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krisek Kotor - A travel report by Krys
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Kotor,  Montenegro - flag Montenegro
16397 readers

krisek's travel reports

Tiny walled town in the Montenegrin sun. Kotor.

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Kotor is an extremely picturesque town in the north-western Montenegro, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. White walls surround the sandstone and marbel palaces, churches and tall tenant houses.

City Clock Tower
City Clock Tower
Surprisingly small, or should I say compact, old Kotor, completelly surrounded by mighty city walls, clinging to the mountain at its eastern side (there were walls and ramparts also along the mountain, although nowadays less complete), was my primary destination. It was rather difficult to decide how long to stay in this magical town, not to get bored or simply finding oneself going in circles, visiting the same places over and over. Everything, and I mean everything, could be visited in one long afternoon, possibly twice! The old town was undisputedly picturesque. It was dominated by Venetian or rather Italianate architecture. The number of palaces and grand mansions clearly were the evidence of Kotor's former wealth and importance. If the Prince's Palace was not enough! Some of the sights required urgent repairs, and some seemed beyond restoration, including one magnificent church. This was sad, but hopefully UNESCO will lobby institutions to sponsor some of the needed work. When that happens, Kotor will become a truly immaculate little old town, full of live and magic!

Surely, there was more to Kotor than the old town, but other parts were nothing special, apart the marina featuring world's largest yachts. They were moored right outside the Sea Gate to the Old Town.

I arrived in Kotor from Herceg Novi, with a stop over in Perast on the public transport. As soon as the bus stopped at the old city walls and the Sea Gate, I knew that I was going to love browsing around and within the ramparts, taking hundreds of photos. I was well aware that the weather forecast was not great, so I made sure that I made most of the cloudless blue skies as long as they lasted. It most definitely felt like holiday! Although it really wasn't. Just a long weekend break. And as I thought I had Kotor figured out, it eventually surprised me...

Favourite spots:
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
As I browsed through the maze of the narrow alleys and petit squares, I really could not put my finger on any specific place to call it my favourite spot. It would have to be one of the piazzas (trgs), I think. The one with two churches, a large one (St Nicholas's) and a tiny one (St Luca's), was particularly lovely. But the two just behind the main gate, (one being the October Revolution Square), both with the view of the town's clock tower were very animated, too. But I think it actually was the piazza with the townhall. It featured the St Tryphon's Cathedral and three cafes. Beyond the cathedral, one could see the ramparts in the mountains, which were illuminated at night. Like the cathedral itself. During the day, it was just one of the few piazzas in the old town, all of which in fact had cafes, bars or restaurants, or all of the above. The cathedral's position and the view of the mountains beyond made it special. And at night, it was magical, like from a fairy-tale.

What's really great:
The Sea Gate
The Sea Gate
I would expect many more tourists in Kotor. The town was relatively quiet, and although I came just before high season, it felt like Montenegro was still to be discovered... The impossibly narrow streets of the old town were empty and almost eerie. The many cafes and restaurants, with their tables on the pavement, did not see many customers at all. And even though I was about 2 years late with my own escapade to the country, it made me feel good (almost) that I might have just been one of the first (or the second) to give Montenegro a go. I actually thought that the 007's Casino Royale would have triggered more tourism. Well, it did not seem so.

What was great about old Kotor was the lack of cars. No vehicles were allowed inside the old town. Only special cars with a few trailers could enter through narrow gates to deliver goods to restaurants, hotels, bars, shops, and to collect rubbish. The lack of exhausts, fumes, and noise was old Kotor's main quality!

The River Gate
The River Gate
There were a good number of sights offered by the old town. They were packed tight, so close one to another, and yet well proportioned, without causing the so called 'Louvre Effect', when one did not get overloaded with monuments and places to admire. My favourite sights included: the Venetian Military Hospital 1790; the three gates - River (Northern) Gate, Sea (Main) Gate, Gurdić (Southern) Gate; the St Giovanni Fortress on top of the mountain; St Tryphon Cathedral (1166) at Trg Sv Tripuna; the Town Clock Tower at Trg od Oružja (1602); the Prince's Palace (17th century); the Venetian Arsenal at the Main Gate (1420); the Church of Our Lady of Health (1518); St Paul's Church (1263); St Anna's Church (13th century); St Michael's Church (14th century) with lapidary stone plastic exhibition; and St Mary's Church (1221) at the River Gate.

I also liked the many of the grand palaces, the oldest dating back to 14th century (Buća Palace) and the Grubonja Palace housing old pharmacy dating 1326.

Rendes-Vous Hotel, room no.302
Rendes-Vous Hotel, room no.302
I stayed at the Rendes-Vous Hotel in the heart of the old town. I tried to make a reservation online, but since the venue never responded, I had to take a chance. I didn't really want to spend €60 for ensuite double, but I also didn't fancy wasting time in trying to find an alternative. Particularly, as the surrounding many hotels were just too proud to display their 4* category. Right in your face, by the entrance!! The Rendes-Vous (yes, yes - incorrect French spelling), was cosy and the personnel (English spoking) were friendly. Plus the location could hardly be better. My room (#302) was clean, and the bathroom was carefully scrubbed. Liquid soap and towels were provided. Breakfast was €10 extra. I didn't go for it.

Kotor at night
Kotor at night
Dicotheque Maximus of Hotel Cattaro was the only dance club on the old town. Seriously, there was no competition. There was nothing esle that would want to be competition, even. Maximus was a supermodern venue with latest equipment including environment control with computerised air-con. Several rooms, plus Lounge Bar, Pub Mediteraneo, and Piano Salon.

And yet, one did not have to go to Maximus. Virtually all cafes and bars in the town played club and lounge music came 9pm. The only annoying thing with the outdoor nightlife in Kotor were kids. They went running all over everywhere screaming their heads off! Even those who still had to be ferried in prams. What was that?! Shouldn't kids be in bed by 8pm at least?

I mean, if Kotor appeared quiet in the afternoon, it was heaving at night. That was because the local crowd, mainly teenagers and twentysomethings, flocked into the old town to visit the bars, and sit on stools if only just to be seen by peers that they could.

The Citadel Cafe & Lounge
The Citadel Cafe & Lounge
It was completely different picture and felt like the old town suddenly turned into a giant open-air dance club/lounge. Weather was about to catch up with the forecast of rain and thunderstorms and the night sky flashed with lightning every few seconds. Still adding to the club ambiance! Luckily it remained dry. It was so cool to layze on a sofa at one of the lounges listening to local pop music, looking at the illuminated city ramparts climbing up the mountain and watching the sky light up violently but without a sound. It was so surreal, wonderful, incredible and utterly thrilling!! With every single flash of white light, mountains that surrounded Kotor showed their silhouettes like giant ghosts, who were waking up to close on the old town. Life was good again!

The Citadel cafe/bar based on the south-western bastions of the old town was perhaps one of the best situated bar anywhere in the world. The views were great and the terrace equipped with extremely comfortable couches.

Narrow lane
Narrow lane
Old Kotor was full of little restaurants and cafe to fit all budgets. I was spoiled for choice. Eventually, I eyed the miniscule Pronto Pizza Cafe, which offered fast pizza food, mainly selling slices of giant pizzas, but also welcoming for sitting and cooking proper ones. The proper pizzas ranged from €5.10 Napolitana, to €5.60 Margerita, to €8.80 Pronto (singature pizza), to €12 for Pescatore with shrimps (although the menu stated shrink! but I figuered from other languages). Bottled beer was €2, and so were soft drinks of the same size (0.33l). The owner, from Macedonia, spoke English and wondered if his regular 12 inch pizza was too big for me. But he was impressed later on when I managed to swallow it all.

Other recommendations:
Gurdić (Southern) Gate
Gurdić (Southern) Gate
The BlueLine minibuses (modern mini coaches actually) running every half hour connected Kotor with Perast (€1, 20') and frequent coaches went to Herceg Novi (€2, 1h), less frequently to Sveti Stefan (€4.50, 1h15') and relatively frequently to Budva (€4, 45'), with many of them carrying on to the capital, which was not on my list. There were also other small coaches running between Herceg Novi and Kotor via Perast, which looked more ... vintage, shall we say, and less safe.

The closest airport was Tivat (10' drive) but it operated no regular international flights to the EU or other continents. It opened for charters during summer season only. Otherwise it was served by Montenegro Airlines flying around the Balkan region.

Published on Friday July 3th, 2009

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Tue, Jul 07 2009 - 10:10 AM rating by basia

I do not, I was in Montenegro, but the report has encouraged me to see all these places, thanks to Krys.

Sun, Jul 05 2009 - 08:14 PM rating by eirekay

I love the undiscovered quality which you convey! Nicely done!

Sat, Jul 04 2009 - 11:31 AM rating by porto

Super report and pics again,Krys.

Fri, Jul 03 2009 - 11:16 AM rating by pesu

I like your experiments with the palm shadow pics. :) Glad you survived the kids - tell me, Krys, in which country in Southern Europe are they in bed at 8 pm? ;-)

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