Planning for Budapest, Montenegro, & Montemigiano, 2008 Archives

September 16, 2007

Italy Plus Montenegro & Maybe Croatia

While on the plane returning from Spain & Portugal this summer, I was already contemplating where we would spend our month in 2008.

At the time, I was leaning toward Scotland and Wales. Or maybe Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

But then I started really feeling the tug to get back to Puglia. I was there two years ago, but Dan has never been further south than Rome.

We both love to include some time communing with nature in our trips. We love mild hiking. And, we like to go places where the tourist traffic still hasn't made too much of an impact.

So, as I began to try to resolve Italy with those other goals. I cast my eye across the Adriatic to Croatia. Yes I know, Croatia has been headed full-steam toward the tourist industry for several years. It is preped and packaged for sale to the highest Euro/Pound/Dollar. But, what else is close enough to combine with Italy for a single trip? MONTENEGRO!

Montenegro is working hard to turn its coastline into the next Croatia. The Disneyesque vacation island of Sveli Stefan is a prime example.

But, the breathtaking interior mountains and canyons are still discovered by only a few. Most of them German adventurers, so I'm told.

With the exception of Kotor, a Unesco city, the populated cities of Montenegro still display a preponderence of grey, post communist era decrepitude. The country's man made national treasures (those that survived communism) are few and far between.If you never venture further north than Podgorica, you will probably just consider Montenegro the 'poor cousin' to Croatia.

Montenegro's real treasure is the natural beauty of its interior region. Something you have to put a little effort into finding.

Now that I've got you interested, go look at the photos that got ME interested.

So, now I have general dates (Mid-June to Mid-July). I have a general idea. And, I have the beginning of a plan...

*Fly from St. Louis, through God knows where to get to Belgrade.
*Spend a couple of days in Belgrade.
*Hop on the train that goes from Belgrade to Bar, Montenegro.
*Experience the beautiful ride through the mountains and get off the train at either Zabijak, Mojkovac or Kolesin (depending on where we can get a rental car).
*Spend a couple of nights in Zabijak, Mojkovac, or Kolesin (depending on where we can find lodging) so that we can hike Durmitor and raft the Tara.
*Drive To Cetinje-Kotor area to do some sight seeing for a day or two.
*Then to Dubrovnik in Croatia to catch a small ship (12 - 18 passenger) so we can Croatian island hop for a week)
*From there a ferry to Bari. Pick us a rental car in Bari for a week in southern Puglia (somewhere south of the S-7)
*Our final week somewhere along the Tirreno coast bewteen Nettuno and Gaeta.
*Flying out of either Rome or Naples.

That's the beginning point for our planning. The ending point will probably be very different.

Planning is such great fun!

September 30, 2007

Vila Jelka or Eco-Tours?

Emails are out to two environmentally sensitive adventure tour companies in Montenegro. Just waiting to hear from them before deciding which one to go with.

They are:
Vila Jelka and Eco-Tours

Annalisa Rellie, who wrote the best English language travel guide devoted to Montenegro that I've found, recommends both. But it does look like she favors Vila Jelka. From these pictures on their web site, I can see why!


On of the things they offer is a horseback ride up into the summer pastures.


You "camp" in these great private cabins. All the meals are prepared open air and using only organic local products.


Not exactly 'roughing it', huh?

I've figured out the train schedule from Belgrade to Kolosin. Now I'm trying to research the best way to get to Belgrade.

I'm leaning toward the comfortable familiar... Just fly round trip into FCO. Transfer to a JAT Airways flight straight from Rome to Belgrade. The timing of the flights are actually very good, we would arrive in Rome at about 8AM and depart for Belgrade at about 10 AM.
We are planning to fly out of FCO anyway on our way home in July.

I'm having less luck finding just the right island hopping cruise in Dobrovnick.
Since, these cruises are scheduled with specific departure dates, we have to nail this down first, before we do any other scheduling.
We are looking for something in the 20-30 passenger range. We really would like a mast ship, but it seems the motorized ones are much, much more reasonable.
Ah, well...the research continues.

January 25, 2008



So, I've neglected my blog for a long while. Today I was gently prodded by someone who shall remain nameless. Then I realized that my response to less than subtle e-mail could be a convenient a shortcut to a blog entry. So I've simply cut and pasted.

Hi K...m,
I know, I know...
Way to make me feel guilty about neglecting my blog! I've only gotten through the first 5 days of LAST years month in Spain and Portugal.
And my night stand looks completely different from the photo of my reading list. Sigh.
We're really excited about Montenegro. Having a hard time swallowing the price of plane tickets, however. It looks like the cheapest we will get is about 1,500 each and all the prognostications indicate the prices are just going to keep going up. I need to just bite the bullet and pull the trigger. (How's that for excessive use of metaphors?)
I need to keep reminding myself that with an average of $30 a night for lodging, we will make up the cost of flights very quickly.
To be completely honest, I keep changing my mind about arrival and departure cities. I'll think that I have it nailed down, then someone will come into the store talking about another travel destination and I'm off to research new options.
Right now (and 'right now' might only last about 10 minutes) we are talking about into Budapest and out of Istanbul But, Bucharest is looking good too.
The rough plan would have us arriving in Budapest for a one-week apartment stay, then taking the train through Belgrade to Kolasin. Did you see my link to the Belgrade/Bar YouTube? Spectacular, isn't it? A week in Kolasin with the eco-tour company. Then to the coast of Montenegro for a week. Basing somewhere around Budva and daytrips to the cultural sights. Then fly to Turkey for a week before heading home.
Have you got any suggestions?
Hmm. Maybe I'll just cut and past this e-mail for a blog entry.
Can't wait to see you guys next week. Does C.....s want some Volpi's?

Whew...That was easy. I'd promise to be more timely with this blog, if I really believed myself. But. With SlowBowl coming up and taxes to do....
By the way, for the really jaw dropping part of the train ride from Belgrade to Bar, move the counter over to the 2.50 minute mark and watch from there.

The 10 minutes is up and now I'm looking at Moldova. has anyone been to Moldova? I had no clue about the wine tradition there. Wine in Moldova.
We have a part time bookseller at the store who spent a year in Moldova with the Peace Corp. She loved it and has offered to introduce us to some of her friends in Chisinau.
Of course, ten minutes from now I'll be studying a map of Odessa.

February 8, 2008

What are the Odds?

Yesterday I was walking through the store when I ran into one of my favorite customers sitting in the reading chairs by cookbooks.
I stopped to chat and she asked me how my trip planning was going for this summer.
So I began describing our plans.
A woman who had been browsing cookbooks came up to us and said that she couldn't help jumping into our conversation.
She is Montenegrin!!! Third generation American.
Her great-aunt has given her a house in the Kotor area. Her cousin, who speaks very good English is available to offer us any assistance we might need.
We had a lovely conversation and exchanged e-mail addresses.
What are the odds that a woman from Montenegro would be in a bookstore in a suburb of St. Louis, MO at the same moment that I'm telling a friend about my trip.
MAN, I wish I'd purchased a lottery ticket yesterday!

February 9, 2008

Easy? As if....

I'm trying to remember who told me planning a trip to the Balkans would be just as easy as planning one to western Europe. Balderdash! When I do remember, I think I'll cheerfully strangle that person.

You CAN get there from here. But getting around once there is another story.
We are flying into Budapest. Easy.
From Budapest we are taking an overnight train to Belgrade. Easy.
From Belgrade a day train to Kolasin. Easy, although hair-raising.
After Kolasin we will travel around the Kotor area of Montenegro with a rental car. Easy, although I hear it can be life threatening to drive in the roads.

Leaving Montenegro is where the difficulty lies. I've spent and entire day researching ways to get from Kotor to Bucharest...plane, train, automobile, & boat.

Our preferred option would be train, but oh, right - no trains from Montenegro to anywhere. Yes there is the Belgrade/Bar line that will take us BACK to Belgrade, but after Dan gets a taste of that trip coming into the country, I know he won't agree to it a second time. And the ONLY other train in Montenegro runs from Niksic to the coast of Albania. That won't do us any good.


So, we are going to have to take a bus from Kotor to Dubrovnik. Then, if we don't want to spend almost as much as we did to cross the ocean, a plane from Dubrovnik to Bucharest VIA VIENNA for Pete's sake!

All of this complaining is being done with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.
I'm having a blast trying to figure out the logistics of this trip.

Wait until Dan find's out we are going through Austria to get to Romania! Tee he hee.

February 10, 2008

Gotta love that JohnnyJet

When I'm in serious research mode for a new destination the first thing I do is go to Google Images to find some pictures to inspire me.
So, I type in Budapest and something like 40 pages of images pop up. Most of them are more than forgetable. But a few catch my eye.


This is the Chain Bridge. Beautiful and historic AND my kind of bridge! One you can eat on!


One of the sights I'm most looking forward to in the city, Palace Hill. I just hope the flowers in June are this beautiful and the sky is this blue.

And where did these pictures come from? I realize that those images are all from the same web site owned by JohnnyJet. I think JohnnyJet is a travel blog, right? WRONG! JohnnyJet has one cool travel resource site. I recommend that my blog readers take a tour. Expect to spend a bit of time.


February 22, 2008

I'm Old Enough to be in Awe

Thirty years ago in 1978, I could not have dreamed of the trip we are planning for 2008.

Not for the obvious reasons of world politics. But because I would not have known how to begin, and even if I did know how, I wouldn't have had the tools. In fact my only option, a travel agent, would not have had the tools either.

A travel agent would have had brochures. A travel agent would have used the telephone to book us on one of a few canned tours that touched the "safe zone" edges of some of the places we are going.

Here I sit in front of my computer screen in 2008. I have the ability with a few words in a search string and the click of a mouse to find:

Our best option for airline routing and prices.

Select the seats we want based on a map of the plane with seat by seat analysis.

Train routes throughout southeastern Europe.

Trip insurance customization with comparison charts of dozens of companies.

Video of what the experience of the high mountain train ride we want to take will be like.

Video of the log rafting trip we plan to take.

Online conversations with the people who have rented apartments we are interested in.

Online conversations with the owners of the apartments we are interested in.

Auto rental selections complete with pictures of the cars and little icons telling me how many people and bags they will hold.

Advice on where and how much payola will be demanded by boarder guards and police.

Email exchanges with people living in remote towns we hope to visit who would like to meet us for dinner and give us a tour of their town - not for a price, but because they want to make friends with strangers whom they may go to visit someday.

Oh, yeah...I almost forgot...

The ability to click on an icon of the globe. Type in an address. And see not only the cottage we might be renting on the Bay of Kotor, but its proximity to the cafe where we will be enjoying breakfast every morning for a week.

By the way, according the the satelite image, that cafe has a green awning and six outdoor tables.

February 25, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

We are looking at two places in two different towns on the Bay of Kotor for our week in Montenegro after doing the eco-tourism. I'm posting the web sites here in hopes that some of my friends will go take a look and give me their impressions.

Each town has it's pros and cons. Each property has it's pros and cons.

The pro for Old Mariner in Prcanj are the property itself. It's gorgeous. The con is that Prcanj faces north/east. That means no sunsets over the water.

The pro for the Shelly Apt. in Perast is the south facing exposure and the beauty of the town. The con is that this is the most expensive, plus the smallest of the choices.

The Old Mariner Apartments in the town of Prcanj.


The Shelly Apartment in Perast


What do you think? They are both charming places. Both towns are in convenient locations for day trips. I'm having trouble deciding.

February 28, 2008


Remember about 10 years ago when you planned a trip to Italy and had a level of frustration because the hotels and apartment rental agencies didn't feel the same sense of urgency you did to conclude your arrangements?

Remember the frustration of sending an e-mail enquiry about the availability of an apartment and the rates and then waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a reply before you just gave up and telephoned?

Well, welcome to my world of trying to book parts of our trip to Montenegro!

Oh, not the coastal areas, to be sure. They have the whole tourist industry thing pretty much down.

But, I have to tell you that I'm just about to give up on the good folks at Vila Jelka in Kolasin! My first e-mail was answered in just a few days. Yes, they could accomodate us, but they failed to provide rates. So, I e-mailed back with a rate request....three times, I've e-mailed asking for rates and confirmation. Deafening silence.

I think their motto says it all, don't you?

Read the banner between the two trees.

But then click on the word gallery that scrolls down the right side. There you will see some of the tantalizing pictures that keep me continuing to try to get these guys to let me pay them for their services!

Besides, it's not like I can just go to the friendly competition around the corner. These guys ARE the only game in town.

I guess I'll give them until tomorrow morning. Then I'll pick up the telephone and call. I hate making arrangements by telephone. I like having things in writing.

May 1, 2008

Planning Update

Day 1: Flight to Budapest...check
Day 2: Budapest apartment...check
Day 9: Overnight train to Beograde...check
Day 10: Train from Beograde to Podgorica...check
Day 10: Rental car agency picking us up with car...check
Day 10: Apartment in Kotor Bay...check
Day 17: Overnight ferry from Bar to Ancona...check
Day 18: Car rental in Ancona...check
Day 18: House opened and ready at Montemigiano...check
Day 28: Flight from Milan home...check

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Planning for Budapest, Montenegro, & Montemigiano, 2008 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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