Kotor, Montenegro is only an hour drive south of the more popular tourist destination of Dubrovnik in Croatia. It is a real shame people would be so close to the beautiful city of Kotor, Montenegro and not visit. I might even suggest skipping Dubrovnik for Kotor.
The worst thing about this small town wedged in between beautiful and abrupt mountains is its popularity with the cruise boat crowd. There can often be more than one large cruise ship in the port at a time. Above is a morning view from our balcony of a Costa Cruise ship arriving for the day.
The wonderful, top-of-the-line Airbnb rental apartment we were lucky enough to find certainly added to our enjoyment of Kotor. Unless you have a car, do not rent lodging on the opposite side of the bay. Stay in Kotor so you can easily walk to the sights. Heated floors, towel warmers and a huge balcony with a great view was a good way to wind down our adventures in Eastern Europe. The world is catching on to the beauty and charm of this ancient town, so much construction for future tourist rentals is going on.
The Road to Kotor
Due to the difficulties and expense of one-way car rentals across Eastern European borders we opted to ride the public bus from Croatia into Montenegro. At the border of Croatia and Montenegro armed guards board the bus and collect passports from everybody asking questions to some of the more shady people on board. The guards then depart for a little shack for about 10 minutes. Soon, all the passports are efficiently returned, handed out row by row since they were kept in order. Ah, so they’ve done this before…. Finally we are again on our way, but for only about 200 yards. We are stopped again by more armed guards boarding the bus, this time from Montenegro. They go through the exact same routine.
The road to Kotor winds around the Bay of Kotor right at sea level for many miles before reaching the medieval village tucked away at the far end of the bay. The road to Kotor offers views like I’ve never seen. Steep mountains border the many miles of the long narrow bay. One small fishing village follows another between the seemingly random bus stops.
A Walk Around Kotor
Looking at a map of our rental location, it seemed an easy walk into town. What we overlooked were the many stairs and steep roads to conquer along the way. This would be a great town for first time travelers to Eastern Europe. However, by this time in our journey we could not easily count how very many old, quaint towns with a walled fortress we had already visited. Yet, Kotor is unique enough to still stand out as something special.
The ancient town is a maze of tunnels and stone walkways. The place is too small to get lost in, so no need to stare at a map. Please, throw away your Rick Steve’s guidebook. Just wander the town on your own and explore. You won’t get mugged and you won’t die. Maybe you will discover something new on your own. In all of our walking around the many towns of Eastern Europe, never did we sense the least bit of danger nor were concerned with any hint of trouble. The quiet, laid back town of Kotor was no exception. Of course the ever vigilant ‘watch cats’ were everywhere.
Had Kotor been our first stop in our travels instead of our last, certainly a hundred additional photos would have been taken. However, by this point we had been traveling six months. What a beautiful town to visit and serve as our departure point from Eastern Europe. We were a bit tired and looking forward to the cruise back to the States where days at sea would pass with no decisions to be made. I really respect and admire those retired travelers I’ve met through Facebook who travel endlessly. Apparently our ‘get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went’.
Knowing we were leaving the fresh seafood cuisine behind soon, I ordered it at every opportunity. I feel sorry for the poor little octopus. But when will such a dish of fresh seafood be available again? Each time ordering octopus, I recalled snorkeling in Hawaii where 30 feet below I saw two octopus underneath rocks reaching out to one another holding hands… or arms or tentacles or whatever they hold.
People, People Who Need People….
Wherever we travel, the most memorable times are those connecting with the locals. This guy was from Serbia and very proud of it. He was selling fine trinkets to the tourists in Kotor. During the several days prior, we would pass each other on the sidewalk and make gestures about each others hat. Through pantomime we would offer to make a trade. Perica not only entertained the tourists with his sales antics but made the other local vendors laugh as well. On our last day we spoke through broken sentences about Serbia, and his view on politics including the upcoming US presidential election. He seemed to harbor much resentment against the Clintons for the way they handled the Haiti Fund after the hurricane. That was not a situation familiar to me, but he had very strong feelings about it. The paper snakes he sold were named after a US president and an intern and were moved along the ground powered by a wooden wheel and a wound rubber band. These were occasionally set loose scaring unsuspecting tourists to the delight of the other vendors. I wish this hardworking Serbian well.
Where the Elite Meet
Kotor has something for everyone. Just a short drive away is the town of Budva. It is home to many large yachts and high-rise condos for their owners. All this is in very stark contrast to Kotor.
Hike the Fortress Stairs
The oldest part of Kotor is the walled fortress. After hiking up about 1,355 stairs you are rewarded at the top with about 30 kids taking endless selfies with the beautiful Kotor Bay in the background. I hiked this three times hoping for better light. The guy charging admission at the start of the trail recognized me on my second and third visits and so let me pass for free. Possibly he just thought I was crazy. Return visitors are apparently very infrequent.
The domed church above can also be seen illuminated in the evening photo below at about the nine-o-clock position within the circle of lights along the zig-zag road.
The illuminated walls of the well-fortified Castle of San Giovanni is likely one reason Kotor has survived for so many years. If I had the motivation to get across the bay earlier during our visit, on a more calm evening, I would have captured a beautiful semicircular reflection in the water. On this evening I was having to hold down the tri-pod through the strong gusts as my eyes watered in the cold air. No peaceful reflection this evening. A long camera exposure smoothed the water.
From our balcony, we could see porpoises swimming in the bay followed by hungry seagulls or
simply some hopeful fishermen.
Next we will explore the fishing village down the road a piece.