Friday, November 22, 2013

Kotor, Montenegro

I knew nothing about Montenegro when we booked our cruise. Then, while watching Casino Royale, we noticed that part of the movie takes place in Montenegro. The landscape looked breathtaking in the film, so I was super excited about going there. Then I found out that, although parts of the movie take place in Montenegro, none of the movie was actually filmed there. I guess someday I'll have to go to the Czech Republic.

Fortunately for us, the landscape of the real Montenegro was also breathtaking. I volunteered to do the planning and tour-booking for this port, so I did lots of research. There were some really cool looking places that I wanted to see and Montenegro is a very small country, so it seemed pretty doable in one day. Unfortunately, Montenegro is also a very young country and not well-known, so it's tourism industry is just getting started. This posed several problems, the largest of which was that I couldn't find anybody willing to take us to the places I wanted to go. There are a few typical tourist stops in Montenegro and all of the tour guides that I contacted would only take us to those places. Most of them I wasn't interested in at all, but since we had no options, we went to them anyway. Fortunately, the one place I was most interested in is a big tourist stop, so my Montenegro dreams were fulfilled.

One of the cool things about Kotor is the sail-in. While the Bay of Kotor isn't technically a fjord, it looks like one, so the scenery is beautiful as you sail through it. I woke up early that day so I could go up to one of the forward decks to see it all.

It was well worth the early wake up to see it. In this next pic, you can see fortification walls going up the mountainside above Kotor. You can climb them and I thought that would be cool to do if there was time after our tour of the other sites.

Kotor was another tender port, so after docking and tendering to the pier, we found the taxi drivers we had booked and began our adventures. Our taxi drivers were just that - drivers. They weren't tour guides and couldn't give us a ton of information on the sites we were going to. Were I to plan it all again, I would've tried to find actual tour guides that could've given us more information on the sites. But, I did the best I could with the information I could find on the internet and, though we didn't get a ton of information, our drivers were nice and we enjoyed the scenery immensely. Our first stop was Perast, a small town about 20-30 minutes from Kotor. The thing to do in Perast is to take a boat out to this little island with the Our Lady of the Rocks Church on it.

As you can see in the pic below, it's a tiny island. And it's a tiny church. They say the island was formed when some sailors sailing by a long time ago saw the Virgin Mary in the water at that spot. They threw a rock in and every time sailors went by that spot, they threw in another rock. Eventually, those many rocks became the island you see today. The only things on the island are the church and a restroom. I wasn't interested in seeing it, but it was on the tour. Unfortunately, it ended up eating some of our time because there was a big tour group inside the church when we got there, so we couldn't go in until they were done. And they took awhile.

This is looking back at Perast from the boat.

After our stop in Perast it was off to Mount Lovcen and the Mausoleum of Njegos. This was the one thing I was adamant about doing, so I was super excited. We went back through Kotor and up a very steep and winding mountain road. It had 25 hairpin turns and, while I found it exciting, for many people it's pretty scary. Our drivers stopped at one point so we could take some pictures of the bay below. It was an incredible sight.

That's our ship in the middle of the bay.

I told you - incredible. After our photo stop, we continued up the steep and winding road to Lovcen National Park. The scenery was beautiful. Lots of mountain meadows with little villages here and there. We eventually got almost to the top of Mount Lovcen before we had to park and make our way to the top on foot. At the top of the mountain is a Mausoleum where a guy named Njegos is buried. It's quite an elaborate mausoleum with a winding staircase going up the mountain to it and even a restaurant about halfway up. This next pic shows the top of the mountain with the mausoleum on the right.

It was quite a climb to the top, but the views were, once again, breathtaking.

Somewhere along the way we got behind in our schedule, so we had to hurry from Mount Lovcen to our next destination. I thought that would be Montenegro's historical capital, Cetinje. However, aside from a quick stop to change a diaper, we flew right through it. Cetinje was another place I was actually interested in seeing, so I was little disappointed that we didn't have time to stop. But, my Montenegro dreams had been fulfilled at Lovcen, so I was okay with it. Our next stop was Budva, a very touristy coastal town known for its lovely beaches. Except, here again, we didn't really stop as we were out of time. No matter. I didn't care about seeing it and actually the drive there was beautiful, so I was fine just enjoying the scenery as we drove along. We did stop quickly to see the islet resort of Sveti Stefan. 

Looks cool, doesn't it? We thought we would be able to actually see what it was all about, but it's all part of the very posh resort, so you can't really go there unless you're staying there. So, it was a nice photo stop and, unfortunately, one that wasted a lot of time. Oh well. As I mentioned before, my Montenegro dreams had been fulfilled, so I was really fine with whatever.

After our photo stop at Sveti Stefan, it was back to Kotor. We finished our tour, paid our drivers, and then had some time to kill in Old Kotor before we had to be back at the ship. Kotor was actually a lot cooler than I thought it would be. We all kind of went our separate ways and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the town. There was no time to climb the city walls, but I was okay with it because we had gotten spectacular views going up to Mount Lovcen.

While wandering around Kotor, we started noticing cats. EVERYWHERE. We would turn a corner and there would be a cat. We would turn another corner, and there would be two cats. We would enter a little square and there would be five cats. It was a little hilarious and a little disturbing all at the same time. I mean, they were everywhere. Apparently the "cats of Kotor" are actually a thing. We started noticing shirts and other paraphernalia in some of the tourist shops that referenced all the cats there. It was only fitting that I snap a photo. I actually got some photos with multiple cats in the shot, but they were all blurry so you'll have to settle for just one.

And, in Kotor's main square, Stella enjoyed one of her favorite hobbies during our trip - chasing pigeons.

After exploring the old town, it was back to the ship where we enjoyed a beautiful sail-away at sunset.

As you can see from the pictures, Montenegro was stunning. We enjoyed our stop there and had fun seeing it all. But, I think I would've been able to enjoy Montenegro more if I were able to explore it on my own. There were some really cool looking places I found online that I would've liked to have seen, but they were off the beaten tourist path. Maybe as tourism grows in Montenegro, it will be easier to see stuff other than the typical tourist fare. I've made lots of mental notes in case I ever return.

Next up: finally - a much-needed sea day!


Sharon said...

Looks cool.

Tracy Van Horn said...

One of my favorite things, that was quite a surprise to see, was the cow grazing up at hairpin turn 22? I mean really, how did a cow get there? It was hilarious.