The most memorable moments in life are the moments unplanned.
Originally I was supposed to be going to Skopje, Macedonia and Sofia, Bulgaria this weekend, but when I went to the bus station Thursday night to get the bus to Skopje I was told no such bus exists. Most of my friends were going to Rome this weekend and I had a 4 day weekend so I figured I’d travel to some cool places alone. So on Friday morning I went to the bus station to find a bus that was leaving and I hopped on a bus to Podgorica, Montenegro. I was told Podgorica wasn’t the nicest of cities, but I figured I’d go somewhere inland to experience something a little different and different is exactly what I got.
The bus ride to Podgorica was beautiful. We rode along the coast and through the mountains and saw the sunset. But once the sun was down the sky was pitch black. The bus arrived in Podgorica around 7:30PM and of course I got lost walking to the hostel. I love staying in hostels because it gives you the chance to meet the most interesting people and boy did I meet some interesting people in Hostel Podgorica.
The typical first conversation between fellow travelers is “Where are you from?” “What city did you come before here?” “Why are you in (Insert current city)?” “Where are you going next?”
I was staying in a 5 bed mixed room and there were only 2 other beds occupied. They were 2 guys from Moscow named Nikita and Elias. They explained to me that they are from Moscow, but their families are part of a very small community that has their own language and own culture. They then explained that they came to Montenegro because it is a better place than Moscow and they hope to stay there forever. They said they want to start some kind of “society”…I didn’t ask for details because I didn’t think it was in my best interest to know. They then pointed to some animal bones that were lying next to the bed. Originally I thought they were just some decoration from the hostel, but turns out they found the bones at the Albanian border (yes, I took a selfie with the bones when they left the room). While they seemed to be hiding some details of their journey and their background they were super nice and very engaging. They asked me questions about the United States and they even asked me my opinion of the NSA. I tried to keep all my answers as neutral as possible. Before we went to sleep Elias reached in his pocket, pulled out a Russian Ruble, and tossed it to me telling me to remember my new friends. In return I gave him a Croatian Kuna. While my new “friends” were definitely hiding something, they made my visit to Podgorica worth it. It was a very quiet and boring city so in the morning a caught the first bus to Kotor.
It’s funny how a simple question to a couple strangers can turn into a friendship. There were 2 girls sitting in front of my on the bus to Kotor and I asked them where they were coming from. That question led to a conversation that was held for the entire bus ride. Lily and Stella are both studying abroad in Paris and were headed to Kotor then Dubrovnik.
Once I arrived to Old Town Hostel Kotor the guy at reception, Nikola, asked me if I was only staying for 1 night and when I confirmed that statement he laughed and said “you know you’re going to stay for more than 1 night, right?” I laughed, grabbed my keys, and dropped my bags off in my room. Kotor is almost like a smaller version of Dubrovnik. It has a small Old Town and is on the sea. I explored the city for a while and then decided to climb to the fortress at the top of the mountain before sunset. The fortress is 1350 steps up to Castle of San Giovanni (St John) that offers a fabulous birds-eye-view of the Old Town.
The next morning I packed my bags, returned my keys, and before my bus took off I went with Lily and Stella to try out a highly recommended local lunch joint. What we thought was going to be a restaurant turned out to be a butcher shop with a grill inside of it. The owner asked us if we were hungry and if we ate meat. Both answers of course were YES! Within minutes the man brought us 3 plates of deliciousness. The flavors were like nothing I have ever tasted before.
During our wonderful meal Stella and Lily were discussing visiting Budva for the day. Budva is another coastal town not too far from Kotor. I decided to miss my bus and explore Budva with them. I went back to the hostel, asked for my keys back, and dropped my bags off again. Nikola was right and I ended up staying a total of 3 nights. He even tried to convince me to stay a 4th night because the hostel has a deal when you book 3 nights you get your 4th night free, but I had to leave the 4th day to make it to class. Budva was a nice town, but it was very small. We spent most of our time sitting on the beach listening to Russian tourists sing songs and play guitar.