Our second and final stop in Montenegro was the small town of Kotor, which is slightly less than an hour north of Budva by bus. Like so many of the cities we’ve visited in Europe, it consists of a small well-preserved old town with cobblestone streets and narrow paths that are ridiculously easy to get lost in. Unlike many of the places we’ve visited, though, outside of the old town there’s really not much going on here. We booked three nights in a hostel in the heart of the Old Town and that was probably more time than we needed, but we still enjoyed ourselves.
Kotor is situated on the edge of an enormous bay off the Mediterranean Sea (aptly named the Bay of Kotor) and because of this it’s a hotspot for cruise ships. Actually, that’s kind of an understatement. Our hostel owner told us in high season they can get up to six ships per day. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship - hell, even seen a picture of one - you know how huge those things are. Remember how I said that Kotor’s really small? That means that when the cruise ships arrive (and there’s one every day) everything is ridiculously, overwhelmingly, hellishly CROWDED. There’s no way to avoid the hordes of slow-shuffling tour groups, iPad-photo-taking senior citizens, and families who stop in the middle of the (extremely narrow) path for no apparent reason. It was so insane we literally gave up trying to do anything between 10am and 4pm. We’d wake up, be active for a few hours, eat brunch and then hide in our room until the crowds died down when the cruise ships departed in the late afternoon. It was kind of like our Athens routine, but more focused on sanity than survival.
Even when the crowds were gone, you could still feel their effects throughout the city. The whole place is ridiculously touristy, and because it's so small there’s no escape from the kitsch and the trinkets and the ridiculous prices. In some heavily touristed cities you can escape the old town and have some relief from the insanity, but that was hard to do here. There were no truly outstanding restaurants, and most of them were ridiculously overpriced - something our hostel owner had warned us about at check in. We were able to find a few gems, but compared to Budva and especially to Albania, we definitely missed the days of cheap yet delicious restaurants.
Despite the crowds and the chaos, we still managed to find some time to enjoy ourselves during our stay in Kotor. One morning we woke up early (gotta beat those cruise ship crowds!) and ventured out of old town a bit to hike up the Kotor Fortress. It’s an ancient city fortification of steep steps that lead up to a fortress on the hill above the city. Once you reach the top you have a panoramic view of the whole city as well as the bay, so we huffed and puffed our way up and it was definitely worth it to see the whole city laid out before us.
Another day we rented a kayak and paddled our way around the bay - or rather, around most of it. The bay is gigantic, and we’re not exactly incredibly well-conditioned after months of zero upper body exercise, so our arms turned to jello pretty quick. At 25 Euros for a full day rental of a double kayak, it was a decent deal and we enjoyed doing something active (but still avoiding the crowds) instead of hanging out in our rooms. Sadly, we didn’t get any photos because the DSLR doesn’t like water, but the water was beautifully calm and our circuit had some pretty incredible views of all the mountains surrounding the bay. Definitely an experience we would recommend to anyone who visits Kotor.
Despite the fact that we didn't do all that much in Kotor, we still enjoyed ourselves. I think if we could do our time in Montenegro over again, we would have spent only a night or two in Kotor, and spent some time exploring the scenery in some of the national parks further inland, but we definitely our enjoyed our time in this country.