We ended up on E80 and drove through Krute, Ulcinj (Ulcinj/Улцињ, Ulqin, Ulqini, Dulcigno); Bar (Бар); Petrovac (Petrovac na Moru, Петровац на Мору, Castellastua); Budva (Будва, Budua). Montenegro is beautiful and the coastal areas are definitely places to visit if you ever have the chance. The place is idyllic with rolling landscape, the Adriatic sea and a rich culture I thoroughly enjoyed. As we drove through the small villages we stopped in a store to have a look and ended up purchasing some brand of pop I’d never seen along with candy and some bread. The people couldn’t speak English but hey I can’t speak Montenegrin and it all worked out in the end. During our drive we encountered something not normally seen in the west as a shepherd was escorting his sheep right down the middle of the road. I snapped some photos as it thought it was incredible to experience authentic country life (at least a bit). This slowed us down but after 20 minutes or so the guy was able to move his charges to the side and we passed by without incident.
The cities were what I was accustomed to seeing in the Balkans, alive with pedestrians shopping, having coffee and living their lives. I don’t recall seeing many hotels other than a few in the major cities but I imagine there were places to stay if you searched. So, we had at this point been on the road for several hours (I told you it was a road trip) and we came upon the Bay of Kotor (Boka kotorska/Бока которска). This turned out to be an incredible drive as the road headed inward around the bay and was quite often barely a single lane. It was absolutely gorgeous and there were small villages crammed in along the way that had their own stores and restaurants, sort of self contained. The mountains rose up to our right all the way around and it was an impressive sight. What a great place to retire if you want peace and quiet. It must’ve taken us almost two hours to make the journey as we were constantly having to negotiate with oncoming cars to make our way. I enjoyed the entire drive though, taking in the sights and watching the people who obviously had become accustomed to living sandwiched between the water and mountains.
Coming out the other side we found ourselves in Herceg Novi (Херцег Нови) another municipality in Montenegro and quite alive with city life. We were intent though on getting to Croatia and drove straight through to the border. After a short, scenic drive we were at the border an handed our passports to the guard. Can you guess what the first thing he asked us for after receiving our passports? Yep … “Auto Insurance”. Good news I thought, we have our original policy and an additional “Policy” we purchased in Montenegro, and we handed them both over. He gave them a look and upon handing them back asked to see our “Croatian Auto Insurance”, without it we were not entering Croatia. I asked how much this “Croatian Auto Insurance” costs and he responded €80. I started laughing for some reason and the guard also laughed a bit and I told him, seriously €80? I informed him we were only driving to Dubrovnik and would turn right around and get out of Croatia after taking some pictures. He wasn’t interested in assisting and responded again that we need Croatian Auto Insurance to enter and it costs €80. I told him we would just turn around and he didn’t seem to care one way or the other.
So, we made our way back a hundred yards or so, turned and faced the checkpoint again and began debating the fee. Since we had driven so far, ultimately we drove back to the gate and handed over the €80, he laughed and pointed to at a parking spot where we could wait while he called the agent who would issue us our “Insurance”. We pulled over and since we had some time, filled our tank with the gas we brought along. As my friends were filling the tank I reminded them to avoid spilling any gas as we didn’t know if that would trigger an “Environmental Disaster Fee”.
After about 45 minutes the agent drove up and I followed her into the office at the checkpoint. She was friendly and I quickly learned the only two English words she knew (or let on that she knew) were “Eighty” and “Euro”. I thought it was hilarious though, grabbed my “Croatian Auto Insurance Policy” and we were off again. (photos are at the end)