And a good Sunday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country! Yesterday was just perfect. JT and I made a pact to do NOTHING, and I am happy to confirm that we succeeded on all fronts. We had coffee on the balcony for the first time in 11 months, we (meaning Jenny) loaded pictures onto all of our backup drives, we did some vacation research (shocking, I know), we chatted with the Rice clan, I got to chat with Dad, and we both got a run in. After a LONG spell, I think my running has finally turned a corner. IFor starters, t's a very nice feeling when you can actually run easy (meaning you've got 2 gears finally - the one that hurts and the one that doesn't). Secondly, it's an EVEN BETTER feeling when you climb up Primrose Hill in your "easy gear" and find that it's a minute and thirty seconds faster than you've ever done it previously. FINALLY - I think I'm getting back in shape.
And speaking of that - GOOD NEWS!!!! Before I went out for my run I looked at my poor, lonely little i-Pod sitting there, and said, "Let's just give him one last shot for old time's sake." And what happened when I hit the button? I SAW A BLACK APPLE, BABY!!!!! Oh YEAH!!! We're back!!! Now granted, not all the buttons work any more and the battery only lasts about 30 minutes, but hey - NO COMPLAINTS FROM THIS GUY.
One last thing to note - WE WATCHED COLLEGE FOOTBALL YESTERDAY!!!! I found THE GREATEST website in history: channelsurfing.net. Seriously - you can watch ANYTHING, and it's streamed to you just like your in the network for the game. We watched the Noles (KJ - what happened...) from the Tampa affiliate and then the Vols (oh well, it was good for a half) on ESPN. SO COOL!!!!
We also watched "The Bucket List," again (it was on the telly), and I am happy to report that, once again, Team Taylor bawled their eyes out. I mean, I turned on the tube hoping for Die Hard, and they throw THAT at us? Tough draw...
Okay, so back to the continuing saga of the Taylors in the former Yugoslavia. Today we turn our attention to the smallest, most mountainous of the new republics - the little land that is known as Montenegro.
Day 5 - Montenegro - the ONLY way you can (OR NEED) to see it...
So this day dawned EARLY (well, by Taylor standards, at least), but we were up at 6:30, bureks in hand by 7, and in front of the Hilton again (same spot as the day before) for a 7:30 pick-up. Today's trip was to the smallest, least populated, and newest republic of the former Yugoslavia - Montenegro. Covering only 13,000 square miles and having a population of just 670,000, this country is basically 1 big mountain with a couple of teeeeeeny towns along GORGEOUS harbors, bays, and the Adriatic. In short - it was a day of AMAZING scenery...but NOT much else.
We were on one of those massive coaches, and when we got on our guide (whose name I CANNOT pronounce, but it sounded like Katalovarinaichkova - I'll just call her Sally) showed us right away the kind of speaker she would be. Now don't get me wrong - her command of English was WAY better than my command of Croatian, but let me try and give you a flavor (I really wish I could record sound for this thing):
Sally: "Hello, ah, and ah welcooooome, ah, to ah, the buuuuuus, ah. My ah, name ah, is ah, Sally ah, and I am ah your guiiiiiide for ah todehhhhhhh. Ah, we will go to ah, the Montenaneagareo, ah, and there ah, we will ah have ah a looooooovahleeee day ah. Eeeef you ah have ah the question, you make ah to ask ah me, and, maybe I answer. Okay"
Seriously? SERIOUSLY? She spoke constantly for a TWELVE HOUR TOUR, but if you'd removed the "ah's" from her presentation, I think she would have only had 12 minutes of material. The funny part was that she also spoke German, and she didn't miss a BEAT in that language. I was able to get most of it (Frau would be so proud - insert Harv yelling "FRAAAAAAAAUUUUUUU" here), and I could tell that her Deutsch was WAY better than her English. How dare both Sally and Armena not consider American tourists first! SERENITY NOW!!!!!
Anyhoo, I digress. You have to cross the border with Montenegro twice, but that's the weird part - IT'S THE SAME BORDER. The ONLY reason you have to cross it twice is because they wanted to put in a DUTY FREE SHOP between the 2 countries. That's right - I can't make this up. So you get a stamp in your passport that says "Welcome to Montenegro" (the agent actually gets on the bus with the stamp), then you drive ONE KILOMETER, where the only thing you pass is - you guessed it - the Duty Free shop - and then you come to the second checkpoint, where you may or may not get stamped again. Luckily we didn't, but it didn't matter, because NO ONE stamped us on the way out. I mean, you gotta love the security in place...
So Montenegro basically divides into 3 geographies - the bays (of which there are 4), the mountains (which are the highlight), and the coast (which was nice but a mini Dubrovnik at best). To see all this, you spent basically 8.5 of your 12 hour tour in the coach, traveling ~180 miles over the course of the day. However, as there really is NO OTHER WAY to see it, JT and I didn't mind.
The first stop was in the bay region, where we visited the TINY town of Kotor. It was cute, but the 1 hour we were allotted for it was MORE than enough time. However, the views out the coach getting to it were JUST STUNNING. We could have taken 10,000 photographs of the white mountains dropping to the cobalt blue waters - it was just FABULOUS.
After Kotor we tackled the DEFINITE highlight of the day - the drive through the Mountains. The scenery during this was INCREDIBLE - among the prettiest things we've ever seen. JT went crazy with the cheese whiz and took about 4 billion photos. However, as each one was AMAZING, she's going to create a coffee table book called: "Muffin's Guide to Life in the Baltic in a Bus" - pre-order your copy now, as those puppies are gonna go like hot cakes.
After the stunning climb through the mountains, we stopped at "the Village" - yes, M. Night Shamalan style. Seriously - I would NOT call this a "village." This made Whitesburg (or even Tazewell - Matt, that was for you, and PS your alma mater played like DONKEY TRASH yesterday) look like a metropolis. Picture a few corrugated steel buildings, most unpainted and rusting, with a single restaurant. THAT restaurant happened to be where we stopped for lunch, where we tried the local wine. Again, not sure why these cats feel the need to chill red wine to the point that your teeth hurt, but it was NOT good. The sandwich, however, was okay, so no complaints. However, as we left, I couldn't help but notice what looked to be cabins behind the restaurant (Mom and Dad - you would have been proud - I only spotted them because of all my KOA training from our trips out West). As I boarded the bus, I thought to myself, "there is NO WAY ANYONE would rent a cabin up here. That has to be some kind of storage shed."
Sure enough, we get back on the bus for Sally to say the following:
"I ah, am not ah shooooore eeeef ah, youuuu a noteeece eeeet, but ah eeeeen de Veeeeellage, ah, they have ah, theeeee cabins, you can come heeeeeeere to relax for one week ah, or maybe 2 week, ah, it is good ah, and is eco friendly."
HOW THE HELL IS IT ECO FRIENDLY? You have just wasted wood on a series of cabins that people will NEVER stay in, and if they do they'll use TONS OF FUEL leaving every day to go for the water or will trample the fragile alpine landscape that shouldn't be touched by tourist donkeys! I hope the little monsters from "The Village" attack those cabins...
All the same, we were soon down on the coast, where we stopped in the town of Budva. Not much to report about Budva. There was an old town (the 5th or 6th one we'd seen at this point - yep, we got it - it's old), the water was crystal clear, and the backdrop was JUST PHENOMENAL. All the same, when the hour in Budva was done, we weren't too broken hearted.
The coach back was about 2.5 hours, but we did get to drive the bus onto a ferry and cross the bay once, so yet again Team Taylor was ON A BOAT (shortaaaaaaa). We rolled back into the big D about 7:30, marched straight to Mea Culpa Pizza, ordered a pizza to go, had a half pint whilst we waited, and then rolled back to our apartment for the farewell meal. You would think that's the end of the day, but oh, no - there's more.
For starters, the pizza was GREAT, especially eating it open air on our patio with the stars above us and the moon all aglow. But better than that? Wait for it...wait for it...WE HAD DONKEY WINE!!!!! That's right, family, there is a winery in Croatia that has a donkey on its label!!!!! And best of all, it was SOOOOOOOOO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).
The down side of the evening, however, was that, still hobbling from its tragic fall in Rome, the Canon Elph finally gave up the ghost. LITERALLY after the Donkey Wine photo above (perhaps it didn't like what it took to be animal cruelty), the shutter said "lens error" and just DIED. We fiddled with it for another 30 minutes until there was this grinding and popping noise, but we knew it was all over at that point. Consequently, we gave it a kiss, bid it farewell, and then hit the sack, firm in our resolve to find another one when we landed in Hvar.
Okay, I know that you just got another day's update, but hey - we're in no hurry, right? That's enough news to print today. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny