During the winter of 2016/2017, I hitchhiked from Salzburg, Austria to Athens, Greece. Starting in a beautiful snow covered Salzburg end of January, and longing for Greece, spring and higher temperature, I had planned to visit one city in each country, for one week. My plan was to arrive in Athens in April, my final destination being the ‘Free and Real Community’ in the village of Aghios on Evia, an island close to Athens.
After one week in Dubrovnik, late Saturday morning I wrapped up my sleeping gear for the last time. This beach in nature reserve Babin Kuk had been a dry and warm place to sleep the whole week. Each day started with sunshine and a great view on the open sea to my left and the magnificent Franjo Tuđman bridge to my right.
I walked through the centre to the road that would take me to Montenegro. Reaching that road was a challenge, as it ran several hundreds of meters above the city. With a backpack and a heavy bag on each side, I took the 7-kilometre hike, gradually elevating to a parking spot from where I had a great view of the old town of Dubrovnik.
In an attempt to take the fast lane I put ‘Greece’ on my cardboard sign, hoping for some truck to take me hundreds of kilometres closer to Greece. After one and a half hour, the first car stopped. An elderly man from Gruda, a small town thirty kilometres from Dubrovnik and close to the border to Montenegro, was willing to bring me to the border.
He was a war veteran from the nineties Balkan war. Apart from stating that he had lost his left leg in a battle, he took me on a tour through the area and to his hometown Gruda. He showed me the places that had been devastated during the war. For the first time on my journey across the Balkans, someone brought up this part of recent history so impressively.
After the man dropped me off, I passed the customs on foot. And for the first time I got a stamp in my passport as a proof of crossing a border. Entering Montenegro, Saturday 18th of March 2017.
Standing some two hundred metres behind the barriers, I watched two lines of cars crawling up to the customs and cars pulling up quickly after being checked. After I had been witnessing this for one and a half hour a black Mercedes stopped, obviously a taxi. The taxi driver was gladly willing to take me from this somewhat creepy no man’s land.
Miko was from Montenegro and mainly worked in Dubrovnik, transferring tourists from and to the airport. He also took tourists on day trips to Montenegro. He lived near the Bay of Kotor, thirty kilometres from the Croatian-Montenegrin border and was driving home after a day’s work.
We stopped at a ferry crossing the Bay of Kotor and both got out. As his English was quite good, Miko was the perfect guy to fill me in on this new country. He took out a tourist map of Montenegro and while we enjoyed a smoke, Miko pointed out the highlights of his beautiful country.
I took the ferry and crossed the bay of Kotor, just one or two hours before it would become dark. Practically all traffic going south took this ferry, so my spot across the bay seemed perfect. Unfortunately, not a single driver coming from the ferry agreed to this. And it would take until the end of Sunday morning before I acknowledged that this was apparently not the right spot for hitchhiking.
Just before dark I found a place to sleep. I followed a steep hiking trail to the edge of the village, going up a mountain. Just passed the last houses I found a quiet and friendly spot in nature.
Sunday morning around 10 o ‘clock I started a new hitchhiking day. I ignored my previous position at the ferry, walked down the road some two hundred meters and found a parking spot alongside the road. A quiet and friendly place to hitchhike on a Sunday morning.
After half an hour, a black Clio with yellow Dutch license plate came rushing down a small side road, heading my way. I enthusiastically pointed to the license plate, hoping the driver would understand I was Dutch as well. The car passed at first, but to my surprise it returned half an hour later.
Jeroen was Dutch indeed and told me the classical story. Since 2005, he visited Montenegro on sailing journeys and in 2015, he fell in love with a beautiful Montenegrin woman. They married and Jeroen emigrated to Montenegro.
Jeroen owned a classical sailing boat, built in 1935, with which he had come to Montenegro: ‘L‘Odyssée’. It was in a small harbor down the road and following good Dutch practice, Jeroen invited me for coffee and showed me his classical beauty.
After coffee, I resumed hitchhiking. Again, I saw a lot of cars passing. And then, surprisingly, a car came from the opposite direction, stopped on the parking space. The driver got out of his car.
He explained that for people seeing the sign “Greece’ here, it felt as remote as ‘United States’. He advised to make a new sign with ‘Albania’ and to return to the other side of the bay. I would have better luck asking people buying a ticket for the ferry to take me in the direction of Albania. I trusted the man’s opinion and took the ferry back.
The third person I approached said ‘yes’, I got a ride within minutes The man was from Serbia and the owner of a famous club in the Belgrade nightlife. After a smooth sixty kilometre drive along the coast, passing towns like Budva, the beautiful monastery of Petrovac and many luxury hotels and beach resorts, the man took the left junction to the east. South was ahead, so I got out.
Two minutes later, another car stopped. It would be my final ride. Igor, the type of guy you would expect on a motorcycle in ‘Born to be Wild’, was the owner of cafe Varadero in Bar, one of the smaller cities of Montenegro. He was with a friend, they were on the way back home from some job. They were smokers and offered me to join, which I did.
Half an hour later we were on the terrace of Igor's cafe. To my surprise, after having introduced me to his friends, Igor offered me to stay on his ship, a sailing boat in the marina two hundred meters away.
After a coffee, a beer and a smoke on the terrace, Igor and his friends took me to the ship. As the summer season had not started yet, the ship was still on the shore, but this could not spoil my excitement. And my excitement even grew when I discovered the refrigerator, with a selection of beer and liquids worthy to the owner of a bar.
After my first night on the ship, I started my Monday morning working routine with a coffee at cafe Varadero. The place had one wall outlet for electricity, which made me dependent of sitting at a high table in the back. After one day of mainly watching people's backs, I decided to look out for a more comfortable place with a better view.
Tuesday afternoon, on a stroll through the marina I noticed a cafe with palm trees and a view on the marina and the sea. The place had a good terrace with a nice type of people, so Passarella became my working spot for the rest of the week.
Passarella had a Latin style and interior design.The music contributed to a great atmosphere as well: Latn, with easy grooves in the daytime and more up tempo tracks in the evening. With sunshine every day and temperatures I knew from Dutch summertime, I unexpectedly enjoyed the rest of the week submerged in Latin moods.
On the last evening, during an upbeat music night, one song became the symbol for my Montenegrin Latin moods, “Calinda” by Ritmo Dynamic.
For Latin moods, check the video clip here ….