Leaving Prizren behind was strange – it felt like the last ‘uncertain’ place, for want of a better word. We’d either visited everywhere that was left, or we knew exactly what to expect. We already felt like the trip was going far too quickly…
That didn’t stop us from being very excited about Kotor – a city with an old town nestled at the foot of mountains in a giant bay. Glorious. All we had to do to reach it was contend with a ridiculously long journey from Prizren. It was a super early morning – made slightly better by the fact that the guesthouse owner had, incredibly, got up to see us off at 5:15am and had even prepared us a breakfast to take with out! Bed & Breakfast Oltas, we salute you. Whether or not the bus company appreciated sesame seed rolls (and the mess they make) as much as we did is, however, debatable.
We were hugely relived to see a reasonable looking bus waiting for us, so hopped on board. First stop – Ulcinj. The bus was fab until border crossing number one (into Albania), at which point the driver seemed to be so delighted to be back in what we assume was his native country that he put on some delightful Albanian music. By that, we mean a TV recording from December 2014 – so we were also treated to the local version of ‘Jingle Bells’ every ad break. With the entire bus rocking out to Albanian pop and admiring the ‘enthusiastic’ backing dancers, we sped through spectacular mountain scenery and even braved getting off the bus during the rest stop because it was all so exciting.
After another border crossing, we had survived Albania and were now in Montenegro – a town called Ulcinj. It turns out that the bus station is a VERY long way from the centre, so we instead opted for a drink and a sit down. Matt indulged in some Cedevita – a powdered children’s vitamin drink. He loves it.
Eventually the wait was over, the Cedevita finished, and we caught our bus to Kotor. We’d booked ourselves into a room/apartment which was, we were told, about 15 minutes up the hill from the old town. The family – who lived upstairs – kindly offered to pick us up from the bus station. This was really appreciated when we arrived mid-afternoon to find that it was absolutely boiling outside. Dehydrated from the long bus journey (don’t want to drink too much for fear of having to take a toilet trip!), we decided to stock up on water/fizzy drinks and wait for our lift to arrive.
We were eventually picked up, and had quite an amusing journey up after discovering that the woman who runs the place speaks no English, so gets her 15 year old daughter to do all the speaking to the guests. The place was great when we arrived – bed, kitchen, shower, and no complaints considering the bargain price we paid (£42 for 2 nights). To top it off, it had great views across the bay. Kotor is the most beautiful setting imaginable – clear water, steep mountains and wonderfully ‘falling apart’ charming buildings.
The unpacking complete, we decided to wander down into town for an explore and a bite to eat. By this point, it was getting towards evening time – this turned out to be perfect as all the cruise ships had long since gone and the town was much quieter than it is during the day (unbeknown to us at the time!). One thing that was noticeable in Kotor was how much more targeted towards tourism things were – it was the first place we’d been on the trip where tourism was the main driver of the economy, and we were unprepared for the barrage of waiters and waitresses trying to drag you into their restaurant to eat. Perhaps this is why we ended up going for the first place which asked us if we’d like to eat there. Oops.
In fairness, it was right in the middle of one of the main squares and was a great place to people watch. They even served Matt’s favourite drink – the infamous Cedevita. In case you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, the cap is filled with fizzy orange powder which you pour into bottle (filled with water). It’s basically a fun version of the effervescent tablets you can buy from pharmacies, and it probably confused/amused the waiter who brought it over. Incidentally, he was an incredibly grumpy waiter. No tip for him…
With dinner eaten, we wandered around the old town a bit more. It was getting dark at this point, and some of the bars/pubs were filling up quite nicely. There’s a good vibe about Kotor in the evenings – it’s not too busy that you feel overwhelmed or overcrowded, but busy enough to feel like it’s not a boring ghost town. On the way back, we bumped into a kitten. Hardly a surprise, given that Kotor likes to market itself on the number of cats in the city (seriously – they’re literally everywhere). However, this particular kitten was in a tree. Yes, a kitten stuck in a tree – what a cliché. Some tourists approached as if to rescue it, but were shouted down by locals who said that it was diseased. And so the kitten remained in the tree, and became known as Tree Kitten.
That night, we decided to do laundry. It seemed like such a great idea. We hadn’t had the chance to do any for a while, and there was a massive bucket in the room along with a drying rack outside. Perfect. We got all of our clothes and spent a while wringing them out in the bucket until the water ran cold. Then we decided to let them soak whilst we put our feet up on the bed. Big mistake. Needless to say, we woke up several hours later (roughly 3am) to find all of our poor clothes festering in an ice cold bucket which smelt rather stale. You’ve got to be kidding me. Time to do all the washing again! We spent the best part of an hour washing AND ACTUALLY HANGING UP the clothes before collapsing back into bed.
Kotor – Day 2
The next morning was a bit of a blur – probably because we were both so exhausted! The sun was shining and it was already warm, so we set about moving our still damp clothes outside and having a lazy morning in the flat. We may even have cooked some eggs for breakfast. I can’t quite remember.
The main event of the day was a boat trip out into the Bay of Kotor, which we’d booked on a whim as we were in a particularly cheerful mood – the weather was gorgeous and you couldn’t help but feel good about life! There are two islands in the middle of the bay, both home to centuries old churches. The boat trip that we decided on takes you from just outside Kotor Old Town and through the bay until you reach one of the islands – Our Lady on the Rocks. From there, you get taken to a cute little village – Perast – on the shoreline for another wander, before being whisked back to Kotor Old Town and disembarking for the last time. All in all, the trip takes around 3 hours – and it’s well worth the 15 euros we paid.
The undoubted highlight of the trip was asking the captain if we could sit on the front of the boat (aka the bow, for any nautical readers) – she obliged, and even gave us cushions to sit on. The next 45 minutes were spent feeling like royalty as we cruised along on the front of what seemed like our own private yacht. Lucy doesn’t actually like boats, but even she enjoyed it! Not quite sure you’d ever get Matt sitting on the front of a plane though…
When we got back, we found Kotor absolutely heaving. We decided we’d earned a quick chill out, so we headed back to the apartment to check on our washing. Still damp. Hmph. It was then time to get changed and freshen up before heading back in for dinner. We left the blind/vents slightly ajar whilst we got changed – but no sooner had Matt begun to take items of clothing off than we got a knock on the door from the owner’s daughter and her friend asking for payment. Slightly strange timing – cue mad scramble for shirts and spare change. The daughter left with the money, but also some potential mental scarring. Not our fault. Sorry, not sorry.
Mini drama out of the way, it was finally time to wander back into town. Due to prices in the old town being predictably high, we tried somewhere outside the main centre and ended up with two healthy portions of chicken and chips – not bad, and much cheaper than they would have been inside the walls!
Next activity was the city walls – you get charged an entry fee between 8am and 8pm, but they are always open for wandering outside of those times. In true student fashion, we decided to head up at 8:15pm. We climbed the first section (it’s a long way to the top!) so we could get a view of Kotor as it got dark – absolutely beautiful. The day ended with us walking around the bay to the opposite shore, so that we could get a view of the whole town at night. The city walls are lit up when it’s dark, arching high over the city. It’s incredibly pretty, but sadly our cameras just couldn’t cope with the low lighting. Ah well – we’ll certainly remember it for a long time anyway. The last action of the evening was heading back to our room and, miraculously, being greeted with dry washing. Hooray!
Kotor – Day 3
The day began with yet another early start (we just can’t get enough), but this time it was to see the Old Town before the hoards of tourists arrive and make the place borderline unmanageable. Kotor is rapidly gaining in popularity, particularly as a cruise ship destination – so you have to take any opportunity to see the place whilst it’s quiet! We also wanted to get back on the city walls before 8am – classic us.
On our walk around the old town (having already spotted two massive cruise ships sneaking their way down the bay towards us), we happily reencountered tree kitten – cue lots of photos. We then ran up to the city walls, and past the ticket man – no charge for us as we’d swooped in just before 8! The climb was steep and exhausting – despite the early morning, it was already pretty hot. We only went a bit beyond the church, which is probably not even halfway up the walls, partly due to time restraints and partly due to not wanting to be sweaty messes by the time we had to get on our next bus!
We sensibly headed down from the walls and back to the apartment for breakfast – a less successful version of the day before, with only one egg each. By this point, the two cruise ships had docked and the town was starting to fill up. It was even worse when we left our apartment and headed back in to town for a last food stop before waving goodbye to Montenegro. Two more cruise ships had arrived, bringing the total to four – absolute chaos! We found a quiet corner for a pizza and salad lunch, before escaping the madness and heading to the bus station. We’d loved Kotor – the scenery, the buildings and the weather…although we were less keen on the armies of cruise-goers. Despite a slight delay, we boarded the bus full of excitement for our next designation – our old favourite, Dubrovnik!