October 11 – 16, 2015
Kyra: Balkan news is currently ripe with articles about Montenegro’s Prime Minister, membership to NATO, and position on Kosovo. Here‘s one such example.
Ben: If you’d like to see Kotor in style, please check this boat out. I mention it below as well.
How we got there
Kyra: While in Mostar, we hiked to the bus station in the rain the day before our departure to buy tickets for what was supposed to be a 6-7 hour ride. Per usual, they didn’t take cards and we were out of cash. While contemplating if we should change USD or pull money out from the ATM, I told Ben I had seen a shuttle that would take us for the same price as the bus. I’m not sure why I hadn’t brought it up earlier but we were able to contact the hostel providing the shuttle and get an almost confirmation that they could take us. A few hours later they confirmed our spots which meant our ride time cut in half for the next day.
Ben: Riding to Kotor in an Audi with our driver Darko was my favorite transportation so far. He picked us up at the bus station, using the classic ‘ask anyone who looks like they need a ride’ method of finding his clients (us). This was a nice departure (no pun intended) from riding in buses and planes. We had spacious leather seats, AC, and the occasional glimpse into the world of Montenegrin rap. Darko cruised through gorgeous mountains and steep roads with views like the one above. He also got us safely to Kotor, which was priority 1.
Where we stayed
Kyra: We stayed in a cozy studio apartment with rock walls above the owner’s bar, Café Perper. The apartment was situated at the steps of Kotor’s fortress in Old Town. For at least 24 hours prior to our departure from Kotor it rained, so much so that the fortress steps flooded, and the water rose nearly to our front door.
Ben: To add to Kyra’s sentiment: In Kotor, there’s an area with ancient walls appropriately named “Old City,” which is where we stayed. The apartment we rented through AirBnb was a simple studio above a small cafe – Cafe Perper. It had everything we needed, a small kitchen, nice bed, and warm shower. The cafe below was also frequented by regulars who would congregate during the day to watch soccer, bet on horses, smoke, and drink. Kyra and I joined them a few nights for a cheap beer and futbol match, one of my favorite things about where we stayed.
Kyra: For nearly a month now we haven’t been in any market that comes even close to a fraction of the variety offered at Cub, Byerly’s, or Whole Foods, so it wasn’t hard for Ben to convince me that the first roll of Oreos we’d seen in quite some time was a good idea. They were double stuffed and we probably each ate 8 in one sitting. It was so wonderful and so horrible.
Kyra: After grocery shopping one day, we were both incredibly hungry and couldn’t bare the thought of another hour before eating between the walk home and food prep. Luckily, we spotted a place across the street with rotisserie chickens roasting on a spit outside.
Ben: We entered and immediately liked what we smelled. The nice guy behind the counter greeted us by asking what we liked and then giving us a large sample of chicken. Although we didn’t really order, he brought out a huge plate with chicken, hummus, vegetables, spicy cabbage, and other assorted foods that were equally appetizing. To top it off, we paid 11 euro, which is a steal considering we only ate half the food there.
Kyra: On one of the torrential downpour days in Kotor, we ran to a nearby mall. On the top floor, Ben spotted two tables outside the equivalent of a Foot Locker, one filled with hand sandwiches and pastries and the other with alcohol. A bit apprehensively we followed suit as other patrons grabbed snacks before walking into the shop.
Ben: Kotor was also the place we had our first meal at a hotel (apart from the free breakfast in Gorizia, but I’m not counting that). Usually we tend to stray away from things like hotels or chains that might try to make things more “American,” but that night the menu looked inviting and we were hungry. The host pointed us upstairs where there were a variety of rooms, all dimly lit, with plenty of chair types to choose from. In the middle of the restaurant there was a fake tree branching out onto the ceiling, giving the place a vibe that I haven’t seen in the US. We both ordered chicken dishes, skewers plus sweet and sour, which were just as they looked on the menu. I feel like saying this is enough to portray the quality of the meal. It’s like when someone tells you that a band sounded exactly like their record in concert. We’re happy when expectations are met, especially as we’ve come to expect less on this trip (especially at an unknown/un-Googled restaurant).
Local View and Lessons Learned
Kyra: There are some places we visit where our time is largely spent seeing beautiful things and not getting too immersed in the culture – Montenegro, a country of mountains and ocean, was one such place for us.
Ben: Kotor was a cruise ship town. I say this with no direct judgment as to whether this is a good or bad thing, it’s just something I had yet to experience. When we arrived, it was 7pm in the evening, and I thought it was the worst time of year to be there, because we saw about 1 person every three blocks. Going out the next morning was a different story. At 10am, the town was flooded with cruise ship tourists, eating, buying, touring, and generally making everything quite busy. I understood then the reason for so many shops and restaurants, imagining their daily sales as a huge bell curve, rising quickly at brunch and then dropping off around dinner time. I added this to the lessons learned because it made me realize how often I discredit businesses, movements, or groups because I don’t understand them or haven’t watched long enough. If someone told me we should open a store in Kotor, I would’ve denied when we arrived, but have been interested the next morning. Snap judgments can be beneficial in some scenarios, but with most it’s better to sit back and watch for a bit.
Zdravo – “Hello”
Molim – “Please”
Ben: We can’t add too many different words here because it’s basically the same language as Bosnian, Croatian, or Serbian 🙂
Ben: I’m going with the cutest elderly people we saw this time. These two women taking an afternoon stroll through Cetinje take the cake:
Hiking the fortress
Great Montenegro Tour
Kyra: We found a tour through the same hostel we’d booked our shuttle from Mostar. It was a day long and unbelievably scenic.
Ben: My favorite part of our time in Kotor was the day trip we took around Montenegro. Our bus took us up the nearby mountains, winding up until we had an incredible view of the surrounding area:
Ben: After a quick coffee break, we toured Cetinje, Montenegro. The highlight of this small town was having lunch with our fellow tourers at a small restaurant. We enjoyed the local cuisine, which is really just chicken or pork covered in cheese.