Saturday, September 7, 2013
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

We can see one of Dubrovnik's cruise ship ports from our balcony. There's been a different ship docked there every day, each bigger than the last. Today's ship is ENORMOUS. I can't imagine that being an enjoyable way to travel. Everywhere you visit would be crowded just by virtue of the hoards of folks from your ship. We were able to plan our visit to the Old Town around the cruise ship schedule, thank goodness.

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One of the smaller cruise ships

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Dubrovnik panorama

Today we visited the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, another good day-trip from Dubrovnik. It was about 45 minutes from our soba to the border. We'd read that sometimes there's a backup at the main border crossing at Debeli Brijeg on Saturdays, so we went a little out of our way to a secondary border crossing at Konfin, Croatia / Kobila, Montenegro, and there was no line at all. Good choice! I had 10 euros ready to give the Montenegrin border guard for the supposedly mandatory “eco-tax,” and I even tried to hand it to her, but she didn't take it. They did want to see our “green card” (proof of insurance), though.

A couple of hundred meters past the border crossing, we stopped and had a picnic lunch at a spot with THE PRETTIEST VIEW I HAVE EVER SEEN. Just when I thought I couldn't appreciate any more gorgeousness on this trip, the dramatic beauty of the Bay of Kotor proved me wrong. I immediately claimed the bay in the name of Neighbors!

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Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

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The Bay of Neighbors!

Montenegro is a young nation, having only gained its independence from Serbia (what was left of Yugoslavia) in 2006. The gorgeous coastline is now turning into a playground for rich Russians and Saudi Arabians, but most of the Bay of Kotor remains undeveloped and unspoiled.

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Simply sublime

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It just doesn't get any prettier than this

Perast, “The Pearl of Venetian Baroque,” (What does that even mean?) is a pretty little town on the bay with a view of a couple of cute islets. Tom inadvertently drove down the narrow, waterfront, pedestrian-only street running through town, while I ran along and took photos. Oops! We didn't realize we'd screwed it up until we were at the other end of town. The signs weren't clear (to us), but we got away with it, and that's the main thing.

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Perast, Montenegro

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Along the Bay of Kotor

The two little islands in the bay are Sv. Dorde (St. George) and Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks). St. George, a man-made island which is home to a monastery, is closed to tourists, but you can take a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks and visit the little church and museum, if you wish.

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Sv. Dorde and Gospa od Skrpjela Islands

The Old Town of Kotor is a triangle-shaped fortification backed up to a steep mountain face and surrounded on the other two sides by the bay. The town is fantastic, kind of gritty, with lots of decrepit old buildings, not overly restored and touristy. Go now, before the cruise ships make this a regular port of call! This was the best old town of the trip, no contest.

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Gurdic Bastion, Kotor Old Town

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Looking up from Kotor Old Town

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Ruins of an old church

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Empty alley

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Eye-catching corner

The Gradske Zidine (Town Walls) of Kotor are unbelievably impressive. They're three miles long, traversing very tough terrain, and were built, off and on, over a thousand years, from the 9th through the 19th centuries. The thickness of the walls varies from 6 to 50 feet, and parts of the wall are 65 feet tall. And, yes, of course, they call this "The Great Wall of Kotor." We hiked up as far as Crkva Gospe od Zdravlja (Church of Our Lady of Health), where we enjoyed spectacular views of the walls, the Old Town, and the bay.

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The Great Wall of Kotor

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Dizzying heights

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Kotor Old Town

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Bay of Kotor from high on the wall

We continued through town, exploring all the nooks and crannies, and eventually popped out an alley onto Trg Svetog Luke (St. Luke's Square). Just then, a man came running toward us from the far side of the square, stopped at my side, and turned to face the direction he'd just run from. The man was a wedding photographer, and just then a wedding procession came marching through the square and into Crkva Svetog Nikola (St. Nicholas's Church). I'm glad we could join them for their happy day! We left them to their nuptials and entered the 12th century Crkva Svetog Luke across the square instead.

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Montenegrin wedding party

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Crkva Svetog Luke

After leaving the Kotor Old Town, we drove 30 minutes southeast to Budva, an overbuilt resort town catering mainly to Russians, also home to the infamous exclusive luxury resort of the super-rich, Sveti Stefan, as seen on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The parking and driving around Budva was nuts! We were lucky to get out of town with both side mirrors.

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Budva Riviera

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Sveti Stefan

Back at the Bay of Kotor, instead of driving all the way around the bay again, we took a shortcut across the 300-meter-wide Verige Strait via ferry. The narrow strait has been a strategic entrance to the bay for thousands of years. It's narrow enough to defend from invaders but deep enough for even the huge ships of today to pass through.

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Kamenari, at the Verige Strait

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Verige Strait ferry

We reached the border at Konfin right at 7:00 shift change, so we had to wait about 10 minutes before they let us through this time. We stopped in Cavtat to stock up on snacks and beer, then returned to our soba in Dubrovnik.

We had dinner at Mama Mia on the pedestrian strip near our soba. This time we shared a jumbo pizza, loaded with two kinds of ham, onions, mushrooms, and pepperocinis. It was the best pizza thus far, and we've sampled plenty! The beer, of course, was ordinary. I'd recommend this place.

The Tomislav beers we got at the grocery store were actually good. Yay! We also had some cherry flavored brandy that was pretty decent, but not nearly as good as Slovenian blueberry liker.

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Harder to spot than you'd think



Continue to September 8, 2013

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