We took an expensive car (driver set up by the nice owner of the hotel we were at) to bring us to the bay of Kotor, our first stop in Montenegro. Montenegro was part of former Yugoslavia and gained independence in 2006. The vote heralded the end of the former Union of Serbia and Montenegro – itself created only three years earlier out of the remnant of the former Yugoslavia. The EU-brokered deal forming it was intended to stabilize the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence from Serbia and preventing further changes to Balkan borders.
The bay has been inhabited since antiquity. Its well-preserved medieval towns of Kotor, Risan, Tivat, Perast, Prčanj and Herceg Novi, along with their natural surroundings, are major tourist attractions. Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.
We decided to stay for a night in Kotor, the main town around here. After finding our hostel which was a bit of a walk to the old city, we walked toward the old city walls. Too much sun has shrunk us a little bit! this huge bench was part of an annual festival, but locals liked it so much they actually kept it outside the city’s main gate for touristy photos.
The city was part of the Venetian Albania province of the Venetian Republic from 1420 to 1797. It was besieged by the Ottomans in 1538 and 1657. Four centuries of Venetian domination have given the city the typical Venetian architecture, that contributed to make Kotor a UNESCO world heritage site.
While under Venetian rule, Kotor was besieged by the Ottoman Empire in 1538 and 1657, endured the plague in 1572, and was nearly destroyed by earthquakes in 1563 and 1667. It was also ruled by Ottomans at brief periods.
We stopped for lunch at one of the dozens of restaurants, mostly Italian, where they all have exactly the same menu catered to tourists. I think that is what you find in all these cruise ship ports around the world. The food was not that bad though.
We continued our visit in this amazing town until we decided it was time to hike up the city walls for the famous views of the bay.
It was a bit of a challenge to find the walls’ entryway, as it wasn’t well marked, but eventually we navigated our way through the tight, maze-like city center and found the starting point to one of the two paths that wind all the way up to the fortress perched above the city.
The Church of Our Lady of Remedy dates from 1518 and its located around halfway up the mountain. The church can only be reached on foot: the rocks and the stairs that lead to the structures on the slope make this church a difficult and time-consuming place to reach. Nevertheless, many tourists and local citizens visit this church daily. It can be seen from a long distance.
We finally reached the Castle of San Giovanni. These formidable fortress walls date back to medieval times, built on and off between the 9th and 19th centuries, and built by everyone from the Byzantines to the Venetians.
There are exactly 1350 steps one way to reach the top. A total of 2700 round trip for those who failed at math.
The bay is about 28 km long with a shoreline extending 107.3 km. It is surrounded by two massifs of the Dinaric Alps: the Orjen mountains to the west, and the Lovćen mountains to the east.
The views were breathtaking, we were lucky to have a clear day where the whole bay was visible.
It took us about 2 hours and 5 bottles of water to reach the top of the castle. But we were now hungry and tired so we hiked down the walls towards the old town.
The guidebook suggested to try the unique charcoal coffee served in one of Kotor’s coffeehouses. Read the description in the picture below:
The taste if definitely different than normal coffee. It was really good, but I am not sure if I developed cancer just from drinking charcoal. It does not seem to me to be the healthiest drink choice.
We stopped at a wine bar to enjoy a nice glass of wine paired with a cheese and cold cuts platter.
The streets of Kotor at night feel completely different. All the cruise ship passengers are gone for good and only the people who are staying in town are still walking around. The lighting of the city makes it look magical.
We found a restaurant next to the Serbian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas.
One of the interesting European cultural aspects we have found out the hard way, is that when you ask for a salad with no dressing (since they don’t seem to understand salad dressing here), you should still expect the lettuce to be swimming in olive oil, vinegar, or other stuff. In this case, the no-dressing salad was covered in Teriyaki sauce and Ranch dressing. It was nasty and we hate complaining when the food is bad, but this was an extreme case so when we complained to to waiter, he just said “aah ok”, and did nothing about it. I guess we are used to american customer service.
A world cup game was happening that night, so the whole town was watching the game. It was pretty fun and the first time Sarah watched a soccer game. She loved the ambiance and how exciting the penalty kicks were.
Bonus Pic Of The Day:
So I got scammed, big time. So take this as a public service announcement. When you travel around the Mediterranean cities, you will often find street stands selling ancient coins. (usually Roman and Greek). They look legit for non-experts like me, and apparently I later learned that old-looking does not always mean real. I bought 2 very fake but very real-looking coins from this guy who claimed he found these around his house but he really didn’t know how to identify them. Anyways, if you like coins, buy them through a reputable seller.