Freedom Hostel 2
We crack the door to Freedom Hostel 2 and step inside. It opens to a cozy room decked out in grandma furniture with a fun mix of random shit like swords, a telescope, a guitar, and mini foosball and pool games.
I ring the little yellow bell on the front desk and a tall youngin with a buzzcut and thin frame glasses comes around to welcome us. He says his name is Nikola. He’s full of pep. Possibly Russian. Excellent English.
“You are Jonathan?” “Yep.” “You made a reservation 20 minutes ago?” “That’s me.” “Ok, let’s get you situated.”
We exchange passport numbers for a key. Nikola pulls out a little paper map and proceeds to give us an amazing rundown of the area, highlighting everything in blue, ballpoint pen.
“Three churches of different denominations here, here, and here. Fortress gates here and here. Get up on the walls here. Archeological museum here. Three beaches, walking distance here, here, and here. One with Cliff jumping and can swim to a cave. Three night clubs that stay open until five up this road here. A strip of traditional restaurants that have been there for 40 years along the docks here. And this is beside a great local tavern with live rock music every night and craft beer.”
“Damn. This sounds perfect, man!” “Yes, lots of fun in not much amount of space. Let me take you upstairs.”
He leads us through grandma’s place to a staircase that heads up to a hallway of rooms, a communal kitchen and dinning area, laundry machines, a couple of outdoor balconies (with laundry hung), and another floor with doors to more rooms. Nice compact little dream spot in Old Town Budva for 25 bucks. Score!
Our room is on the third floor. It’s simple, just containing two beds. We drop our stuff and take a sec to look into the city of Budva…
Oversimplified History of Budva
Cadmus, grandson of Poseidon and some other Greek God-types, followed a special cow to it’s resting place at the behest of the Oracle of Delphi. There he founded the city of Thebes. He sent some warrior bros to a spring in prep for sacking the cow to Athena but they were killed by a water dragon there. In turn, hero-type Cadmus killed the water dragon, took it’s teeth and planted them. The teeth became Spartoi who helped him build up Thebes. Unfortunately, Ares happened to be fond of that particular water dragon and so he forced Cadmus to serve him for 8 years doing the God of Wars shifty bidding. After this, the Gods awarded Cadmus a Goddess-wifey, named Harmonia.
They got married with all the gods in attendance and Hephaestus, God of crafting shit, gave Harmonia a necklace. This necklace went down in Greek history as bringing misfortune to all who wore it (in modern times this is referred to as a “Dick Move” on the part of Hephaestus) and so everything went to shit for Cadmus and Harmonia, their family and for Thebes.
Exiled from Thebes, Cadmus left the city to his grandson Pentheus and went to Illyria (what they called the Western part of the Balkan peninsula back in the day. Back in the day being the 5th century B.C.E). In this period Cadmus founded the cities Lychnidos (aka Ohrid, the place in North Macedonia we didn’t get to because we instead swung into Kosovo on a whim) and Bouthoe (aka Budva, the place we’ve just swung into now on a whim.)
After all this cool, mythological history a bunch of normal-ish history happened starting when real, enterprising Greeks came and colonized the joint. That lasted until the 2nd century BCE when the Romans took over. Byzantines managed things in the 6th century, followed by Slavs and Avars for the next two. In the middle-ages a slew of Doclean kings were the landlords (Doclea being the name of the Roman city where Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, is now). Venetians ruled the roost from 1420 to 1797 followed by the Hapsburg Monarchy (you may recall we ‘met’ a few centuries worth of the Hapsburg line in the imperial crypts of Kaisergruft in Vienna). During the Napoleonic wars, Montenegrins joined forces with Russians and held it for a year, then gave it up to the French, who in turn ceded it to the Austrian Empire. WWII saw the place annexed to Italy then liberated by the Socialist Republic of Montenegro (then part of Yugoslavia). Montenegro became an independent country in 2006 (whoa, fairly recent) and Budva was named it’s primary tourist destination (although it looks like Kotor may argue with that these days).
Neat stuff. To put that gross oversimplification of this city into perspective, let’s compare it to the entire history of the province of Nova Scotia. The indigenous Mi’kmaq were there originally. The French came in 1605. In the mid 1700’s the British said nuh-uh and snatched it. Then in 1867 Nova Scotia joined some other colonies to make a new thing called Canada. The end.
Just saying, it’d be cooler if it was made from the teeth of a Water Dragon.
Aaaaaaanyway, there’s still some sun left in the day so we might as well do a little Old Town walkabout to the sites Nikola pointed out.
Old Town Walkabout
Immediately out the door of Freedom Hostel 2 (the sequel!) we’re back in the amazing stonework streets of Old Town Budva. Most of the buildings are remnants of the Venetian era, the fortified walls put in place to fend off those pesky Ottomans.
The sun is starting to set and there aren’t too many people about. Super impressed with the place already. We instantly get lost in a maze of narrow connecting streets leading to open plazas in front of each of the three churches Nikola had mentioned. The lighting, colors, and permeating history throughout the place are a spectacular combo. I’d say we’ve stumbled on a real gem here.
Small shops, restaurants and bars in the corridors. Lots of character.
The local currency is the Euro which makes things easy. Not sure why you have to be so tall to use the ATMs though. Some early evening goonery here.
We come around the backside to the water where things raise up to a citadel. Some old-timey canons in place here.
We come across this dude playing a beautiful melody on the most goth harpsicord on planet Earth. His facial hair is meticulously designed in a truly outstanding way but I fail to capture it head on. How cool is that thing? Sounds great with the stony reverb.
There’s the Adriatic Sea.
Some gold resort is beaming across the way.
Ok, I think this one wins out of the three churches.
It doesn’t take long to circumnavigate pretty much the entire area inside the walls. It’s about as picturesque as it gets. Super happy that island in Sveti Stefan was closed and we decided to come here. “Time for sunset cocktails on the wall somewhere? “Uh… looks like a beach just outside the wall there.” “Even better.”
We find a gate leading out to the beach and step out to investigate. It’s insanely beautiful. “Montenegro, dude. What the hell?” “Ya, no kidding.” “Walled fortress right on a beach. How is this place not just overrun with people?” “Off season I guess. But still.”
We walk across the beach and out onto a pier. “Seriously. This is nuts.” “Just incredible, man.”
“Drinks at that tiki-looking spot?” “Looks like they’re serving to all the seats.” “Perfect.”
We kick back and down a few double G&Ts while the sun sets, digging our tootsies in the sand. “Ok, well I’d say we nailed this one.” Clink! “Yes ma’am. Can’t argue with this shit.” “I think I’ll just start wearing a shirt that says ‘Make it a double’. Save some time.” “With a double-headed dildo on it?” “Hahaha fuck you! Find some grub after these?” “Yep. Let’s check those places up the pier Nikola mentioned.”