Monday, June 15, 2015

Fortress Towns Everywhere in Montenegro


The next morning, in the daylight, we got a better glimpse of the city. There were tall mountains in the distance, similar to the ones surrounding Sofia, Bulgaria. Unfortunately, the communists made their mark in Montenegro as well, and there were big, ugly apartment buildings similar to the ones in Belgrade. Such an eyesore.

[We followed some signs in the mall we were staying next to find a supermarket, but it turned out to be this giant enclosed farmer's market.]

After grabbing a hotel breakfast, we jumped back in the car and set off to explore. The Montenegrin scenery is really nice. We wound through limestone mountains and often glimpsed the sea in the distance. Unfortunately, the beautiful views meant the roads were a bit treacherous. We kept passing by signs warning of falling rocks. We thought these were pretty funny because the other side of the road was a huge cliff. So if rocks started falling we only had two choices: 1) get crushed by rocks or 2) drive off a cliff. Luckily we never had to choose.

Anyway, our first stop was Budva, Montenegro. Budva is a medieval city along the Adriatic coast. We thought it would be difficult to find parking but soon realized that everyone just parks right on the sidewalk. We followed suit, hopped the curb, and parked. We walked towards the beach and were pleasantly surprised with more spectacular views. This time the sandy beach was framed by the mountains and the bright blue sky.

We walked along the beach, past the sea-side restaurants and souvenir shops, and into Stari Gard or Old Town. Inside the protective walls of Old Town we found winding mazes of road. The paths were only a couple feet wide and with the tall buildings on either side, it really felt like we were in a maze. We passed more restaurants and shops and happened upon a square or two. I liked looking up and seeing people’s laundry hung out to dry in between the buildings. It was like being transported back in time. On the way back to the car, John stopped to mail some postcards, and we got to experience the Montenegrin postal system.

[This mean looking lady was guarding the post office.]

The next stop on our Adriatic road trip was Kotor, Montenegro in the Bay of Kotor. Like Budva, the medieval city of Kotor is also surrounded by fortress. The walls of Kotor were originally built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century and later added to by the Venetians. The view of the city is really spectacular. The mountains are squished between the blue sky and turquoise water. At the base of the mountain is the town composed of hundreds of red-roofed buildings. And winding up the mountain side is the original fortress wall. It looks like something out of a movie.

The town itself was very similar to Budva - winding roads with restaurants, shops, and churches in every nook and cranny. There were also quite a few stray cats wandering around. We spent some time watching a couple of kittens wrestle each other behind a dumpster. It was cute until we realized one of them had a messed up eye.

[We were looking around for the apartment we'd rented when a random local walked up and asked us if we needed help. We told her the apartment owner's name and she knew her and called her for us! It was ridiculous.]

[The steps to our apartment were also the steps that led to the top of the mountain, so there was someone collecting admission. We didn't have to pay. Hurray!]

For dinner, we left the safety of the city walls and headed across the street. We went to a fancy seafood restaurant recommended by our guide book. Luckily, the prices were still relatively cheap in Montenegro so fancy didn’t translate to expensive. I had a typical Montenegrin dish of squid ink risotto. It kind of looked like black beans and rice. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous to try it, but I shouldn’t have been because it was totally delicious. And it didn’t dye my mouth black either. I’d say it was a success! The food was good, and of course the view was lovely as well. After dinner, once it was dark, we strolled around to take a look at the walls lit up. Pretty cool.

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