Montenegro shares historical similarities with other Balkan countries. Illyrians, Romans, Slavs, Ottomans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Serbians have all controlled the rugged land at one point in the last couple of millennia or so. More recently, Montenegro was a republic within the former Yugoslavia. The twenty-first century configuration saw Montenegro joined at the hip with Serbia, forming the aptly named nation “Serbia and Montenegro”. Finally, only as recent as 2006, citizens of Montenegro declared independence from Serbia, and formed the young nation it remains today.
First stop…Kotor. The dramatic and delightful place where the past coexist with the present its cobblestones ring with the sound of wandering tourist in centuries-old buildings, lines of laundry flutter from wrought-iron balconies, and hundreds of cats (not kidding)- thus the name “Kotor” means “Cat’. At night, the town spectacularly lit-up its walls gleaming like a golden structure; behind the palisade, the alleys come alive with music serenading or just buzzing the night.
Kotor is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage list- the town is a dramatically beautiful inlet where fishing settlements such as “Prcanj” cling to steep escarpments, the red roofs of squat houses bright in the sun. Squint, and the whole picture is like a glorious marriage between the fjords of northern Europe and a more rustic version of the Italian Lakes.
Although there are plenty of pretty hotels, I opted to experience the local living. I stayed in the most perfect location in town via AirBNB hosted by Zeljka. Perfectly located inside the old town (and part of the UNESCO protected houses in the fortress) it is a spacious two bedroom upper level apartment complete with amenities and stunning view of the town. And just behind the property of the fortress is an access to the mountain where you can climb up the old-stone stairways (for free) to Kastel Sv. Ivan, Castle of San Giovani or St. John- it may be quite a climb but the view is perfectly stunning and so worth it.
What to do?
The Bay of Kotor was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. The town revealed itself in all her splendor. Glistening under the midday rays, the bay stretched around precipitous black peaks and a jagged shoreline, lined with red roofs and stone churches. It is just perfect for a morning run ’till a romantic sunset walks. At night, narrow alleyways twisted between medieval sandstone buildings seems like stepping back in time and there you’ll see few local bars alive on the beat of not so cool music (lol). And be prepared with the overpriced beers! Best tip, run to the nearby supermarket and purchase your bottle of liquor and enjoy it inside your rented abode!
Restaurant Galion– This restaurant was named one of the best to dine in town. The views are spectacular with the sun setting towards the Montenegrin mountains illuminating the ancient town fortress. The restaurant itself is beautiful, partially outside, set over water the position couldn’t be better to watch daily life and all the ‘mega’ yachts in the bay. There is a glassed indoor section, so that you can enjoy the view and restaurant in the winter months as well.
The food particularly the fish is incredibly fresh, they will proudly show you the daily catch, just be aware and ask the price first. Other than that the food is really very reasonable for such a lovely restaurant in such a wonderful setting. There is a wonderful variety to choose from just be careful of the wine, prices are steep!
The Square Pub– Music inspired pub that serves local Montenegrin to Euro-Mediterranean cuisine. I had a great rib-eye steak and a good bottle of Montenegrin wine here.
Grad– I spent my last lunch in this quaint restaurant and had the daily special Mussels and Sea Bass with glass of wine for 15 euros. Typical Dalmatian coast dishes. Servings were generous, service attentive, and everything fresh. Good value.
Cats Museum– If you have the fondness for cats, then you must visit this museum for the lovely kittens. Quaint museum presenting a collection of cat-related memorabilia, ephemera & vintage artwork.
Cathedral of Saint Tryphon– This Romanesque Catholic church built in 1166 houses many gold & silver religious relics & frescoes.
Maritime Museum– Long-running museum with nautical history exhibits, including model ships, paintings & furniture.
Kotor Fortress- Fortress walls around the city marking a hike with sweeping views of old town & the bay. It’s quite a climb but the view is specially spectacular.
One of the principal atrraction on the Bay of Kotor is the ancient village of Perast, located few kilometers northwest of the main old town Kotor and is noted for its proximity to the islets of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks. Rich in Venice-like architecture which includes baroque palaces, churches, several important orthodox structures and series of defensive towers, all is set in stone and seemingly untouched by the scourge of modern-day tourism.
Perast was a joyful stopping spot for the Russian Czars and Venetian Princes who for hundreds of years have frequented Kotor Bay to hone their sailing skills under the watchful gaze of abundant natural beauty, and today enjoys the worldly distinction as an important protected UNESCO world heritage site.
Those who are familiar with Perast’s famous cousin to the north, Venice, will immediate recognize how the town has followed the Venetian tradition of building soaring churches on many of the small islands that overlook the town. The abbey on the Island of St. George was reputedly built in the 9th Century and is a testament to Perast’s rich architectural history, which is unparalleled in the region.
For me, Perast is one of the beautiful town I’ve been. It has an air of a posh waterfront town, yet the feel of a fishing village- scenery in perfection!