Kotor and surrounds


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Europe » Montenegro » Kotor » Kotor
October 18th 2019
Published: October 18th 2019
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We left Berat at about 9am and retraced our steps back to Shkoder. After stopping briefly in Shkoder to spend our last Albanian lek on some soft drink we continued on back across the same border crossing we’d entered Albania at. The border was busier than on the way through, but still not too bad.

After crossing the border we continued on to Podgorica. Our first task back in Montenegro was to sort out sim cards for our phones. We entered the phone store and asked the assistant whether they sold tourist sim cards, to which she replied no. Then asked if they had any short term sims, to which she replied no. When I asked if they said do you sell prepaid sim cards, she said they did and that they had one which lasted for 7 days…

After getting our sim cards we crossed the road in search of somewhere to have lunch. It was a lovely day so we chose a cafe which looked decent and grabbed some seats outside. At first the waiter pounced on us every 30 seconds to ask if we were ready to order, but then disappeared so I spent a while teasing Scott about whether he wanted to order a half serve of the burger he’d selected (half serves of burgers, how odd!)

When our food arrived we understood why they offered half serves… Scott’s plate arrived with two whole burgers and chips. After laughing at his ridiculous looking lunch for a bit we started eating. My chicken sandwich on ‘German pretzel bread’ was actually more of a flat bread but was delicious. Scott enjoyed his burgerS, but only made it through 1 and ¾. Not bad for about 7 Euros!

After lunch we set off in the direction of the Pavlova Strana viewpoint at Lake Skadar (the Monetenegrin side of Lake Shkodër). The drive took us about half an hour, most of which was on a good quality fairly new road. The last part of the drive was on a narrow one lane track which wound around the mountain.

The Pavlova Strana viewpoint overlooks a horsehoe bend in the Rijeka Crnojevica river. The valley was lush and green and looked much more like we were somewhere in Asia than in eastern Europe. The view was gorgeous, definitely worth stopping off at.

After admiring the scenery for a while we set off for the final leg of our journey to Kotor. After we followed the little track for a while we ended up back on a fairly new road which we followed for most of the journey. It seems like Montenegro have invested quite a bit of money in upgrading their roads and tourist infrastructure in recent years.

Our approximately 2 hour long drive took us through the mountains and then down to Budva. We drove through Budva and then back up the mountain a little, through a tunnel and down towards the stunning Bay of Kotor. We arrived at our apartment in Muo, a short distance from the Old Town of Kotor at 5pm.

Kotor has become one of Montenegro’s most famous tourist spots, owing to the stunning fjord and well preserved fortified old town which is said to be one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Adriatic. Kotor is a double UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The first mention of Kotor in historical records is from 168BC. The Old Town was fortified in the Middle Ages by the Emperor Justinian.

Between 535 and 1391 the town was conquered / occupied by Saracens, the Byzantines, the First Bulgarian Empire, Duklja, the Vojislavljević dynasty, the (Serbian) Nemanjić dynasty, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Republic of Venice and the Kingdom of Bosnia.

In 1391, due to the threat from the Ottomans the town asked the Republic of Venice for protection. From 1420 to 1797 it was part of the Venetian Republic (in one form or another). During this period the town was besieged by the Ottomons twice, and also briefly ruled by them.

In more ‘recent’ years it has been ruled by the Habsburgs, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, Russians, French, British, the Kingdom of Dalmatia and of course was also a part of Yugoslavia.

After settling into our apartment, which would be our home for the next 5 nights, and admiring the stunning views towards the Old Town and the Bay of Kotor and learning about what there was to do in the area from the owner of our apartment, we set off towards the Old Town.

We parked our car near the shopping centre which is just past the Old Town and went for a walk around. We entered the Old Town through the northernmost gate and were immediately impressed! The Old Town was stunning. The cobblestone streets (which were shiny due to years and years of feet walking over them), the beautiful buildings, the tasteful lighting and the cute cats (!!) were a fantastic combination.

After wandering around for a while admiring the beautiful and well preserved town (and patting cats) we popped into the supermarket to pick up some breakfast supplies and then headed back to our apartment for the night.

The following morning after a leisurely breakfast we walked back to the Old Town to check out whether it was as beautiful during the day as it was at night. It took us about 25 minutes to walk from our apartment. The walk itself was very pleasant; mostly flat and alongside the stunning Bay of Kotor.

We walked beyond the Old Town to Doborta, which is a mostly residential suburb of Kotor with lovely views of the Bay of Kotor. We walked until the beachside track ran out and then turned back towards the Old Town.

The Old Town was just as beautiful during the day as at night, though much busier owing to the cruise ships which call at the port most days. We wandered around for a while before we both decided we were hungry. We grabbed some byrek (meat for Scott, cheese for me) for lunch and ate them in a nearby square. Before leaving the Old Town we each grabbed and ice cream which we ate whilst wandering around. We then walked back to our apartment.

That afternoon we headed to a supermarket a little way outside of Kotor to pick up supplies for breakfasts and dinner for the next two nights. We were surprised to find the largest Asian section of the supermarket we’ve seen so far this trip! They even had some Japanese rice and slightly larger than 100mL bottles of soy sauce.

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading on our balcony while admiring the views. Scott made a risotto for dinner which was delicious. It was nice that we didn’t have to go out and choose something at a restaurant!

The following morning we jumped in the car and set off on a drive around the Bay of Kotor. Our first stop was a small beach near Orahovac. The beach was a pretty little pebble beach with clear water and cute houses nearby. We spent about half an hour admiring the scenery and taking photos before heading back to the car to continue our journey.

Our next stop was at another small beach just a little further near the tiny village of Drazin Vrt. This beach wasn’t quite as pretty as the one at Orahovac, but was still lovely. There were quite a few people swimming and the weather was perfect so we sat in the sunshine for quite a while.

Our next stop was Perast, a small town with lovely historical buildings which is famous for the two islands just off the shore called St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks (which is actually an artificial island which was created hundreds of years ago by sinking seized ships filled with rocks and then piling rocks on top of them.

We walked along the coast through Perast admiring the scenery and taking photos. On the way back to our car we walked through the town, which wasn’t quite as pretty as the Old Town of Kotor, but had similar buildings.

From Perast we continued around the bay to a restaurant called Verige65 which looks across the bay towards Perast. We grabbed a table outside and ordered (fried chicken sandwich for me, mini burgers for Scott). The food was delicious and the view was stunning.

After lunch we continued around the bay to the town of Kamenari. We purchased tickets for the ferry and then joined the free for all as vehicles made their way on board. The ferry ride across the entrance to the Bay of Kotor to Lepetane on the opposite side of the narrow Verige straight.

After leaving the ferry we continued on to Tivat. After reaching Tivat we parked the car the near the port and headed in to check out some of the ridiculous boats. The port was like a glimpse of a world we’ll never be a part of! Scott and I both decided the a very sleek boat (worth 15 mil Euro when it was last sold about 7 years ago) was our favourite; unfortunately we couldn’t find the owner to ask him whether he’d be happy to give it to us!

After wandering around the port we hopped back in the car and headed back to our apartment. We spent the remainder of the afternoon reading our books on the balcony. Scott made risotto again for dinner.

The following day we headed back into the Old Town as there were no cruise ships arriving. We walked into town and headed straight for the 1355 stairs which lead up to St. John’s fortress (/castle) on the hill. It used to cost 3 Euro to do the climb, but in 2017 they increased the cost to 8 Euro per person. We paid for our tickets then started the climb.

The climb up the hill wasn’t as tough as we’d expected given the number of steps. The steps were, for the most part, in fairly good condition, not too steep and because there are quite a lot of switchbacks there were plenty of opportunities for a break to admire the spectacular views over the Old Town and Bay of Kotor.

About a third of the way up the hill we reached the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. We didn’t enter the church itself, but spent some time harassing some adorable kittens and checking out the view.

St. John’s fortress at the top of the climb isn’t in the best condition. Some of the more modern additions, such as the reinforced concrete slab roof / floor are in various stages of collapse. We thought the view was better slightly lower down, but it was still worth climbing all the way to the fortress to check out the view and see it.

On the way back down the hill we took more photos and harassed more cats. We reached the bottom about two hours after we started the climb.

For lunch we went to the same bakery as the first day. We both ordered the same byreks and ate them while sitting on some stairs just around the corner. After lunch we decided to get ice cream again. We mistakenly chose a place right near the main gate to the Old Town and received a tiny serve for more than we’d paid the previously After ordering Scott’s we decided to head back to the place we’d bought ice cream from previously.

After eating our ice cream we decided to leave the Old Town rather than taking photos as it seemed to be peak hour for tour groups. We headed back to our apartment and read our books on the balcony again.

At about 5pm we headed back to the Old Town to take photos when it was a bit quieter. After walking around taking photos in daylight we found a restaurant, ordered some drinks and waiting for the sun to set.

After the sun set we took some photos of the Old Town at night. It was hard to capture just how pretty it looks but we tried!

After taking photos we headed to a small BBQ restaurant just outside the Old Town. Scott ordered a meat serve for one and I ordered a ½ roast chicken serve. Both our meals came with salad and various dips / sauces. We also shared some grilled vegetables. The food was quite delicious.

For our final day in the Kotor area we headed to Lovćen National Park which is south east of Kotor. The drive to the mountainous Lovćen was stunning, with beautiful views over the Bay of Kotor on both the Kotor side and the Tivat side. The road was pretty good for most of the way, although the section with the switchbacks (25 of them!) was fairly narrow. We stopped a couple of times on the way up to take photos and admire the view.

After paying our 2 Euros per person to enter the park we made our way to the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš who died in 1851. After parking on the side of the hill (as there was no proper car park) we bought our tickets to the mausoleum (5 Euros each).

Njegoš, as he’s commonly known in Montenegro, is an important figure in Montenegrin history. He was a poet and philosopher who became the country's spiritual and political leader following the death of his uncle. He’s attributed with modernising Montenegro.

The mausoleum, which was completed in 1974 when Njegoš’s remains were transferred there, sits atop the second highest mountain in the area. We strongly suspect that the main reason most people visit (us included) is for the spectacular views from the mausoleum, rather than to pay their respects to Njegoš.

After climbing the 461 steps up to the mausoleum we were afforded with lovely views over the countryside below. Unfortunately the sky wasn’t that clear so the view didn’t quite live up to the photos we’d seen on the internet, but it was still worth the climb.

From the mausoleum we had decided to head to Cetinje, however when we turned onto the road that leads from Lovćen to Cetinje it was blocked by construction equipment which was working on the road upgrades. Rather than brave partially completed roads in who knows what condition we decided to skip Cetinje and head straight to Budva instead.

Driving directly from Lovćen to Budva rather than via Cetinje meant that we had to drive back down the same road we’d taken to reach the national park. It was much cloudier on the way back down and some of the view points were in the clouds so we were glad that we had arrived when we did.

We had our hopes pinned on lunch at an Asian restaurant which got good reviews in Budva, however sadly arrived to find that it was closed. We desperately googled for another good Asian option nearby and found a takeaway place which got decent reviews so headed there.

After finding a park we ordered from ‘Woker’ (with a name like that how could it not be good?!). Scott ordered Sichuan beef with rice and I had chicken and vegetable noodles. My hopes weren’t that high but the meals actually turned out to be quite nice. We even tasted some chilli.

After lunch we headed to the Budva Old Town. We found a somewhat dodgy park on the road (as Scott is adamant that we won’t pay for parking while we have this car!) nearby and walked the rest of the way on foot.

Budva Old Town is a fortified city which dates back to the 9th century. It’s less impressive than Kotor’s, but is still quite cute. We wandered around the Old Town for a little while before heading out for a walk beside the beach.

Outside the Old Town Budva is not particularly appealing. Development of Budva hasn’t been controlled as well as around Kotor so there are ugly high rise apartments, busy roads and limited parking. According to Wikipedia the term Budvanizacija ("Budvanization") has been used regionally to denote a form of chaotic and massive urban growth, tailored to the needs of individual land owners and developers, without regard for sustainability or environment. That description fairly accurately captures our opinion of the newer parts of Budva,

From Budva we headed back to our apartment to spend the afternoon relaxing on our balcony again. While we were reading we noticed the large cruise ship which had parked just in front of our place in the morning was preparing to leave so we watched it turn around and leave the bay.

That night for dinner we headed to a restaurant in Doborta which serves a menu which is fairly typical of most restaurants around Kotor (Dalamatian – pasta, risotto, fish, meats…) but which got particularly good reviews.

Scott ordered some fish served with truffle polenta and I ordered chicken in a smoked cheese sauce. We shared a salad. The food was lovely quality and quite yummy, though my dish was a little intense so I couldn’t finish it all.

We really enjoyed our time in Kotor. It’s a beautiful spot to spend a few days relaxing and admiring the scenery. The Old Town is stunning. Hopefully they continue to manage to as well as they currently appear to be doing so that it’s around for people to enjoy for many years to come.


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24th October 2019
Pavlova Strana viewpoint, Lake Skadar National Park

Wow, wow, wow
Stunning view
24th October 2019
Orahovac

Scenic
Serenity.

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