Other than my visit to the castle, I wasn’t very impressed with Berat, Albania. In the evening, lots of people were out promenading but there just didn’t seem to be any atmosphere about the place. There was nothing negative – but nothing positive to get excited about either. Just a bunch of people walking up and down, in a generally dull town!
I left Berat on Friday morning, and headed out of Albania to Ulcinj in Montenegro. When I reached the Albania/Montenegro border, a group of Roma women and children were mobbing all of the arriving vehicles, begging for money. The little kids around 4 years old had already been taught how to beg independently. There was a long line of traffic waiting to get through, so there was quite a delay.
The only reason for me going to Ulcinj is that it is a useful half-way point to Kotor, my primary destination in Montenegro. I had low expectations of Ulcinj which is fortunate, because it hasn’t managed to exceed them! It is basically a cheap, fairly run-down, low-end seaside town. Kind of the Cleethorpes of Eastern Europe (as a reference for those in the UK). Its only daytime attraction seems to be the beach on the Adriatic sea. There are a couple of rows of restaurants and souvenir stalls in the area. There is a fairground that opens at night. And there is an abundance of holiday apartments with only a smattering of actual hotels. Perhaps the low cost is the attraction, as people seem to travel here from all over Europe. For example, there are cars parked outside my apartment complex from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Bosnia & Hercegovina. I’ve also seen cars in the town from Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Frankly, it surprises me that people would travel such distances to take a vacation in this town.
As this was just an overnighter for me, en-route to Kotor, I booked cheap accommodation. The apartment costs 18 Euros per night ($24) but the place comes with its challenges. First, there is no signage outside with the name of the complex or even a street number. Fortunately, I used GPS coordinates to get here, so I was fairly sure I was at the right place. Once I walked inside, I found a sign that confirmed the identity of the apartments.
The sign pointed to Reception – but there is no Reception. It hasn’t been built yet! There was nobody there to greet arriving guests. After a few minutes I located a cleaner. She called the ‘Director’ but got no reply. She asked if I could come back at 3.0pm (it was 1.40pm)! Somewhat annoyed, I left the Defender at the complex and went for a walk with my camera. When I returned at 3.15pm, there was still no member of staff present.I called the number on the sign and the owner arrived about ten minutes later.
I was shown my apartment and paid the bill whilst the owner was there. I didn’t want any delay in the morning when I leave. At the border, I’d been given a leaflet explaining that tourists must pay an accommodation tax in Ulcinj within the first 24 hours and obtain a registration certificate that will be required at the border crossing. The owner of the apartments wanted nothing to do with the procedure and even refused to give me a receipt for payment of the bill, instead telling me to get the people at the info point to call him to confirm I’m staying at his apartments! He actually told me that I needn’t bother with the registration or the tax – but that’s easy for him to say! So I had to walk over a mile to the ‘info point’ to pay my 50 cents tax and get the certificate. A pain in the ass!
The apartment itself is clean and tidy and is appears to be fairly new. But it doesn’t have any towels and there is no toilet paper in the bathroom. Thankfully I have both in the Defender. The advertised ‘cable TV’ isn’t happening, as there is no TV in the room. And whilst there is wifi, it is painfully slow. My ‘entertainment’ has been watching the photo upload progress bar, waiting to see if it will move at all. I finally gave up and moved to a restaurant to see if the wifi there is any faster – the answer is not much (but at least I had beer and pizza to add to the entertainment)! Then I tried the wifi at an internet cafe which was also dead-slow. When I returned to the apartment the wifi had been totally overwhelmed by the amount of attempted usage by the guests. I had to wait until 6.00am Saturday morning, when others weren’t using the wifi, to get this blog update done!
During my earlier walk with my camera, I went to the river to take photos of some fishing huts that I’d seen on the drive in. The huts have poles that are used to lower nets into the river, although none were in operation when I was there.
I then went to see the beach. It certainly isn’t the crystal clear water and pink sand that I’m used to in Bermuda! But the beach was very busy.
In the evening, it seemed as though all of the people who were on the beach in the daytime were now on the street, looking at the junk that was for sale at the roadside stands and frequenting the restaurants. The fun-fair was operating and added some atmosphere to the place.
Today I head to Kotor for at least two nights. I have higher expectations for Kotor and the surrounding area.