Up the walls, Kotor

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Flag of Montenegro  ,
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Montenegro's South coast to the North, our bus mostly followed the sea along, basically a constant series of towns and resorts for 2 hours including Sveti Stefan, a tiny island covered by ancient terracotta roofed houses (now a hotel...). Kotor is situated on a bay leading off another bay (check out the shape of the coast on the map since I've probably confused you), the shapes originally carved by river canyons cutting through the limestone mountains and subsequently drowned by sea.

The old town of Kotor is a restored, lived in Venetian affair of worn marble alleyways, where washing is still hung on pulley lines between windows. The laneways seem immune to the laws of physics, spitting you out in completely random parts of town - a laneway that seems to run East will manage to take you to the Western end of town for example. It doesn't help that the squares look the same.
The fortification walls surround the town even running up and along the steep rocky hillside. The walk up the walls to the St George fortress at the top was pretty hard going, especially in the baking 35 degree sun with 60% humidity. Halfway up and around a corner we found an exit through a window portal leading across the back of the hillside to a tiny church. On the bigger mountain behind, we could see a path zigzagging upwards which caught our curiosity.

A little further around the bay, the town of Perast perches on a steep hillside rising from the bay. The bus dropped us off on the hill behind the town, just in time to watch the church bell tower ring midday, tourists in the bell tower looking like they may have regretted the climb, with hands clamped over ears. Perast has 2 tiny islands on a shallow reef, one natural, one man made. They look like a monastery and church that have floated away from Perast for a bit of seclusion (and frankly, who can blame them). We took a boat over but only the church island is open for tourism (perhaps the monastery has not installed a souvenir shop yet).

Back on proper land, we checked that it was not close to the hour and climbed the church bell tower for yet more views of the hillside. The town restaurants started filling up for lunch and the hire company started doing serious business in segways and golf carts as the pretty people emerged to promenade along the waterfront, guys standing in tactical positions to photograph the groups of long legged tanned girls in hot pants.

In the afternoon heat in Kotor we went swimming in the bay - no beaches, just stone walls and piers to swim off. The opaque water doesn't seem to have much in the way of salt content which combined with all the floating pine needles does not give the cleanest sensation. It was beautifully warm though.

On our last day in Kotor, we gave in and let our curiosity get the better of us, packing 5L of water and setting out on the zigzagging path to see what was at the top of the mountain. Living halfway up the mountain (with only a hiking path, no road) is a friendly family who waved hello to us as we passed their cross eyed cow, two pigs and a tiny but ferocious guard dog. Further on, we passed a herd of goats eating everything in sight and causing landslides of loose stones. At the top, we found... another small hill to climb. At the top of that one (probably about 1400m elevation), we came to a road lined with berry bushes and signs to a mausoleum we wanted to visit, which as it turned out was another 6 hour trek further on. Thankfully a lovely English couple were foolish enough to stop to ask us directions to the same mausoleum, so we managed to hitch a lift up to the top of the second highest peak, where there stands an enormous black stone structure and statues dedicated to Njegos (a Montenegrin prince from the 1800s). Of course the best part was the view over the mountains. We then had the problem of how to get back as we were no longer within walking distance of Kotor, and our newfound friends were going onward to another city, not back. The road was pretty quiet with no cars whatsoever for 10 minutes as we began hiking back. Lucky for us, the first car to pass us did stop - a friendly Parisian couple who dropped us off right where the English couple had picked us up. Which left us with a simple but painful 2 hour trek downhill back to where we started.
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