Friday, February 19, 2016

Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro marked our 30th European country! 30 countries in less than 3 years, I think it's quite an accomplishment! Since we'll be leaving Europe soon, we wanted to go out with a bang. But where would we go? We wanted to go somewhere warm and somewhere our money would be worth something. Montenegro was the perfect place, Kotor to be exact! The Bay of Kotor is known as "Europe's southernmost Fjord". Even though it's not, technically, a real fjord. My friend Paige, Wanderlust and Dogs even came with us! It was so awesome to travel with someone other than Drew. Come to find out they're basically the same person, and I felt like the third wheel! Haha. She was even kind enough to let me share some of her pics with you! (I love travelling with a professional photographer!)
When planning the trip, we weren't sure where we wanted to fly into. Come to find out, flying into Tivat (an airport nearest to Kotor) was much more expensive than flying into Dubrovnik. So we decided to fly into Dubrovnik and save some money and hit up two places. We flew from Munich to Zagreb, then from Zagreb to Dubrovnik with Croatian airlines.

We rented a car through again, and the car was provided through Fleet, since I got such a great deal in Portugal, come to find out they had a bunch of hidden fees and we ended up paying 60 euros more than expected, because we needed to pay a fee for flying out early, transaction fee for paying with a credit card (even though they say they NEED a credit card)! They even had our reservation wrong, I specifically paid extra to rent a diesel car, and they weren't going to give it to us!  Long story short. Do NOT rent with Fleet!
After our horrible experience, we just wanted to get on the road, so we headed straight to our apartment in Kotor. We made it to the border in no time! We even got passport Stamps! That made me a little bit happier.

There is a border leaving Croatia and a border crossing into Montenegro. We got 4 stamps just leaving/entering Croatia & Montenegro.

We didn't have an address that we were able to put into the GPS, so we followed the signs to Kotor, the GPS gave us the option to use the ferry to cross the bay, but we decided to keep driving around the Bay. I would suggest making the drive around the Bay. It's a beautiful drive. Using the ferry would have saved us ~40 mins, but it was a beautiful drive. Drew and I kept commenting on how much it looked just like Norway! If you can't make it to Norway, make sure Montenegro is on your bucket list! It's a much cheaper option!

The sun was setting as we got to our apartment. We stayed at J&P apartments, I rented it through The apartment was in a great location, 2 minute walk from both the Old Town, grocery store, and North entrance to the St. John's fortress. I would definitely suggest it! It was a two bedroom apartment, that had a great view of the fortress!

Once we were settled in, we got groceries so we could make breakfast in the mornings. Our first night there we headed off into the Old City.
We ate at Cesarica, which is a family owned restaurant, the owner is even a fisherman who catches the fish he serves! We ordered the Cesarica meal, which is supposed to be a meal for 2, but we split it between the 3 of us, Cesarica, included fish, fried calimari, seafood risotto, and a potato. We also ordered a cheese platter to start off with. It was the perfect amount for all of us! It was such a good meal, when we got back to the apartment we all passed out!

The next morning, Drew & Paige had planned to wake up early and grab some pictures of the sunrise, they didn't get to watch the sunrise. When we woke up the next day, it was raining cats and dogs. So instead of rushing off into the rain, we opted for a lazy morning and waited for the rain to stop.

The grey building on the left is J&P Apartments.
At 11am, the rain finally stopped! We ventured out to the Old town.
We ended up walking to the main entrance of the Old Town. Finding Palm tress!

We checked out all the architecture and all the little areas around town. We even stumbled across a bakery and picked up some goodies for lunch!

Our goal for the day was to climb up the old city walls to St. John's fortress. Be prepared for a hike, you will be ascending approximately 1,350 stairs to a height of 1,200 meters!!!

The city walls date back to medieval times, back in the 9th century it was built to protect Kotor from invaders. Over the years they were added by whoever ran the city, i.e. Byzantines and the Venetians up until the 15th century they formed a full loop up the hillside. Along the way, there is a mixture of rampart, churches, forts, bastions and gates, and despite invasions, earthquakes and time they are still remarkably preserved.  At night they’re all lit up, thankfully the clouds cleared up and we had a perfect view of them from our apartment.

Our hike started near Kotor's North Gate. The walls zig-zag up the hill and in some places they are a couple meters wide. The path is made up of cobbles and steps along the side. The best way to walk is up the stairs, even though for the next couple of days I could feel the fact that we walked up and down 1,350 stairs!

Our first stop was at the Church of Our lady of Remedy, it sits 100m high. It was build in the 15th century, supposedly it healed people from the plague. It was here that we met our four legged tour guide, who would climb up to the top with us and show us the best directions to go, she would even hang out with us for the rest of the day, she even followed us back down to the Old city. We ended up naming her Penny. She was such a pretty dog, the poor thing was matted up, but she was full of energy and took a liking to us. Every time we would stop, she would just find a place to lay down until we started walking about. Looking back I probably shouldn't have named her. It made saying 'goodbye' very difficult.

Penny really liked Drew. We passed a lot of different hikers on the way up and down the fortress, that showed her some attention, and gave her treats. But from the time Drew said "hi", Penny wouldn't leave him. It was really sad. We wish we could have brought her home with us.

When we made it back down to the Old City, Penny waited for us outside on the door steps of the souvenir shops. I wish we would've driven from Germany to Montenegro, because we would've taken her home with us. I still feel bad about having to leave her. If she found us the next day, we would've found a way to take her home with us. Ugh, dog people problems.

From the church, there is still another 155 meters worth of climbing to get to the Fortress of St. John. The original fortress was built during the Illyrain times, today there is a medieval replacement that guards would watch over Kotor. From the top you can see the mountains and Bay of Kotor for miles.

We really only wanted to make it to the flag, it was our finish line. The views from the top were amazing!

That night we ended up grabbing some to-go food from Fortuna, the restaurant next to the apartment. We were so tired that we just wanted to relax. Drew and I got some Kebap and Paige got some Fried Squid! It definitley hit the spot, after a long day of hiking.

Over all it was a great trip in Kotor, we were all bummed to leave it, but at the same time, we were excited to see what Dubrovnik had to offer! Kotor has so much to offer, and in the summer, there is lots of activities to do out in the Bay, and there is also a nice beach.

Paige is a Video-grapher and captured our day in Kotor, check it out!