Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Homeless in Kotor

So one of my worst fears realised, I was homeless in Kotor. It was as if the calm I'd imbibed of the island was being tested - how long would it take before my heart rate increased? Heading into town, I saw a sign for rentals and apartments and popped in. A lovely lady offered me a place for €40 which would make this the most expensive place of my trip. 


I was directed to the office at the town gate and she said there were cheaper options available. The annoying man on the bus - there is alway one who talks loudly, takes phones calls, and tells strangers his life story - was in front of me. He rented a place for €45 a night which didn't reassure me. Luckily the woman got my measure and marked on the map a hostel in the Old Town. 

A hostel!

I went to investigate. There was a dorm bed at €13 + €6 for dinner. The guys at reception were helpful and confirmed there was no way into Macedonia that evening. Using the wifi I investigated carrying on to Budva but, you know, it was so tempting to consider sleeping in a dorm. I haven't done that since I was on a school trip to Germany. What could go wrong? So I opted for a top bunk, dumped my stuff, realised I had no nightie, shrugged and wandered into town. 

It was beer-o-clock. As I was wandering through the town I came to a pretty square containing the Cat Museum. Over lunch today I've discovered that there used to be a girls' boarding school here so it was completely closed off at one time. The name of the cafe - Ombra - is a reference to the beautiful plane tree in the middle of the square. It was planted in 1667 to commemorate the devastating earthquake. The sun is currently greenly shining through the leaves and brightening the grey stoned buildings and pavings. 

After a soothing beer I was ready to meander down to the sea to work up an appetite for dinner at 8. The weather was looking a little uncertain but it was nice to be out and about with time to kill. I stopped to read a boat trip sign and was accosted by a gentleman. Apparently there was a speed boat waiting for me...I hate to disappoint, so I joined two French people on a ride around the bay. Given I'd saved a fortune on the room, €15 for a couple of hours seemed OK. We went out to St Mary of the Rocks and it was suitably somber and quiet, made more atmospheric by the storm rolling in from the mountains. It was given colour by one young American who was waxing lyrical about a white chocolate/strawberry magnum which is only available in Europe. She talked about it non-stop for all the time I was in earshot. Oh to be young and vacuous again! 

We jumped back in the boat and headed back over the darkening sea; skilfully the pilot skirted the clouds and drove us under a rainbow. We waited for the storm to pass around us and he apologised for the speed he was going to have to do to get home. The rain felt like darts on the skin - it was brilliantly invigorating. The mountains above the town truly showed their majesty. And we weren't too wet thankfully. 

I headed home to a remarkably quiet dorm and made my bed ready. Turns out you have to make a list if you're on a top bunk and mildly forgetful; water, phone, charger, bathroom. After I'd climbed up and down several times, I was happy to just chill before going down for dinner. Potluck was roast chicken, vegetable rice, cabbage and bread. Very tasty it was too. I was joined by a cat and two lovely German ladies and we nattered happily until it started to get noisy in the dining room. 

The gentlemen were in full swing and had started a loud drinking game. Frankly this was our cue for going to bed...the jollities of the town, combined with the music downstairs meant that the hubbub in the first floor dorm was fantastic. It was at that background level which I find it easily to be lulled to sleep by. Odd, but better than sudden loud noise in the quiet. That was to happen later when a couple of very drunk guys came in, and when two persistent morning alarms went off. I was inwardly chuckling at what the Furious Bad Tempered One would do to the inconsiderate pissheads. But overall the sleeping experience wasn't that bad. Maybe that's the island calm? 

Over lunch today, I was briefly joined by an elderly Norwegian man and I told him about my stranded night. He was a hostel veteran because they are generally more convivial to solo travellers. He queried a mixed dorm but it hadn't even crossed my mind. It had felt perfectly safe; at midnight I'd been chatting to a local guy who the hostel employed as a guide. It seemed normal to have the usual 'pub' chat about the history of the place, politics, seasonal lifestyle, lack of opportunities for young people, then say good night, and go to respective bunks. People were remarkably relaxed, and I would definitely stay here again. 

I could say this place left me climbing the walls. And it truly did! After visiting this place for the third time, I finally climbed up to St John's Fortress, and it was incredible. In hindsight I wish I'd gone up there earlier to avoid the crowds and see what would have been an incredible sunrise but, still, next time! As a reward for lunch I ordered some fries, and whiled away the afternoon on a sofa in the hostel living room. I'm actually looking forward to getting on this infernal bus just to get some sleep! 

Let's see what happens.. 

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