In June 2010 we visited Montenegro for the first time and on the last day, 13th June, left the country and returned to neighbouring Croatia. After a short drive from our hotel we arrived on the outskirts of the fortified town of Hercig Novi and although the main road was dusty and scruffy it seemed bad manners not to pull off into the side streets and visit the old town.
This was easier said than done because this is another town with a parking problem and we crawled in a queue of traffic as everyone was searching for a space. Finally we found one as close to the old town as we were likely to get so we accepted that this was the best we would be able to do. It said that it was a pay car park but there was no ticket machine or attendant so we were thoroughly confused. I made enquiries in a couple of shops and finally established that tickets were on sale at the newsagents so I bought two hours and nervously left the car. There were some conscientious parking wardens scrutinising windscreens and tickets and a yellow mini being towed away on a car transporter and I began to worry that I hadn’t understood the procedure and might come back to find the car removed and a long walk back to Mlini.
As it turned out, it was quite a long walk along the busy road and getting hotter under the late morning sun so were glad to reach the entrance to the Stari Grad old town and find some respite from the impatient traffic and the increasing heat. Inside the old gate and within the confines of the walls there were a succession of basking squares with an unhurried pace of life and we walked from one to the other to take in the sights. We were immediately glad that we had stopped off because this was really very nice and most probably a place easily missed by tourists heading for Kotor and Budva going one way and Dubrovnik going the other.
After the squares we climbed a stairway of worn shiny steps to get to the entrance of the fortress which stands at the top of the town overlooking the harbour below. Inside there were walls to walk and views to admire, nothing like Dubrovnik of course, but pleasant all the same and worth the small admission fee. It didn’t take long to complete the visit to the fortress so we walked back down and had a welcome cold drink in a bar in the main square next to the town’s old drinking fountain and the Serbian Orthodox Church in the centre.
After a short rest we walked the other way through twisting lanes and down steep steps towards the harbour but it was a long way, very hot and time was running out on our two hour parking ticket so we abandoned the walk at the half way stage and climbed back to the squares with their balconied buildings and tall shady trees and then retraced our steps back to the car which was exactly where we left it and no parking ticket tucked under the windscreen wipers either.
Getting out of Hercig Novi was no easier than getting in and we sat in a snarling traffic jam and followed the line of cars through the narrow one-way system and finding the right road included quite a lot of guesswork because although there was a sign for every hotel and grill bar the road signs had a curious absence of helpful information if you are looking for directions to the next town but eventually we threaded our way to the main road and prepared to leave Montenegro.
There was a wait at the border as the immigration police thoroughly checked the documents of a convoy of camper vans from the Netherlands and as we waited we reflected on the Montenegro experience. We had liked it but not as much as we expected to, there was a clear sense of being somewhere different, even more so than Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2008 and to be honest we were glad to be going back to Croatia.