The Montenegrin Coast
Having spent an entire day passing through dramatic scenery from the Serbian-Montenegro border all the way out to the Adriatic Sea we arrived and couldn’t have felt farther from where we had started early that morning. Montenegro! How exotic. Not to be confused with Monte Carlo, which is in the city-state of Monaco. I had high expectations for Montenegro but while we were on the trip it was our least favorite place. Now, looking back at the pictures, it almost seems silly to say that as it is a beautiful place. At the time though we were turned off by 3 things: rain, inflated prices, & cruise ships.
Raining on our Parade
It rained like nobody’s business the entire 5 days, save for a few hours. While this is all part of traveling, especially in the spring, it still put a damper on our visit despite our best attempts to stay positive. As a country which has adopted the Euro this meant inflated prices, adding to our slight displeasure.
Despite being annoyed with the rain, I couldn’t help but feel giddy about being on the Mediterranean. Towns along this sea have a distinctive look and feel to them and the towns of Budva and Kotor fell right in line with expectations. A maze-like layout with white/cream color brick home and lots of shutters and flowers!
Medieval Coastal Towns
The biggest appeal of visiting the Montenegrin Riviera is their well preserved and continuously inhabited medieval coastal towns, compete with fortified walls and fortresses. Budva is known for its miles of beaches and a wild club scene, neither things we experienced. Instead, we spent our time in their Stari Grad (Old Town) which is quite small but still pleasant for a good wander. In Kotor, their Stari Grad is larger, with three entrances into the fortified city. Just above this city is a portion of an old fortress. After a 1200 ft ascent you are rewarded with a wonderful bird’s eye views of the Bay of Kotor. Whenever the sun peeked out among the rain clouds we were quick to scurry outside and enjoy it while it lasted and that included a brisk walk up to the fortress of Kotor.
Montenegro is experiencing a solid period of recovery and rediscovery in tourism. This is wonderful for their economic development but we were more than a little turned off by the cruise ships that streamed into Kotor every day as it has become a classic stop on Mediterranean cruise routes. The Stari Grad of Kotor is shaped like a triangle with maybe 10 blocks on each side. During the hours of 11am – 5pm several cruise ships dock and thousands of people flock into the small area, making it almost impossible to walk. While I understand that we all should have a chance to visit this beautiful medieval town, it was just very off-putting to suddenly be swarmed by thousands of day trippers. In the photo above there were 3 cruise ships in the bay one afternoon. I looked up the capacity of the 3 ships and if they were running at 3/4 capacity upwards of 5000 people flock into the old town at the same time. Yikes! Fortunately since we were there for a few days, we could retreat to our room to nap, watch a flick, or read and wait until we heard the cruise ships signaling their departure with their horns.
Looking back, I’m glad we added Montenegro to our itinerary, even if it wasn’t our favorite destination on the trip. We may never get back to the area and even with the rain and the swarms of people, the Bay of Kotor really is one of those places that should be on every scenery-driven bucket list.