A WEEK IN THE OLD YUGOSLAVIA: DAY TRIP TO MONTENEGRO

Montenegro was our second stop in our Eastern European break.

Not knowing much about Montenegro and having a limited amount of time, we decided to take a day trip with Amico Tours.

We left Dubrovnik at 8am, when we were greeted by our guide, Zof. He was friendly and well-informed, providing commentary along the way. There were eight of us in a minivan.

The tour goes around the coast with amazing scenic views all the way. There were two main stops: Kotor and Budva.

kotor view 3_for web

KOTOR:

Kotor is very deservedly a Unesco Heritage site. The Old Town is a lovely little maze with stunning mountain views in the backdrop. The streets are full of cafes and restaurants, touristy but still very authentic.

kotor 6_for web

From then, you can hike up to the fort, which is definitely the highlight of Kotor: 45min uphill you get breathtaking views of the bay, and although there are pictures below, they definitely don’t do justice to the place: it was just perfect.

We were extremely lucky with the weather, very sunny but mild, making it an ideal day for this trip. This was an absolute highlight – I’d definitely come back to spend a couple of days exploring the little corners of Kotor.

BUDVA

Our second stop was in Budva, which is more popular than Kotor with the tourists. Having said that, it doesn’t seem to have the same character.

It also has a little charming old city centre and nice views to the beach, where we had a nice pizza.

Finally, we hopped on a ferry from Tivat and started making our way back to Dubrovnik, where we arrived at about 6h30. It was a great day trip, and a very good introduction to amazing places I had never even heard about. It was just really great to go there.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Getting there: it can be a bit tricky to get to the coast of Montenegro, so a day trip may be the easiest approach. Otherwise, fly to Podgorica (the Montenegrin capital) as a starting point. From Croatia, there are twice-daily buses from Dubrovnik, but the timings do not work very well for a day trip.
  • Tours: there are lots of tour operators in Croatia offering day trips to Montenegro, but booking before you get there can be a bit tricky. I chose Amico tours because they had good reviews online. We booked it over email and paid on the day – friendly and easy, recommended. The day trip cost 50€ per person, a fair price.
  • Money: Montenegro is not part of the EU, but their currency is the Euro, which makes things nice and easy. It’s not particularly expensive – our nice pizza by the sea cost around 8€.
Advertisements

A WEEK IN THE OLD YUGOSLAVIA: DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

A few months ago I wrote about the trip we were planning to Eastern Europe. Our plans worked perfectly, and our trip started with three days in Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian coast.

Dubrovnik was one of our favourite places in this trip: beautiful, scenic, and relaxing. It has an Italian feel to it, and it has become quite popular with the tourists in recent years.

old town 5

THE OLD TOWN

The Old Town is where most attractions are, a scenic little city centre enclosed by fortress walls and by the Adriatic sea, where you can lose yourself eating ice cream and drinking local white wine.

The city walls are a nice attraction: you can walk the length of the walls (about 2km), getting views from the Old Town, the coast, and the mountains. Breathtaking!

LOKRUM

The island of Lokrum is a national reserve which can be reached in 15 minutes by boat from Dubrovnik. Boats leave the small port in the Old Town every hour (more frequently during peak season) and a return ticket costs about £10.

There are many attractions in the island, including beaches and a botanic garden, but the main highlight is Fort Royal, located at a steep hill, which gives amazing views of Dubrovnik.There are lots of peacocks roaming around, and we were lucky to spot a beautiful hoopoe flying around.

A great little day trip!

FOOD

It’s easy to eat in Croatia as the food there is quite European.

The local wine is widely available and very good, I especially enjoyed sampling white wine as it was quite warm. There are lots of ice cream stands and you shouldn’t miss them, it’s always delicious.

The only vegetarian restaurant, Nishta, is at the heart of the Old Town and provides good food and a friendly service.

Mea Culpa is a nice pizzeria, and it was quite busy on a night where everywhere else was empty. We were sharing a pizza and it came helpfully cut in half. A pizza and two drinks cost around £18 including tip. The fact that ‘Stray Heart‘ was playing when we were there may or may not have influenced my opinion of the place.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • When to go: The high season (summer) is warmer, but we were told that Dubrovnik gets too packed in July-August, when most tourists and massive cruises arrive at the same time. We went mid-April, which was perfect: not too crowded but busy enough, with mild temperatures, but not beach weather yet.
  • Getting there: There are lots of flight from London, but most companies only go to Croatia during the high season (May to September). We went with Norwegian, as they had daily flights departing in April.
  • Stay: We stayed at Stella Jadre apartments, where we had our own kitchen and terrace. Jadre is a friendly hostess, keen to give directions and help out. The place is located just outside the Old Town, which is ideal. There are many other options available at Hostelworld.
  • Transport: There are plenty of public buses, ferries and taxis around, and it’s easy to get to places. Transfer from the airport in a shuttle bus costs 35 kunar (about £4), with scenic views all the way. Regional buses from the bus terminal are cheap and accessible, and a good way to see more of the region.
  • Money matters: £1 equals about 9 kunars. Croatia is cheaper than England, but not massively. Konsum is a local supermarket (omnipresent in the countries of the region) with good prices for those self-catering.

A WEEKEND IN BERLIN

Berlin was great – as always.

This was my third time in the city and I still haven’t seen enough. It gives me a reason to come back though.

Berlin is a big city with lots of different neighbourhoods, so there’s lots to explore. We stayed in Alexanderplatz, which is very central.

DO:

Many of the main sights are close together along the river Spree.

Start at Potsdamer Platz then make your way to the Brandenburg Gate, where tourists gather to take pictures. Right nearby is the Holocaust Memorial, with uneven columns that create a sense of unease.

Next, walk to the Reichstag. The building has a transparent dome by British Architect Norman Foster. It’s free to get in but you need to book in advance.

From there walk along the river to reach Museum Island, then stop for a beer in one of the many restaurants by the river.

If you’re so inclined, get on the subway towards Checkpoint Charlie, completing the tour of the main attractions in the city.

IMG_0440
IMG_0447
IMG_0450
IMG_0452
IMG_0455
IMG_0475

Another highlight is the East-Side Gallery, where large sections of the Berlin Wall have been decorated with colourful paintings.

After taking some pictures (non-optional), head north to Friedrichshain. There are many nice cafes around.

IMG_0459
IMG_0460
IMG_0462
IMG_0464
IMG_0467

We were there over the weekend, so on Sunday we learned it was time for brunch. We went to Prenzlauer Berg – there were lots of lovely places around, you can choose anywhere and it will be just perfect!

Nearby is Mauerpark, with a massive market selling all sorts of things. It was packed, and really nice.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Getting there: lots of flights are available from London, and it only takes 2 hours to get there.
  • Getting around: you can do a lot on foot, but the subway is the easiest way to get places. There are lots of options for tickets, but day passes are probably the most useful for short trips.
  • Stay: Location is key, so choose a neighbourhood before deciding on the accommodation. We stayed at Schoenhouse Aparments, in a very large flat that was just perfect, highly recommended!
  • Drink: There are lots of restaurants, bars and cafes in Berlin, so you’re never out of choice. Mitte, Friedrichsain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg are all good neighbourhoods for drinks or a good night out. German beers are great so that is never a problem in Berlin!
  • Eat: German food is nor particularly veggie-friendly, but veganism is quite popular at the moment, so we had no problems. We had perfect samosas at Mama India and a great Vietnamese dinner at Chen Che.