We arrived in Ulcinj in mid-afternoon when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing. We headed down to the beach, where in the summer it’s packed with holiday-makers, mainly Albanian and Serbian, although also well known for German sun-seekers too. On this cool February afternoon, the resort is like a ghost town: shops and restaurants with shutters pulled down, holiday apartments with broken windows, empty beaches apart from a few odd people walking their dog or taking a stroll.
I picture it in the summer: the hustle bustle of people looking for a good spot of sand, ice creams being eaten, children playing in the sea, music coming from the beach huts. I imagine it’s a wonderful place to be.
Further away from the beach in the city, an old town remains up high over-looking the sea, filled with restaurants and hotels, the commercialism hasn’t quite made it lose all its charm as we watch the sunset from the City Walls. The sea is so clear, I don’t remember ever seeing such a beautiful, natural sea. The sun bounces off it magnificently as it lays to rest for the night. Given the time of year, one night in Ulcinj was enough, so we headed to Budva the next day. The road along the coast to get there is breath-taking. I had what I like to call a ‘Ninh Binh’ moment.
While I was in Vietnam I had a wonderful day out in Ninh Binh, the day was filled with a motorbike tour of the local area with some stunning views. The last place on the tour was a trip on the Tam Coc river. Up until this point on my South East Asia adventure, I’d been a bit ill, lonely and not quite sure why I was 5000 miles away from home on my own and doing this whole ‘quitting-your-job-and-seeing-the-world-thing’. However, I was cruising down the river with a Vietnamese woman peddling the boat with her feet, and enjoying the company of a French couple who I’d spent the day with. At that moment, looking at the beauty around me I had a sense of happiness, freedom, and the feeling that no matter what happens on this trip, or even in my life – everything will be okay. I’m not a massively religious person but I definitely have faith in God and life and I had this moment of pure joy and contentment, as if things were put into perspective. I’ll never forget that moment because for me it felt like when my trip really began.
It’s a moment that has stayed with me ever since and I felt this feeling once again as we were on our bus driving down the Montenegrin coastline. As I looked out the window to my right I saw mountains; some as high as the clouds and others tumbling downhill with houses popping up here and there. To my left, a light blue sea meeting a partly cloudy sky as the sun tried to peak its head through. It’s one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen (no offence to Albania, Vietnam or any other country I’ve visited with a lovely coastline). I was listening to Mumford and Sons ‘Lover of the Light’ and something about that song and looking out the window gave me this joyous feeling once again, and as the lyrics go ’…love the one you hold…’ I turn and look at Mitch all happily and hold his hand; he probably thinks I’m being all soppy and weird but really, I was just gleeful and grateful.
That was when I started to fall in love with Montenegro.