Wednesday, October 30, 2013

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF KOTOR, MONTENEGRO

Montenegro was another one of the countries on our grand tour of the Balkans that I knew almost nothing about. Slightly smaller than Connecticut, it is a tiny country, even by Balkan standards, but it is full of personality and chutzpah. In spite of the wars and break up of the Yugoslavian Union in the early 1990s, Montenegro elected to stay attached to Serbia in a loose union, but ten years later they became increasingly upset about Slobodan Milosovic's policies in Kosovo. Finally, in 2006, Montenegrins narrowly voted for independence, and, unlike many of the other Yugoslavian defectors, had a peaceful separation from Serbia.
Once we finally got across the Albanian-Montenegro border, we had a beautiful drive to Kotor, Montenegro's prime tourist city.
We immediately came into contact with local residents on their way to (or home from?) work:

We drove up and down very windy, narrow roads through undeveloped land and between terraces of olive groves that reminded us of the hill towns of Tuscany. We didn't get the sense that we were driving a road frequented by a great number of tourists. I think most visitors come into the country from other directions and other countries.

Montenegro means "Black Mountain," and there were plenty of dramatic mountains, made even more spectacular by the rolling clouds:
We dropped down into the city from the mountains above, giving us a good view of the small valley Kotor fills.
Kotor is a magical place, an ancient walled city guarded by an even older citadel perched precariously on the rocky mountain that looms over the city.

Our hotel, the Apartments Tianis, was just two blocks from the old town walls. Again, it was a bit hard to find, and that may have been true even with GPS, but it was a great place, and one that we would recommend. Our room was a cute little walk-up that provided a view of the mountain fortifications and the city walls through our bathroom window.
Lots of nice decorating touches made us feel that we were guests in someone's home:



We arrived in late afternoon and, after checking in, made our way to Old Town around 5:00. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotor is one of the best-preserved medieval towns on the Adriatic Sea.

Since Montenegro's independence in 2006, Kotor has become a popular cruise ship destination:


Kotor oozes charm; as we walked from our hotel to the city gate, we felt like we were strolling through a fairy tale.

We entered the city through the main gate, presided over by a 17th century clock tower:
We fell instantly in love with the clean, orderly, picturesque, Italianate streets and architecture.




Full of narrow streets, stairways, old buildings, and many twists and turns, Kotor would be a dream-come-true for a group of kids playing hide-and-seek.




Hey! It's my car!

Some of the residents were very cute, but not all that friendly:
But there were plenty of friendly faces beckoning us to enter their business and spend our money:

Occasionally, we had to succumb. The influence of Italy, about 100 miles across the Adriatic, was all over the place. (The next day, we visited several different walk-up windows to try their wares.)

And we shared some of our haul with the locals in an attempt to make some friends:

Kotor is a wonderful place to dine. We stopped for dinner at Restaurant Pizzeria Giardino, where I had a tender, flavorful steak drowning in gorgonzola sauce. Bob had baked lamb that he declared to be the best lamb so far on the trip, and it was surrounded by equally divine juice-infused potatoes. We had nutella crepes dusted with crushed graham crackers for dessert. 


Just recalling the meal is making me drool.

Next: The Climb to the Fortress

2 comments:

  1. You liked the place we stayed more than I did. It was extremely close to the walled town, but other than that, parking was tough, getting a hold of the manager was tough, and it was very tiny. Trying to find it was one of my un-fond memories of the trip. Even a business right around the corner didn't know where it was. But the walled city of Kotor, itself, was magical. And the meal was one to drool over.

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  2. I do love the way animals roam so freely in these countries.

    What a picturesque city! Those cruise ships look completely out of place.

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