After traveling along the two lane coastal road of Montenegro for over an hour I had settled into the beautiful scenery. I was content to watch the sea and mountains roll by as we made our way to Kotor. Then, he followed a curve into the Bay of Kotor and literally my mouth dropped open. I hit J. on the arm to make sure he was seeing what I was seeing and to make sure it was real. Suddenly the beautiful scenery became astonishing. Grand mountains tumbling from 5,000-6,000 feet straight into the Adriatic Sea. Tree covered mountains stood in front of grey stone mountains all reaching for the intense blue sky. Our driver smiled as we continued through the small opening of the Bay, we were not the first people to have this response. Normally not at a loss for words all I was able to say, over and over again was, “How can this be real?”.
Our drivers pride begins to unfold as he tells us about the history of his country as they have obtained their freedom. Then he starts to tell us the long term history and all of the amazing things there are to see in the small country of Montenegro and my excitement peaks. I know I have picked a great country to spend a month. What he was not able to prepare us for was the overwhelming charm of Kotor and its citizens. There was no way for him to prepare us for how strongly we were about to fall in love.
The town of Kotor, protected behind ancient walls built hundreds of years ago, is tucked in the back of the beautiful Bay of Kotor (Boka). It sits like a beautiful pearl in the back of an oyster. As we exited the car to make our way through the walls and into the town the magnificence of the mountains was overwhelming. We spent two weeks there and I never got over those incredible mountains enveloping the town and the bay.
Walking through the gates of Kotor you lose hundreds of years. The town suffered a massive earthquake in 1979 but was rebuilt using the same stones which have been there for hundreds of years. This is why the entire town of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The narrow streets are all paved in cobblestones slightly darker than the tan and white colored stone buildings. Squares are filled with cafe’s, restaurants, and gelateria’s.
The influence of the Venetians who offered protection the town of Kotor is seen in some of its architecture along with some Austrian influence as well. Kotor has a rich and diverse history which would unfold for us during our stay.
St. John’s Fortress
Above the town, on St. John’s hill is the fortress which loomed over us for a week before the conditions seemed just right for the climb. We started early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds. The 72 switchbacks and 1355 steps up the 3,043 foot mountain is not as daunting as it sounds. Yes it is hard but with a bottle of water or two, some patience and determination you can make it up and back in only a few hours. Part of the way up the mountain is a cute little chapel where we stopped for a bit of a break before continuing on.
With each new switchback we were offered different views or angles than we had seen before. Kotor Bay was revealing itself to us and then at the top allowed a little peak into the life behind the mountain. Where once there was a church and some other small buildings and now just a single house acting as a keeper to what came before.
The people of Kotor are extremely friendly and full of life. I would sit on our balcony listening as music and laughter wafted through the air. One evening as the music played I looked at J. and told him I was in my heaven.
Kotor is famous for cats. I asked around and everyone had a different reason about why there are so many cats in Kotor. The one that makes the most sense to me is that at one point in time there was a rat problem in Kotor so they brought cats into the town to get rid of the problem. The cats took care of the rats and earned themselves a royal standing in the community ever after. There are souvenir shops dedicated just to cats. There are women who feed them, men who feed them and all store owners who care for them. In turn the cats laze about wherever they choose, in trees, balconies, doorsteps, and store signs. They rule the roost and definitely know it.
Many of the stores in Kotor are now souvenir shops so there isn’t a lot of shopping to do in town unless you dig farmers markets like I do. Every morning, except Sunday, the local farmers set up outside of the wall, right along the sea, and sell beautiful flowers, produce, cheeses, meats and dried fruits. I spent many morning perusing the market, filling my bag with amazing organic fruits and veggies to cook in our Airbnb. While I couldn’t speak the language (a mix between Serbian and Montenegran) the incredible patience of the locals helped guide me through.
Being a vegetarian wasn’t easy in Kotor but with a few great restaurant selections I was able to make it work. J. loved all of the fresh seafood, pasta and the occasional pizza. What they lacked in baked goods they made up for with AMAZING wine! Really, does anything else matter???
Where To Stay:
We stayed in this amazing Airbnb.
I would also recommend this one which offers stunning sea views.
Where To Eat:
Konoba Portun-This was hands down our favorite place to eat. The food and service is amazing and the tables right on the water offer the best views of the bay. It is a really nice 20 minute walk from old town or an easy cab ride. The veggie choices here are fantastic (try the cheese plate and risotto!)
Konoba Scala Santa-There was one veggie option here but it was good. J. loved the ribs.
Old Winery-The food is a little pricey here (still cheap by the rest of Europe standards) but it is worth it. The food is fantastic, the wine is amazing and the location is great. They were really accommodating about being a vegetarian so don’t hesitate to ask, and by all means let them choose the wine to go with your dish. We ate here three or four times.
Pizzeria Sara-This was the best pizza we found in Kotor. The crust was great and although they make their pizza a little different it was delicious. They staff is really sweet too!
What To Do:
There is so much to do in Kotor it will take another blog post to cover it all. You can read about what to see and do here.