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Exploring Kotor, Montenegro

MONTENEGRO

Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, Professional Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel and Business Coach

I’m sad to be leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina. I’ve had a fascinating time in both Mostar and Sarajevo and would eagerly return to both, as well as exploring more of this country. But, I have to move on if I’m going to get to Turkey and back up to Scotland to meet my mom in time! She and I will be exploring Scotland and Iceland.

I grab a bus from Mostar to Kotor. It’s no surprise that I have another lesson about transportation. I see buses outside pulling in and out so sit on a bench awaiting mine. I find it strange they all appear to only go within Bosnia and Herzegovina, or other nearby places, but none to Montenegro. As luck would have it, I realize I need the bathroom before departing, so head inside what I thought was just the train station. That’s where the error in my assumptions becomes apparent.

I arrived to the station almost 40 minutes early. There are now only 15 minutes before my bus is scheduled to depart. When I enter the station, there’s a turnstile which I need to go through for the toilet. A guard asks to see my printed ticket. (Though I’m on a FlixBus, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they don’t use the phone app, so you have to print your ticket and carry it with you.) I show it to the guard, and he points behind me. I learn I have to get my ticket stamped!

I go to the ticket windows, and that’s when I learn that a stamp will cost me 2 marks, roughly 50 cents. I pay, get my stamp, and return to the guard. He admits me. As I head to the bathroom, I see that this is also where the international buses are located! Boy am I grateful to my bladder for getting me here before the bus left! My bus is almost full when I arrive. I decide I better get on the bus first. I quickly board and ask the driver if there’s time to use the toilet. He says yes. I run over, and, it’s a Turkish toilet. I shouldn’t be surprised. By this time, I’ve gotten used to them, and am thankful it’s clean.

I get back on the bus and find there are two drivers – a main and a relief one. This turns out to be very helpful when we get to Montenegro. At some point along the journey, the bus stops on the highway. That’s too big a word for this road, but it’s a main road. There’s some loud talking between the bus driver and someone standing on the road. Next thing I know, the bus is reversing down the highway and then goes onto another road. I learn that in the rainfall the previous night, a boulder fell onto the main road, and we are being detoured. Within minutes, I’m wishing I had gotten off the bus.

We are now driving on, basically, the side of a cliff, on a single lane road, with traffic going both ways. We’re on the outer side; the one where you can fall off and die because there’s no railing. Cars are driving up the mountain side to get out of our way. A bus this size has no business on a road this tiny. I’m waiting for them to figure this out and back up. Then I see the traffic behind us is so huge we can’t go back. We arrive at a sharp turn. There is no way this bus will make it. I’m sweating and convinced I’m about to die. One of the drivers gets out and directs the other. We’re turning, and part of the bus is off the road. I’m gripping my seat which I realize is futile. I wonder if I can get off and walk. The driver is going backwards, and forwards and backwards and sideways, and after several minutes of various manipulations, unbelievably, we make the turn without falling off the cliff. The entire bus erupts in applause. 

Thankfully, the rest of the ride is uneventful. I arrive in Kotor and head to my AirBnB. I buy some groceries and then visit the old town, which is just steps from my front door. Over the next few days, I have some wonderful experiences.

Old Town

Old Town feels like a fortress the way it’s surrounded by its sea walls. Once inside, I admire the buildings and the overall happy feel. It may be touristy, but it’s very pleasant. And, there are cats everywhere. Live cats, cat photos, cat tshirts, cat paintings, basically anything you can imagine with a cat on it, or that looks like a cat, it’s in Kotor. It is aptly named “the city of cats.”

Cat Museum

There is one, so, I mean, it seems like something you must do while in Kotor. It was about $1 to go in, and is very tiny. It’s got mostly postcards, pictures, and various cat periphenelia from all ages in time. It might not be the best museum you ever visit, but it’s definitely memorable! You get a card to take with you as you visit each room that explains each exhibit, and there’s a small gift shop.

Cat Park

This was one of my favorite places in Kotor! The feral cats gather here because houses have been made for them, and trays await passerby to leave them food. You can even pick one up and place it in your lap and pet them as they’re used to affection. After my disappointing cat cafe experience in Paris, this was a definite turnaround! Two women picked up each cat and rubbed ointment on the cats with eye infections, and spent time with them, so clearly, this city likes its cats!

The Ladder Of Kotor

You’ll see this ladder and fortress when you arrive in Kotor. It looks like a challenging walk, but not that far. Pro tip: It is challenging, and it’s a bit far. On a hot day, it can be especially grueling, and you’ll want a good supply of water. Also, the walk seems never ending, because you’ll think you’re at the top, and then see the path continues, and continues, and continues…

I was surprised this wasn’t so easy to find on foot. Old Town is charming, but it takes a bit to find your way on the winding streets, to find the specific one that has you walk under an arch, and up a steep street, to a steeper road, where you’ll find the tiny ticket booth to gain access to the trail. This walk will get you that iconic photo you want of Montenegro, and I highly recommend it. Just be warned, it’s not an easy walk. And, it’s fairly steep in some places. There is a railing to hold on to, on one side, so if you’re slower or injured, you’ll want to carefully hang on to that.

Our Lady Of The Rocks and Blue Cave Tour

I’m not a big boat fan, so after booking, I almost canceled when I learned this relatively small boat spends part of the journey on the open sea. Kotor Bay feeds the Adriatic Sea. To get to the Blue Caves, you have to go out into it for about 15 minutes each way.

I’m glad that I didn’t cancel my trip. The Bay of Kotor is stunning, and we had perfect weather. I told the captain I was scared, and he had me sit in the back of the boat, and looked after me the whole time. Our first stop was the Lady Of The Rocks. This tiny island was made famous in 1452 when two brothers were headed back to Perast after a dangerous sea voyage. One of them had an injured leg.

As the brothers passed by St George, a 12th century monastery built on the natural island in front of the town of Perast, they saw something caught on a rocky outcrop. They went to see what it was, and found an icon of the Virgin Mary and Child. 

Our tour guide explained that the brothers took the icon home with them, and the next day, a miracle had occurred; the injured brother’s leg was healed. While I have read many different versions of the story, our tour guide told us the brothers placed the icon in a safe place, but when they came back to the island the next day, they found it there again!

Whichever version is true, it seems that an icon was found, and a church built and it’s both beautiful to walk around, as well as admire the view from the island. Pro Tip: make sure to use the bathroom before going to the island. You are only allowed a short time there, and if the bathroom isn’t closed, there may be too long a line to use it.

Submarine Caves

This tour includes a ride into the former submarine caves. I notice that people in Montenegro don’t like to talk about the Yugoslavian war. Nonetheless, they stored several submarines in these bunkers, and our boat steers us into one, all while playing a James Bond theme song so the thrill of espionage is with us as we navigate in and out of the bunker.

The ride on the Adriatic Sea is, thankfully, calm and we arrive at the Blue Cave. Unfortunately, they haven’t regulated visits here, so there are too many other boats to jump out for a swim without being in danger, and we get a short glimpse of the blue color, before ducking out and swimming nearby.

My Favorite Restaurant

I did try a couple of restaurants, mostly because I wanted to try the Montenegro delicacy of squid, stuffed with…more squid. I tried it at Cesarica. It was mid-afternoon and no one was there. So, I thought it was closed. Happily, I stepped inside and asked if they were open. Not only was the answer yes, but the host was exceptionally kind and happy to have me eat there. The squid was extraordinary! For a touristy place, I felt like I had hit the jackpot in a small restaurant with a homey feel, and great food.

As I leave Kotor, I’m disappointed I don’t have more time there. If I did, I would have stayed for a while in Herceg Novi, Perast and Budva. Next time!

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