A Salvaged Day in Kotor

Let me tell you, I’ll take the adhan at 5:30 am over church bells at 8:00 am any day… I had a late night and that was a rather rude awakening! I tried to go back to sleep, but failed. So I got up and my only thought was food. I woke up in the middle of the night to raid the peanut butter jar! I can’t believe I’ve woken up twice in as many nights to eat. I’m pretty sure I’ve never done that in my life!

I’m in Kotor for three days and there’s endless rain in the forecast. Today seemed to be the lightest day of it and my best bet for heading out and exploring as it would also be the warmest day. Moreover, I needed food! It made sense to go find some breakfast and then come back with some groceries as there is a conveniently located fridge right by my hostel room.

I debated what to wear as I knew I was going to get soaked and settled on my iPanema sandals (gals, remind me to do a shoe review), a pair of jeans, a long-sleeve top, my fleece hoodie, and the “rain coat” that was wonderful in London but has since failed me. 🙁 I thought I might be able to pick up a cheap umbrella “in town,” about 3KM away. I specifically picked this hostel because it’s walking distance to Old Town Kotor, so I was in the mindset of walking there this morning, needing a leg stretch after yesterday’s long bus ride. The rain had let up somewhat, so I figured the stroll would do me some good. I obviously get stupid when I’m hungry because any sane person without adequate rain gear would have taken a taxi to as near an umbrella shop as possible. No… I walked the whole way, it started to pour halfway there, and I arrived soaked in Kotor.

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The directions to my hostel said it’s above the cemetery. Literally!

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Even English-only speakers should be able to recognise what part of this sign made my French self cringe.

Let me pause here to say that I’ve never been a fan of umbrellas as I tend to be in climates that are rainy and windy. I don’t really have a lot of extra room in my luggage, so I decided I would get a cheap folding umbrella along the way if I needed one. Today was apparently the day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So how did I come to be in Kotor? The Serbian couple I met in Zemun told me about it and it seemed a good alternative to very expensive Dubrovnik as a scenic destination on the Adriatic Coast. I had hoped this would be a bit of a working holiday by the sea, but it’s not looking that way yet.

The mist does give Kotor quite a bit of atmosphere. Here, I am approaching the walled Old Town.

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There are three gates into the city. This is the main one.

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I wandered a bit looking for that elusive place that serves both real food before lunch and coffee. I was shocked that I found it, a cosy restaurant called “Museum Cafe” that serves a full menu all day and knows how to make me a coffee with just “a little” milk. I had two coffees by the time my delicious balsamic vinaigrette chicken and roasted veggie wrap came. The food did me a world of good! But, of course, going back out into the rain was uncomfortable and I felt chilled after the warmth of the restaurant.

In my wanderings to find food, I’d spotted the Maritime Museum and decided that if I could find it again very quickly, I would head there. Otherwise, I was going to find a food store and head home to change.

Old Kotor was purposely built like a maze for defensive purposes and is full of alleys going off in all sorts of directions. One of the things I looked forward to was getting thoroughly lost and disoriented in it. I figured it would be easy because I never did manage to truly orientate myself in Baščaršija, even with all the walking I did in it. But for some reason, I had no trouble with orientation in Old Kotor today, probably because it’s so small. So I refound the museum without any trouble. It is inside a beautiful old house.

The entry fee of 5Eur surprised me, but made more sense when I learned that that included an audio guide.

Let me digress here for a second to say that Kotor is very expensive compared to what I’ve experienced since coming to the Balkans. I don’t know if this is because of the touristy location or because they use the Euro, but I would feel the pinch if I was here for any length of time and trying to keep up the pace of the last few months. Western Europeans seem to find prices cheap, but they are expensive by what I’ve been used to. 1Eur is 1.53CAD (almost at par with USD), so something like a cab ride that is “only” 5Eur is almost 8CAD. I found bathrooms, ice cream, and groceries to be comparably-ish priced to what I’ve been used to, but coffee, beer, and restaurant meals have been high.

So back to the museum. There are two large floors of exhibits, plus a few things to see on the ground floor.  I was thrilled when I was told to, “Please, make many pictures!” But here’s a tip: do not get too close to the exit door with your audio guide or it will start shrieking and the museum personnel will get very cross with you…

I headed up the first flight of stairs to start my tour. The walls were lined with old maps of the area.

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The exhibits are themed and of high quality. I was very impressed by this museum. There wasn’t a ton of signage as you get most of the material from the audio guide So I don’t have much to remind me of what things are and all the interesting stories I heard, sorry. Guess you need to come to Kotor and visit its Maritime Museum for yourselves. 🙂 The audio guide, by the way, was really good, narrated by a native English speaker and quite entertaining.

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This guy was interesting. He was a slave of the Turks for eight years and eventually rose up against them.

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Some of the shields of Kotor.

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I had never heard of lemonwood before today, but a bit of Googling tells me it can refer to many different species from all over the world, so I still have no idea what this furniture is made of!

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Original flooring. Stunning!

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This is an oil lamp, not a candlestick.

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I love this painting!

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I had never seen black on white “blue willow” before! For those of you who haven’t been following me since forever, I used to collect blue willow china in my pre-RVing days of travel and still have it all.

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If I ever get a “forever house,” I’d love to get a desk like this as a statement piece for my office!

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Amazing pottery from “the Orient.”

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The little boy in this painting? He would become the best known photographer in the region! What an amazing overlap of time periods. He was born the year photography eventually started (1830s, I believe).

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I have to say that firearms used to be works of art…

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This is Herceg Novi. Another gorgeous painting.

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Here, I am on the second floor of the museum.

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This captain circumnavigated the globe!

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My favourite thing about history museums is seeing period documents showing the mundane details of daily life at the time. This is a travel permit/log book for a sailor.

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A navigator made this incredible log book with exquisite drawings detailing the Bay of Kotor and environs.

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This painting is almost photographic in nature!

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Especially when compared to this one!

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This top floor was dedicated to maritime education, as symbolised by this painting of a captain with his students.

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Notice all the modern, for the time, tools of the trade.

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A French atlas of the ports of the Mediterranean.

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Here’s my audio guide. You hold it up to your ear to listen.

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I took a second to peek out the front door to see if it was still raining. Yes. Harder. So I went through the museum a second time!

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The museum covers maritime history in the area through the Second World War, so you get photographs of captains in addition to paintings.

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You can see in my reflection that I took off my top layer in the hope that my fleece would dry out a bit… I have to say I was shocked by how comfy my jeans were, even when wet. I tend not to like to wear jeans because I don’t have the body type for them, but I went to a jean store and had a professional look me over and find the best style for me. So I have “skinny jeans,” which are rather like socially acceptable leggings. I’d avoided jeans all summer, but am rather happy to find them now as I’m getting rather sick of my skirts!

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I thought it was neat how the lock on this door is curved.

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It was still pouring when I was done, so I decided my day was done. 🙁 I managed to get a picture of the exterior the museum and then ducked into a conveniently located full service grocery store almost right beside it!

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I picked up a few things to leave in the fridge by my room and I came out of the store by its exit door to find myself facing another store that sold cheap foldable umbrellas at a price I was willing to pay (5Eur).

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I wandered around a bit more, but I was soaked through. My bottom half wasn’t uncomfortable in the least (not even my wet bare feet!) as it was quite warm (in the low 20s), but my shoulders were for some reason. I conceded that the weather had won and that it was time to back to the hostel.

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I had no trouble getting a taxi and the ride was just under 4Eur. I had the driver let me off at the bottom of a very short hill to save him the trouble of trying to turn around at the top. I got in one last picture before I hurriedly headed off in direction of a hot shower when…

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I got “ambushed” by the owner who offered me coffee!!! I wasn’t that cold, so I happily accepted and went to wait on the covered terrace. She brought me a small pot of coffee (about 1.5 mugs worth), milk, sugar, and this:

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The mandarins come from her garden! They were fresh picked this morning! After I enjoyed my coffee and thanked her profusely, she sent me upstairs with the fruit! I just had several pieces of both fruit with my picnic supper. YUM. I think the purple things are a sort of prune. She said they come from the store. I like them too. 🙂

I had a hot shower and changed into dry clothes, which included my second pair of jeans! It was that or my skirt, and, let me tell you, a heavy soaking wet skirt wrapped around your ankles isn’t very comfortable!

Then, get this, the sky freaking CLEARED. The forecast had been adamant it would be 100% rain for 10 days straight and was worsening, not improving. Yet, after about an hour, the rain hadn’t picked up again! So I decided to head back out and try to get a bit of dry time in Kotor.

There were cruise ships in port.

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What an unusual cemetery!

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It is about 2KM to the end of my road and the limits of Kotor and then about 1KM to Old Town. I barely got away from the hostel when a man pulled over and offered me a ride. Funny how this is something I’m okay with here in the Balkans, but would never consider back home! It’s just part of the culture. The man spoke English, was very nice, and had no “creep” factor. He said he would drive me to the end of the road/to Kotor town limits as his house was right at the corner, and that’s what he did, saving me about 20 minutes of walking.

Can you see the fortress?

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How about now?

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BLUE SKY!!!

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Since it wasn’t raining, I was able to enjoy my amble and actually notice things, like these fish in the river by the entrance to Old Town.

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Kotor’s Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site. I was starting to understand why!

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The old town is roughly triangular in shape. It must be incredible to live here. Can you imagine trying to give directions to your house?!

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What a difference sun made!

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So many alleys leading into squares!

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This is where I had my breakfast.

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This is the way up to the fortress. I wasn’t shod for that and didn’t want to get caught on slick rock when it would start pouring again, so I didn’t head up.

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This is their garbage truck! There are a few golf carts for folks to get around, most of them being affiliated with the hotels.

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It took a bit of work, but I finally found a restaurant that was happy to serve me a late lunch. One of you lovely readers who knows who she is sent me a gift this week that was expressly for a meal out, so thanks for lunch today! 😀

I was going to go with some sort of seafood, but couldn’t believe the prices. This is grilled veggies (same as what was in my wrap this morning — peppers, eggplant, and zucchini), with chicken breasts, and smothered in gorgonzola sauce. I had picked out a pasta with shrimp even though this is what I really wanted (I mean, gorgonzola!), but when the server came to take my order, he asked if he could make a recommendation. I said sure and this is what he pointed out! It was almost half the cost of the pasta, so it was a no-brainer. I did not eat the potatoes since the garlic bread was so much better (but, no, I did not eat the entire basket of it!). It was a pretty pricy meal by Balkan standards, but still quite reasonable (almost 20CAD with the beer).

Eggplant is not something I normally eat. I remember eating it once 20 years ago when I was in Colorado and possibly more recently (within the last 10 years) in an aunt’s ratatouille, but that’s it. It’s something I’ve been wanting to experiment with and with today’s experience with it being so positive, I’m further motivated to cook with it!

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After lunch, I noticed that not only was the rain still holding off, but it was getting quite warm. I had a lunch to work off and inappropriate shoes be damned, I was going to climb to the fortress! I took a few detours along the way to the entrance, though, to make sure I covered as much of Kotor Old town as I could!

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I like to send my friend Bast a postcard from every country I go through. I was unable to do so in BiH as I never found postcards for sale nor a post office. It seemed like their postal system is a mess as they have two. So I was hoping I’d have better luck in Montenegro. Well, what do you know, there were tons of postcards and the post office was open on a Sunday afternoon! The clerk stuck the stamp on the card for me and even mailed it herself instead of sending me out to the mailbox.

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Kotor is known for its stray cats and there are a lot of collection boxes set up to support their feeding. The cats are necessary — I saw a rat evading a flood this morning!

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The cats museum sounded interesting, but it was closed today.

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I finally circled back to the entrance up to the fortress. 3Eur entry fee. I started to climb…

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And climb some more. I was surprised by how “grippy” my iPanemas were and not as inappropriate for the climb as a rude man made them out to be.

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There were often long columns of people coming down. I got out of the way when I could.

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You can really see Kotor’s triangular shape here.

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There was a woman selling cold drinks out of a cooler at this church. I decided that if she was still there on the way down, I would pay the hefty surcharge for a cold bottle of water to reward her enterprise for getting the cooler up there!

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The climb wasn’t too difficult thanks to my Bulgarian conditioning, but I was not dressed for it at all as it was getting super hot! What a contrast to the morning!

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I still had a surprising amount left to go when I checked the time and saw that it was past 5:00! That was it for me! I knew that even though it was blazingly sunny out (!), the sun would start to set any minute and it would get dark fast. There was no way I was going to pick my way back down to the bottom in the dark in the shoes I had on. It would have been great to reach the top, but I thought I wouldn’t get to climb at all and I was quitting for a valid reason, so I was okay with turning around.

The descent was slow and much more difficult. The water vendor was still at the church and a bottle was 1.50Eur. She accepted 1.20Eur as that’s all the change I had and would have otherwise had to pay with a tenner. Dang was that water good! 🙂

I knew I  was taking a taxi home and with the guy this morning having a hard time giving me change off a 10Eur note, I decided to get an ice cream to break my bill. Ice creams tend to be very small, hence why they’re cheap, so I was shocked by how much the gal piled into my cone, thinking I’d been had. No, my cone was still 1Eur! She was very put upon with me for paying with a “large” note. Even the gal who sold me my umbrella this morning did not have 5Eur change for my umbrella. I am going to have to figure out a way to break my two remaining 50Eur notes! My host says there is a grocery store five minutes in the opposite direction from Kotor, so I’ll head there tomorrow for more food and see if they’ll break one of the notes.

Here’s the map of Old Town found outside of it by the main entrance. It’s much smaller than I expected. I’ve covered the whole of it.

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I wandered a bit out front and along the water after coming out of Old Town.

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The parking fee structure at a shopping centre was unusual. The bottom language is Russian, but, dang, it is super close to Bulgarian. I was bemused on the climb to the fortress that I noticed the Russian/Bulgarian word for “caution” (внимание) before the English word! On the way, I chatted with some Spanish, American, and French folks and frequently said “Excuse me” in Serbian, so I can say that I used six languages on my climb! 😀

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I found a taxi stand by the mall and got one there knowing this was the point of no return for getting a taxi. My written instructions for getting to the hotel got destroyed after my bag got soaked (and transferred dye to everything!), but the driver knew where the hostel is and spoke a bit of English anyway.

Here is my host’s mandarin tree… and her lemon tree!!!

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The carpark is over her apartment!

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Kotor Old Town was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. All I wanted was one clear afternoon to explore it and I got it. The odds are ever in my favour!

There’s lots to see and do in the region, but I never meant for this to be a tourist stop because of the higher cost of living. The point was to get to the shores of the Adriatic and just breathe a bit. So what I’m hoping for is a work project to cover the next two days, but I know I can’t count on anything tomorrow as it won’t be Monday in North America. So I’m probably plop myself down on the terrace to catch up on bookkeeping and other admin tasks and also start working on a few blog posts I’ve been meaning to do. I also need to figure out how I’m going to get to Skopje!

I’ll be back to the shores of the Mediterranean before I know it!

9 thoughts on “A Salvaged Day in Kotor

    • All I can say is WOW, fabulous and thank you so much for taking me and your other readers there. So glad that the sun did come thru for the afternoon.

      I hate it when waterproof raincoats prove to be otherwise. I could fell your dampness.

      Kotor might be more expensive but when you even it out with your expenses to date you are doing very well indeed for all the travel you have done and the sights you have seen. Somehow the cruise ships just don’t seem right in the harbor but I guess they add greatly to the local economy.

  1. What a pretty town! Also wonderful to get rewarded with some sunshine. I love the terrasses with the square umbrellas and could while away a few hours there and just people watch…

    Thanks for writing such a detailed post.

    • Isn’t it lovely?! One thing I’ve really appreciated since I got to the Balkans is how you can sit and people watch for ages while nursing just a tiny coffee. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks!

  2. Rae, you would make an excellent traveler writer! You make people (like me) think of seeing places we never would have thought about before.

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