Every Allied country gave me a medal, even Montenegro

Worked most of the day in Kotor since there was only one bus that went, and it was at 3:15. So I took the nearly 4 hour ride in a small bus that seats about 20 with a group of locals through the Montenegrin countryside. Apparently Zabljak is not a popular destination this time of year. As I dozed in and out of conscience staring out into the dark, it occurred to me how comfortable I had become with a situation like this, which not long ago, and to most now, might seem rather concerning.  Only way to get around though, if you ask me. I mean, they’re on the Euro, how bad could it be?The owner of the apartment where I’m staying unexpectedly picked me up at the bus stop and brought me to the apartment, which was awesome. I then I did some grocery shopping and cooking to prepare for my hike for tomorrow.

And then I went on said hike. There was frost on everything when I left in the morning. I did not expect it to be that cold.

The primary attraction is Black Lake, which was a bit low and frosted, and I imagine it’s a little more impressive during the summer. Still, a nice view and hike around the lake.

Don’t worry, I came back

Maybe this was the same lake, maybe it was a different one, I don’t really remember. I think a different one. It had a layer of ice on it so I threw a couple rocks in it to hear that high-pitched whistle.

It’s frozen
I hope there aren’t any trapped fish

There were lots of evergreens, and besides that some fall colors. Not all that much different from NY.

No bears yet
Apparently this is worth visiting in the summer
Large rock

I managed to lose the trail somehow, so I decided to just take the long way home rather than try to find another mountain. Lots of small, colorful homes right outside the town here, like the opposite of Weeds.

They really like pitched roofs

I suspect the gorge leaves a little to be desired this time of year too, so I’m not venturing up there. While it was a nice hike and a great park, I think it would be much better in the summer. So I’ll come back next time I’m in the neighborhood.

The owner of the apartments gave me a ride to the bus station (and was an overall cool guy), and I weaved my way through Montenegro down to Ulcinj. The scenery was great along the way – lots of mountains and such.

I’m the only one staying at my Ulcinj hostel, and I limited my activity to taking a brief walk through the desolate old-town area. The manager of the hostel, though cross-eyed as they come, is very pleasant and speaks very good English. He shared some of his father’s Rakia, the national drink of most Balkan countries, and is probably the worst thing I’ve ever tasted.

Thursday was work in the morning, a bus ride into Albania to Shkodër.  That city was bustling a bit more, and there were nearly a dozen people at this hostel. Kind of a hippy-vibe. There was a guy who brings gymnastic rings with him everywhere to hang and twirl around. I didn’t like anything about him. Considered socializing but opted to do my work instead. Probably a good decision, but boring from a blog perspective.

Friday morning I walked to Rozafa Castle. I actually tried walking to the lake, but it was a long ways, and I walked through a lot of very poor sections of the city (not hard to do) which made me sad. So I saw the castle, then a sign for the castle, so I did that instead.

Farms and such
Farms and such
Water, Rocks, etc
Water, Rocks, etc
More like a Fortress
Castle? MAYBE a Fortress. More accurately a “pile of rocks”

Then this weekend I went from wanting to spend either 1 night in Tirana, or skip it altogether, to staying 3 nights. The 2nd because it was raining and there wasn’t much to do, and the 3rd because of a tragic misstep in the wrong direction (I took a bus to Burrel instead of Berat, which was a lovely ride with a green river and snow-capped mountains, but ultimately not useful).

There was a nice group in the hostel. We went to Hemingway bar, and a place called Radio.

Another Hemingway bar
I drink to make other people more interesting

And a couple authentic Albanian places in the city, one being ODA.

Classy signage
Classy signage

I didn’t get pictures, but I went up their big communist pyramid and saw all the main sights in the big square. All in all an OK city, and very cheap.

But then I actually got on my bus to Berat Tuesday morning, and am once again on my own. People were either headed North or to Kosovo for Thanksgiving since they really love Americans. So I decided to get a hotel, which thanks to the off-season and it being Albania coast me a whopping $16 including breakfast and a nice view.

View from Hotel
Roof kitten is also included
Berat Castle
It was just me and a man watching his cow eat at Berat Castle today

Today was also the first day I almost accidentally ran into a donkey walking down the sidewalk. I’m continuing South tomorrow and have another couple days in Albania until trekking into Greece.

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