Border guards must be selected purely by their ability to delve to levels of miserableness that would be both impossible and undesirable for other normal human beings. Nowhere was this more evident, and fitting, for our final few days in Croatia. Anyway, to the start of the day….
The old town of Dubrovnik was truly stunning, by far the most impressive coastal town I have ever seen. The huge, thick walls that still surround it are quite the spectacle, and the narrow, winding passageways with shiny white stone underfoot are interesting to explore. I had promised my Dad that I would go and check it out, but we really debated whether we were going to actually head down the hill into the city, we had experienced quite the day filled with tour bus rage, groping room sellers etc. I’m glad we did, even though it cost us a small fortune, and would love to return out of season to see it properly. Not only were their absolutely millions of tourists, but its ‘game of thrones filming season’ so there was a fair crowd of people there hoping to see whoever it is is in game of thrones. For us, it was fairly horrendous to be there, it was expensive, busy and hilly. We slept in a strange place that turned out to be a single males spare room who had his fair share of weird quirks such as a five minute description of where it was, and was not, acceptable to place a wet towel.
Straight away we had climb out of the city, back onto the busy coastal road that passes through many tourist villages towards the bust airport. The road was thick with the bane of our life – tour buses. The drivers are almost constantly texting, picking their nose or smoking, and more commonly all three at the same time, and pass us not only close, but at ferocious speeds. When one drives close behind the other they often do not see us and have been as close as just a few cm. With one running me off the road I picked up a large rock and carried it for the next ten km just waiting to vent my anger at rear window of the next one who came that close, but alas, the rock seemed to posses some universe anti bus come close properties so we safely made it past the worst of it. Not only are they terrible drivers, but every time tour buses they stop they spew semi comatose retards out on the street who have left whatever ounce of sense and self awareness they possess back where they came from. How difficult is it in this day and age with information available globally in every language possible to figure out how to get to the next town, or to the airport, or to the beach, without boarding the Volvo ‘coach of the year 2008’ of stupidity. Rant almost over…
The scenery changed little, yes picture perfect coastline but little changing along. Most of our attention was put into not becoming past tense so we couldn’t appreciate it. Again, the villages look nice from a distance but up close had little character, long ago pimped off to make way for tourist dollar. Which brings me to my next bout of moaning. Yes this section of Croatian coastline is beautiful, but its empty, it has no soul. Its like how I imagine the Croatian miss world contestant, nice to look at, looks nice in a photo but after interaction it has no character and is filled to the brim with paying Germans. After the wilds of Bosnia, we have come to realize that cycling through an area where the sole industry is tourism is, quite frankly, shit. Everyone is on the take, no one gives a crap that you are here, especially if you don’t want to buy whatever it is they are selling, and people last smiled in April.
It is beautiful however, so if you are shortly about to visit then don’t worry, you will enjoy it. Dubrovnik old town is truly stunning, and with a bit more money we would have loved to have eaten in one of the amazing looking restaurants. With a car, the coastal road would be great, and I am sure the islands would be good to explore. For us, the mass tourism was too much… expensive and busy, and the scenery changed too little for it to be good cycling.
Our last dose of Croatia summed up the experiences of the last few days perfectly. Ignoring my now perfected Croatian greeting, the young female border guard couldn’t have looked more disgusted at my presence, slapping my passport down and completely forgoing any of the usual niceties that being a human provides. Whilst she may have been sat on a chair made of rotating razor blades, its unlikely… and while this style of interaction, one without any common decency of acknowledgement, has previously annoyed me, Sheena and I now take great pleasure in making it obvious that they are miserable and should partake in some common pleasantries. After staying at the hatch and sarcastically praising her for her friendliness and how much she was smiling we set off down the hill towards our first new country for a while! Passing closed down duty free shops, we eventually ended up at the Montenegro border where my passport lost its virginity… yes, my brand new jumbo passport received its first stamp of the trip. Hello Montenegro.
The first town couldn’t have been more different to Croatia. I’ll try again… the first town was probably once the same as Croatia but lacks the money that lots of foreign tourists bring in so is very different. Herceg Novi is a bit of a mismatch, old buildings mixed in with socialist tower blocks, right down at the edge of the sea… but alas, it is a real place, with real people, complete with shops that are not filled with the things that people expect tourists to want. It was busy with normal people going about their lives or enjoying the sea, it was slightly decrepit, it was the same coastline as before – but hey, no tour buses. We had been cycling all morning with ongoing undulations with little to eat, so found a bakery to have lunch, on an old broken bench right on the sea front we enjoyed a disgustingly greasy burek each and basked in the sun.
Our cycle then took us towards the Bay of Kotor, yet another UNESCO site (oh, life… its so hard!). I’m not sure what forces of nature created this, but I imagine rising sea levels onto the mountainous terrain that permeates the landscape here. It is truly magnificent, large mountains surrounding a bow tie shaped bay, with the various villages, towns and industries clung to the side. Tomorrow we head upwards, up the side of one of these grey, stone beasts, back into the wild interior for a while – tomorrows climbing is over 1000m. Our plan over the next few days is to cycle down the Tara canyon, the second deepest in the world, whilst heading towards Kosovo. We are aware that we are running out of summer, even Autumn…. Moaning aside, we are loving every minute of it and each day brings its own mix of uncertainty and adventure!