After a 7-hour-turned-13-hour bus ride, we wound our way through the country of Montenegro, enjoying the gorgeous mountains and seaside cliffs. When we arrived, we were blown away by Kotor, this small, old town on the water. Within a fortified wall that runs up the mountain to a fortress overlooking the surrounding areas, Kotor is breathtaking. We stayed within the walls of Old Town, winding our way though the stone streets and walking along the harbor. Every morning, we would look around at the early sun hitting the mountainside and the stone walls unchanged after centuries of war and human life, and think how incredible is it that a place like this still exists.
As is our usual MO, we try to get as high as possible, be it in the city or surrounding landscapes. We rented a car and drove to Mount Lovcen to see a tomb built for one of the great poets of Montenegro. Based on Egyptian architecture, the walk to the tomb climbs up a towering staircase built into the mountain, with giant statues and a 360 view. Travis kept exclaiming, "Bethany! These statues are so well preserved, I can't even believe it!" Well, love, that's because it was built 1970. Almost though!
We also hiked to the top of both of the mountainsides surrounding Kotor. The first was to the top of the fortress overlooking Kotor Bay, and the second was to the Austro-Hungarian Fortress on the other side. So. Many. Switchbacks.
Also venturing out of Kotor (it's small, what can we say), we visited the nearby town of Budva. Larger than Kotor but MUCH more commercial, Budva has a great view of the Adriatic and yet another fortified wall Old Town. There was also a rare bird enclosure near the bus stop that had a black swan and albino peacocks, which neither of us had ever seen before. Random?
Also because we apparently are doing an accidental tour of Game of Thrones filming locations, and because we missed Croatian wine, we decided to head up to Dubrovnik for a day. With long corridors that lead straight by long, stone stairs, Dubrovnik is exactly what you're expecting. Walking here and there, you can literally see King's Landing everywhere. Only a few more spots, and I do think we'll have done the whole kit and caboodle. No, this is not on purpose.
We also did a bit of wine tasting along the way, simply we have become obsessed with the Croatian grape varietal Plavic Mali. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to have it for another 6 months was enough motivation for us to check a few local places. Yes, it's still just as good as we remember it.
We were also treated to the most gorgeous sunset I have ever seen. Naturally, this happened when we did not have our actual camera. But you can't plan for nature's beauty, and experiencing something in person is more important than the photos you take.
On our last weekend, we originally wanted to rent kayaks to mosey around the bay and check out the Blue Caves. After asking around, apparently it's fairly crazy to kayak in April (freezing water temps or something), so we chartered a boat to take us to see the caves and visit Mamula Island. On what was the windiest day for weeks, we hopped on our "boat" and have the very kind, very anxious skipper make way. The morning in the bay was calm and the water smooth as glass, but once we reached out to the Adriatic, the wind tossed us back and forth, I felt vertigo for days. The Blue Caves are absolutely gorgeous, with burning blue glowing from the sunlight and bouncing off the cave walls. We also went to Mamula Island, which is the location of an abandoned men's prison from Yugoslavian times. We had the island all to ourselves, so naturally shenanigans ensued.
Kotor, really Montenegro as a whole, is absolutely gorgeous. Stunning landscapes, the kindest people, cheap food and drink. It's only been an independent country nigh on 10 years, but it has so much to offer. Small, unassuming and underrated, but terrifyingly beautiful.