Yesterday we visited the old city of Kotor, spending the day climbing to the very top of St Johns Fortress which had magnificent views over the old city and across the Bay of Kotor. Today we took a ride over the mountains from Kotor to Cetinje, it is said to be Montenegro’s best ride. It’s actually one of Europe’s hidden secrets and maybe Montenegro’s best ride. Just on the edge of Kotor the road leads up the hill to a crossroads at Trojica. We missed the turnoff and passed through the Kotor tunnel. The Kotor Tunnel reminds me of being back in the mines. A bit like being underground. All the earth moving trucks passing through the tunnel never cover their loads so the interior is always choking with dust. You can feel the dust hitting the visor. The extraction fans just scream their heads off as obviously a lot of the dust has made its way into the bearings.
Just past the end of the tunnel we headed up through the village of Dub, through little streets made even smaller by parked cars. Heading up the hill we picked up the P22 to Trojica where we turned onto the P1. Wow… We can see why it’s known as Montenegro’s Best Ride. To climb over the massive mountains which overlook Kotor, there’s seventeen kilometres of zigzag roads. All up there’s 25 hairpin bends as the road zigzags up the mountain. With every bend we were greeted with an even better view of the mountains and the Bay of Kotor. It was just a spectacular ride. Lots of sections either had low stone barriers or none at all so there was a chance of going off the edge and tumbling down the mountain. We stopped at the top of the mountain and were surprised that the mountains surrounding Kotor were actually lower than us.
We spotted a tree covered in beer cans which gave us a laugh. People talk about money not growing on trees but here in Montenegro it seems beer does.
Crossing over the top of the mountain we stopped at Šanjev Do, not far from Njeguši where we found a local bar open. It was a nice cosy little bar with a roaring fire and a just a few tables, although attached to it was a long room which they must open during the summer.
After a coffee we took a ride towards Cetinje along the road which traces around the edge of Lovćen National Park. Passing through these areas we noticed a few old grain threshing floors. We saw these in Poreč, Croatia when we visited the Traktor Story. They’re paved areas, circular in design with low walls. Prior to the invention of threshing machines in the 20th century cereal crops would be harvested and the sheafs placed in the threshing floor. When cattle or donkeys walked over the sheafs it would break the grain away from the stalks. The grain would fall to the bottom and the remaining hay would stay on top cushioning the grain below. After the livestock were removed the grain would be gathered up.
Riding through the area was quite amazing with tree lined hills and mountains ringing the valleys. The farmers down through the years had terraced lots of the area with old stone farmhouses and stone walls. Riding into Njeguši we were amazed at the long flat expanse of valley. Leaving Njeguši the road zigzagged backup through the hills before crossing over the top of the mountains. At the top we had a great view across the interior of Montenegro with its series of hills and mountains. The road wound down through the hills through a rocky scrubby terrain with the occasional tiny farm. There’s something about riding through the interior of Montenegro which is really heartwarming.
Along the way we found an old Orthodox cemetery where a small plane on top of a grave caught our eye. It was an interesting cemetery with many laser etched faces on gravestones. Even though most of the signs throughout the country use Latin script, most of the gravestones had Cyrillic script. The use of flowers encased in glass boxes on graves was very interesting and quite widespread. Also many of the graves had small glass lantern boxes where people would burn candles whenever they visited. Many of the graves had symbols of the former Yugoslavia, including medals the person had won and stars. Some of the older graves had pictures of people in traditional costume and it was quite wonderful seeing women in beautiful dresses and men with massive moustaches.
Our next stop was Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro which we reached after heaps of hairpin bends. Cetinje is an interesting city with beautiful two storey palatial buildings joined with one storey houses. A bit like a child’s gappy smile in some areas it all seems a bit odd. A big avenue leads down into the heart of the city which is a pedestrian area. Along the pedestrian area there’s a few interesting old 19th century buildings including the old French embassy. Cetinje has some grand old consulates and it certainly was one of those places which was worth just wandering around to get a feel of the place.
We found a restaurant for lunch and as the rain started to fall we decided to head back to Kotor via Budvar. First up we took a wrong turn and discovered this beautiful park covered in blooming crocus, it l looked amazing.
We rode this route last time we were in the area. Oh why did we even think this was a good idea. On the mountain the roadworks were still underway and as we rode up we spotted groups of blokes with cars parked on the road standing around talking. As we were on the bike we rode to the front of the queue and waited, and waited. The road was actually blocked by a bloke in a light truck who used it like a gate. As trucks laden with rocks would come up the road he’d move the truck before moving back after they’d passed. Eventually the road opened and it was like a mad lollie scramble as cars and trucks sped through the roadworks, with many cars overtaking others to get ahead. It was just crazy.
The road base had been mechanically scored so much that riding through the ruts caused back of the bike to sway more than a Hawaiian hula dancers hips. Going down the hill taking it slowly was the only option for me but we had many Montenegrins zooming past us. Just when we thought we’d got through the worst of it there were more roadworks and then more. The coordination of traffic was just crazy with a huge line of traffic blocking the next roadworks causing Montenegrin gridlock. The locals eventually got a bit frustrated and there were horns blowing and once the traffic started moving it didn’t stop regardless of the red light.
After all the traffic we decided to skip Budva and just kept going. Riding back into Kotor and seeing its serene waters was so nice. It was a great ride over the mountains and we can see why the road is described as Montenegro’s Best Ride,but the return trip was just so frustrating. Next time we’ll come back via this road. Tomorrow we might take a trip to Trivat.