It seems the Balkans agree with me.
Slovenia enthralled me when I visited in December and January, and now Montenegro is pulling at my heart strings, too. Once again: beautiful country, welcoming people, delicious food, inviting atmosphere, pleasant pace of life – just the tonic needed for a semester break when it seems the world I know and the people I love are becoming strangers to me.
My Fulbright travel buddy and I arrived in Montenegro on Monday, flying into Tivat and making the short trip to the UNESCO world heritage walled city of Kotor, first settled by the Romans in the 2nd century BC and then shaped by empires from the Bulgarians to the Ottomans to the Venetians.
Tiny cobblestoned streets wind between beautiful buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, opening up into squares lined with restaurants and cafes that offer views of the fortress sitting atop the mountains above the town – which, obviously, we had to explore after an absolutely delicious lunch served by a delightful waiter in a sunny town square.
So, up we went: the equivalent of 96 flights of stairs, and it was totally worth the climb, not least because we got this view:
We also explored an abandoned village outside the fortress walls, which was both beautiful and fascinating, as we worked on deciphering the Latin inscription above the church door.
Our trek up took longer than expected, which meant we got to enjoy the first touch of rosy sunset on the surrounding mountains from the fortress heights before we made our way down to our lodgings in the Old Town.
Tuesday, we decided to explore beyond Kotor and – since it’s the slow season – ended up having our own private tour with Luka, the wonderful gentleman who drove us the long way around to the pretty coastal town of Budva, stopping at scenic overlooks and pointing out bits of history along the way.
The view of the bay and its iconic island as we drove down the mountain highway to Budva: absolutely amazing.
Budva is one of the – if not the – oldest city in Montenegro, a small walled city that sparkles with sunlight, jewel-toned water and warm stone buildings. We spent some time exploring the town before finding a table at a cafe on the pebbly shoreline to sip coffee (everyone but me, that is), talk with Luka and admire the view.
Next, we drove to the small town of Perast, not too far from Kotor – after Luka stopped by the bus station to help us figure out our travel plans for later in the week. Perast edges along the bay, filling the space between clear blue water and rugged stone mountains with pretty red-tiled buildings and slender church towers.
We couldn’t tear ourselves away as we watched the sun set behind the monoliths ringing the bay.
Today was a quiet day in Kotor, spent wandering the twisting streets, admiring details of the old buildings, gazing up at the misty mountains above the city, browsing the shops, avoiding the rain. We ended the evening with newfound friends: the Serbian waiter from our first meal here on Monday and the Montenegrin bartender of the small pub tucked away by the city walls in a building hundreds of years old.
I have some wonderful memories of my short time in Montenegro – and it’s awfully nice to make them and share them with a Fulbright friend. Tomorrow, the Wonder Twins are on to the next adventure!