heading off to Montenegro.
Despite the ghastly memories, some refuse to paint everyone with a single brush,giving chances to travellers like us to feel free to cross from one to other side.
Way to Montenegro
The country was recommended by a Serbian friend two years earlier while visiting Budapest. I was super excited to get there and witness what I had already experienced through my friend’s words.
Still at the border, we waited 10 min for the next lift. A guy, normally a taxi driver, stopped to take us to Kotor.
The bay is the most important region in Montenegro when comes to tourism in the Adriatic therefore cities like Budva, Kotor and Herceg Novi are the most popular.
Crna gora, the original name of the country, is also well known because Tara River Canyon and the mountains in Northwest part of the country.
But for us, with limited time, it was crucial to allow life to bestow us par hazard with the best place to go. It wasn’t clear until the guy stopped at the border to give us a lift, where? “Of course to Kotor”, he said with the most convincing words
Kotor – highly recommend though my anger
When we started the trip in Slovenia everyone we rubbed shoulders with guaranteed us that Bosnians – regardless the religion or background – were the most hospitable people in the Balkans
We crossed the country from North to South and witnessed a pure and genuine yearning to help, therefore we were attuned to see locals coming towards us just to help without any other intention.
We believed that Mayo was doing the same. He drove us to the old town and as soon we met the receptionist – his friend – he disappeared in 2 seconds without even saying a word – I felt overwhelmed by a surge of anger and disappointment that I couldn’t conceal even though I had the option to go somewhere else.
My disappointment grew by by day. The hostel were where we spent 2 days was an example that Montenegro and its tourism industry is failing, in my opinion, to choose a sustainable tourism for the country.
The old town is every single day packed with dozens of tourists making the city hyper crowded and uncomfortably noisy.
Most of the tourists are coming with coaches owned by big companies which only allow locals to have a small fraction of the business.
Most of the locals one can meet around the old town were waiters or receptionists and those few who actually can still afford live in the city center don’t waste a single opportunity to show their anger.
At the street where the hostel is located, one could every night hear shouts from neighbors who sometimes angrily threw water on guests staying outside.
These reactions I was witnessing every day add to the fact that small shops were rarely frequented by tourists were hints enough that Montenegro and politicians are failing to handle the huge pressure impose by the tourism industry clearly dominated by Russians and western investors.
The day were leaving if I have doubts regarding the local opinion when comes to the benefit of the tourism, they vanished when a young man told us that would be tough for us to hitchhike we dont like tourists, because the tourism here is mess – he replied when I asked why?
I found peace in the mountains
Kotor is more than its bay and what makes this place alluring are the generous side-hills, where I had the pleasure to meet the locals living on the way to the top of Mountains.
The view and the hiking was the best souvenir I could get from this part of the Balkans I dreamed to visit since my friend described it.
The mountains offer a a unique opportunity to flee from the city and if one enjoys be alone with the nature, this place is beyond any shadow of doubt a master piece of nature’s own creation. The path that zigzags from the fortress guides one to the perfect place where the nature still dominate.
I can only speak for what I went through and I am sure fellow travellers – including Johan – could have different opinion regarding Kotor and its tourism. For me when one fails to listen to the voice of angry locals, one fail to respect the most important element of the country – its people.
Despite my partial disappointment, I highly recommend a visit to this region but remember it falls upon every single tourist-traveller to support a sustainable tourism.
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