Blown away by Montenegro

It’s a strange thing in Europe that even though the countries are relatively small, and share lengthy borders with others that have similar geography and history, in many you can see differences as soon as you cross a border. Sadly some of these were not so much fun for the cyclist as we entered Montenegro – narrower road, bumpy surface, too fast/too close traffic. Some of the roads looked to be under construction, but I’m not sure what stage of road building is deep sand and stones. On the plus side people started smiling and waving at us again. Which was lovely, until it became apparent that all Montenegrins are the owners of crazy dogs that chase cyclists. Stop waving and control your hound!   
Outside of the towns, the roads were quieter and the scenery around Kotor Bay and between Budva and Bar was stunning. The latter section would have been even more enjoyable without the torrential rain and a hurricane. Ok, maybe it wasn’t a hurricane, but Jo did get blown off her bike and we had to pedal really hard to achieve speeds of 5mph going downhill. Somehow I have missed out that at 9am in Kotor we had a (second) breakfast of pizza and some sort of meat burek from a very busy bakery. It was amazing, and Kotor’s stray dog population also thought so. They patiently followed us around the town, but sadly even for friendly dogs cyclists do not share food. In another food adventure, when we got to Bar we went into a bar to dry out a bit and warm up with a hot drink. There was a small hurdle in that even in our best Serbo-Croat attempts they could not offer a hot drink that wasn’t espresso or cappuccino. Tea was not understood at all and hot chocolate met with a puzzled look. Coffee for Jo, the coffee hater, with a lot of milk and five sugars. She didn’t like it.

A rainy rest day indoors in Bar helped us dry out and we enjoyed making a Friends inspired Shepherd’s Pie, not quite to the same recipe, playing board games and styling a butternut squash into a minion pumpkin.
Sunday is the best day for cycling wherever you are, and Albania was waiting for us. The first snow of the year had fallen on the highest mountains, making the scenery even better. The sun shone as we rode through small hamlets and a kind Montenegrin man who saw us picknicking near his house brought over some mandarins from his garden. There was a big queue at the border but a handy small lane for pedestrians and push bikes so we didn’t have to breathe traffic fumes for long. Jo accidentally went into a secure area looking for a toilet while we were waiting for our Albanian stamps. Handily none of the people with guns saw. The sun was also shining in Albania and for the first time in ages we saw other people cycling between the villages. People waved just as much as Montenegro and the crazy drivers we had been warned about must have been having a Sunday off as everyone passed us carefully in their black Mercedes. The only hazards were people walking their cows and groups (flocks, ganders?) of geese crossing the road. Surely this could not be the country of so many warnings? ‘Don’t go to Albania, the people are bad/traffic is crazy/roads are terrible/you will be eaten by dogs.’ Not so far…