My sister Mariah recently visited us in Kotor for six fun-filled days. She flew from San Diego to London to Serbia to Montenegro – just a hop, skip and a jump really. After a long embrace we did what most siblings do after a long anticipated reunion – we took a group selfie in the bathroom.
Then we discussed the week’s MarItinerary. I’ll share with you some highlights:
An afternoon in Old Town Kotor
Old Town of Kotor is a small walled city situated up against a mountain range along the Bay of Kotor. As you weave your way around the city’s narrow cobblestone roads you’ll find lovely squares with welcoming restaurants, an assortment of small shops, shutters in every shade of blue and green, outdoor cafes, half a dozen churches and a multitude of cats. Reaching skyward beyond the stone wall and terracotta rooftops are towering grey mountains in every direction.
A Stroll along the bay
Since Adam and I have spent countless hours getting to know every inch of the bay near our house, we took Mariah on our regular walk, pointing out the fishermen who sit on empty beer crates and use line wrapped around their fingers, the black and white cat that suns itself next to them, the slew of half sunken dinghies, the teenagers on roller blades, the bakery where we get our burek, my favorite pink Citroën with two flat tires, the location of the Saturday farmers market and the location of the alternative “market” where people sell produce and clothing out of the trunks of their cars.
A Drive to Herceg Novi & Perast
Herceg Novi is a coastal town in Montenegro located at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor and at the foot of Mount Orjen. The drive can be a bit slow going as you weave around the bay but there are great stop along with way like the tiny, picturesque town of Perast.
A Drive up the New Ladder of Kotor
After burning a bunch of cds we hopped in our rental car and drove up the new ladder of Kotor with its 25 hairpin turns, intermittent guardrails and spectacular views. This road took us over the mountain to Njeguši, the small hometown of Montenegro’s ruling family from 1696 to 1918. From there we drove as far as we could up Mount Lovćen until we could go no further because of the snow.
An Attempted Kosovo Trip
Once we descended Mount Lovćen we drove southeast towards Albania with our bags packed for an overnight trip to Kosovo. We passed through some beautiful countryside and as we got closer to Albania started to see mosques and minarets. Surprisingly we also came across an In & Out Burger. Mariah happened to catch a glimpse of the familiar red and yellow sign and her first thought was “my friends from Delaware are going to be so pissed that Montenegro got an In & Out before they did.” But when we investigated the matter further, where we expected a drive through we just found an abandoned building turned makeshift parking lot – and a street dog. What a delightful mystery.
When we arrived at the Albania border we were turned away because we didn’t have the contract to our rental car. Although Adam and I had crossed two other borders (Bosnia and Croatia) with the same car and no paperwork, we had no other choice but to head home and try it again the next day.
Another Attempted Kosovo Trip
The following day we took a different route and at the new Albania border we proudly presented the official with our complete rental car paperwork. He told us that paperwork wasn’t necessary and waved us through.
Once we crossed the border into Albania the scenery immediately began to change. We started to see tons of animals – cows, sheep, donkeys, goats – and lots of agriculture. On the side of the road people were selling huge live fish in tanks of water and live chickens in small pens.
About 45 minutes into our drive through Albania, our “check engine” light came on and the car started to slow down and lose power. Deciding it best not to temp fate and get stranded in Albania (however beautiful the landscape may be) for the remainder of Mariah’s vacation, we turned around – again – and headed home with our tail between our legs. For Mariah, Kosovo will have to remain, but a dream. As a small consolation prize though, we did get to drive by Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula.
A Hike up to the Fortress
Climbing up to the Sveti Ivan fortress is one of the best things to do in Kotor. With a moderate amount of physical exertion you can get an outrageously cool view of the bay old town, the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding mountains. Plus you can treat yourself to a beer when you get to a top – a little trick we’ve learned from hiking with my dad.
and last but not least. . .
A Dinghy Ride and an Amazingly Clear Day
Mariah and I drank some beers while Adam rowed us around. What a gentleman. Then we returned to the house to grab our books and take advantage of a super clear day on the bay. When the sun goes down, the lights on the Fortress walls come on and from our porch you can see its heart-shaped reflection on the water.