Montenegro

Day 54: May 5, 2018

Our day started with a drive up a windy road south of Niksic to Ostrog Monastery dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog, a Serbian Orthodox bishop.

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View on our drive to Ostrog Monastery

The monastery is set against a rock wall making the view very interesting. We didn’t go inside because we realized we still hadn’t taken out any euros.

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Ostrog Monastery

We did use the bathroom there. Danny wondered what took me so long, but it’s because it was a squat toilet. It takes me a while to look around to see if the only option is the squat toilet and then to decide if I have to pee badly enough to make it worth squatting. Then I have to check for tissue in the stall or my bag. Then I have to try to pee, but not on myself. Then figure out how to flush. It makes using the toilet much more complicated for me. Maybe by the end of the trip I’ll be the master of squat toilets.

From there we drove down to Kotor. The drive was very painful for Danny. We were driving on a highway whose speed limit would have been 110 km/h in any other European country. In Montenegro the speed limit averaged 60 km/h. The speed limit would go up to 80 km/h for very short sections then there were other sections of 30 km/h. At one point there was a car pulled over by a police officer. He was just letting the car leave and waved us in. Danny said, “Dobar dan” which means good afternoon. The officer replied, “Dobar dan….” then continued. Danny stated, “I’m sorry”. The officer then said, “Oh, I thought the light was red. You can go”. We aren’t sure if we were mistakenly pulled over or he just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of giving a tourist a ticket. From then on Danny did exactly the speed limit much to his disappointment.

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Danny showing how he feels about speed limits in Montenegro

The main parking lot in Kotor was lined up so we turned around and found another one. The old town area was very busy.

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Old town walls of Kotor with the fortress on the closest hill

We walked through the old town looking for the hostel where a free walking tour was to start. The streets were too narrow to be able to tell on Google Maps where we were so we walked in circles until we finally asked someone. We ended up at a back set of apartments and the cleaning lady had to lead us to their main office up the street because we had trouble communicating. We found the tour guide who said the tour would start there at 1:00 pm. We had half an hour so we went to the Cat Museum. It had a collection of cat artwork. Some of them had true stories behind them about a cat rescuing a dog or a cat needing to be rescued from a tower.

We hurried back to the hostel to start the tour. We were led to the sea gate which is currently the main entrance to the old town. The walls of the city were built between the 2nd and 12th centuries. A river is on one side, the bay is on two other sides and hills are behind. In front of the bay were some palm trees that were brought there by sailors.

We walked into the main square: Square of Arms. It hosts the Governor’s Palace. During Venetian times a governor would come from Venice for short stints before moving on. In the square was a clock tower built in the 17th century with the “Pillar of Shame” in front. Criminals would be tied to the pillar and shamed by society. They would then become a second class citizen.

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Clock Tower, Kotor

The current population of Montenegro is approximately 600,000. The average salary in Kotor is 400 euro/month. In the interior of Montenegro it is 200 euro/month. Sailors are able to make 4,000 euro/month, but are at sea for nine months of the year. Typically, they will sail for 10-15 years to save enough to settle down in Kotor.

We walked on to the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon. In the 8th or 9th century Saint Tryphon’s remains were on a ship to bring him home. The ship sheltered in the bay at Kotor due to storms. The bad weather continued and the nobility of Kotor believed it was a sign from God that the remains of Saint Tryphon should stay in Kotor.

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Cathedral of Saint Tryphon

We passed the water fountain that was the only water source in town until the 19th century. It was the place to get gossip and named “Karampana” or “Old Ugly Lady”. The guide told us that even today they have a festival in Kotor where people can submit rumours about other residents, but are not allowed to use their name. People use descriptions instead which make it easy to know who is being referenced.

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Karampana, Kotor

We moved on to Orthodox Square. There was a larger church built in 1909 called Church of Saint Nicholas and then a smaller church from the 12th century called Church of Saint Luke. The Church of Saint Luke used to be a Catholic Church. In the 17th century, the Orthodox people came into town for protection and were given this church. The floor of the church was constructed of tombstones. Churches are actually the largest landowners in Montenegro. Many people leave a portion of their land to the church when they die.

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Church of Saint Luke, Kotor

We ended the tour with the guide showing us the path to the fortress at the top of the hill. After the tour we walked along the city walls and through the streets of the old town. We bought some food at the store then remembered there was a market near the bay. We went out of the town walls and the market was just closing. We bought some strawberries and then spotted an olive stand. The lady allowed us to sample the olives before purchasing. The cost was about half what we pay in Canada.

We sat on the bay for a bit until it felt like the rain was coming. We went back to the car and drove to our Airbnb. It is a small bachelor apartment, but the view is of the bay. They have a place for going directly in the water. The lightning deterred me from swimming this evening. We had leftovers for supper to which Danny said, “I wouldn’t pay for this meal.” There is no microwave so we just ate them cold.

We watched a documentary called “Houston, We Have a Problem” that was suggested by our tour guide. It gave the history of the Yugoslav space program that was sold to the USA. It was very interesting and had lots of information I never knew. The documentary focused on one engineer that had been part of the space program in the Yugoslav. His death was faked by the government and he was sent to the USA under a different name to be an engineer for their space program. It was an interesting glimpse into the Yugoslavia/USA relationship at that point in time.

After, Danny did some booking for Dubrovnik and I called my mom. Then bed.

Day 55: May 6, 2018

Apparently Danny’s alarm went off at 6:30 am this morning, but I barely remember it. I woke up at 7:45 am and was very grateful for the extra sleep. We had breakfast and drove two hours to Luvćen National Park. There were many cops out with radar guns waiting for speeders. The road up was quite good.

We paid 2 euros/person to enter the park. We continued our drive up to the second highest peak in Montenegro where there is a mausoleum for Petra II Petrovic-Njegos, Prince-Bishop of Montenegro. He united Montenegro’s tribes and established a centralized state.

There was not much parking at the bottom, but we squeezed in. We had read that there are 461 steps to the top. We went on the outside of the main steps on a rockier path and I counted only 310 steps. The climb wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when Danny told me there was just under 500 steps to the top.

The mausoleum was 3 euro/person to enter. There were two towering stone guards in front of the entrance.

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Merai with the guards of Njegos’ Mausoleum

Behind the guards was a room with a granite statue of Njegos with an eagle. The ceiling was all gold.

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Njegos’ Statue

Beneath that room was his tomb. Out the back was a round landing with a very nice view. You could see Skadar Lake which Montenegro shares with Albania to the southeast, the Adriatic Sea to the southwest and Kotor Bay to the northwest. The treed mountains were all around.

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View to Kotor Bay from Njegos’ Mausoleum

We went back down the main steps and had cake in the restaurant at the bottom so that we could use the washroom. One cake looked like Bled Cream Cake, but was fuller. The other was a sponge cake with caramel on top and soaked in cream. Yum!

We drove back down the hill. Danny said he wanted to go to Budva Old Town, but when I directed him that way he said that direction wasn’t where he wanted to go. What he wanted to see was farther south and was actually Sveti Stefan, a small islet. It is basically a big resort. You need to be a guest to get onto the island so we just took pictures. We ate our lunch on the mainland under a tree.

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Sveti Stefan

We drove back to our Airbnb and put our swimsuits on. It took a bit for us to jump in the water since there was a lot of sea grass that made it look not so pleasant. The water was very refreshing once we got in and the view was amazing.

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We laid down on the patio and our host saw us. She said she forgot to tell us about the pool chairs so she came down and helped us bring them out. We talked to her about our day and asked about the resorts near Sveti Stefan. She said a lot of foreigners go there, mostly Russians, but also Turks. They also build hotels along the coast near there. We had noticed there was a lot of construction around so we mentioned how good that must be for the local economy. She said that because they are foreign hotels coming in, the money does not go into the country. She apologized for the topic, but we found it very interesting.

We read a bit on the patio and then I went in to get ready for supper. I put on my fancy dress and Danny put on his plaid.

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Dressed to impress for supper

We drove to the nearby town of Perast for a seafood dinner. The host had recommended the restaurant and it did not disappoint. I ordered a milkshake, but forgot they are different in Europe. There was a bunch of whipped cream on top so I ate that first, but the bottom was just milk with two ice cubes. I had calamari stuffed prawns with a potato and spinach mix on the side. Danny had turkey with pancetta and wine sauce. Both were delicious.

The view over looking Kotor Bay was also spectacular.

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Kotor Bay, Perast

It looked like rain was coming and we could see lightning in the mountains. We walked back to our car and drove back to the Airbnb for the night.

Day 56: May 7, 2018

Danny woke up early and went into Kotor and climbed up to the fortress. I slept in and then woke up due to the construction noise next door. I ate breakfast on the patio by the water then packed up and did some blogging.

Danny came back and was excited by his morning. There was an abandoned village behind the fortress and he chatted with some nice folks.

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View of Kotor Bay on the way up to the fortress
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16th century abandoned village behind the Kotor castle
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Chapel in the village

We packed up and stopped at a small store along the way. We bought carrots and burek and ate our lunch near the water. Burek is definitely a meal we will be making once we are back home.

We continued our drive to Dubrovnik. We were too early for our Airbnb so we went to the beach on the opposite side of the peninsula, Babin Kuk, from where we were staying. We went in the water and tanned. Most beaches here seem to be pebbles. We read our books until it was time to go to the Airbnb.

We were still a bit early so we drove around for a bit, looking at all the fancy hotels. At 4:00 pm we arrived at the Airbnb. The host allowed us to park in front of his wife’s car for the night until we return it the next morning.

The place was nice although there was no oven to make pizza. We did a little planning and started our laundry. All of our clothes were starting to smell either from us wearing them or being bunched up in a bag.

We finally had the ramen we were craving for supper. We watched a documentary and then a cooking show on Netflix. Once the cooking show came on Danny fell asleep on the couch.

We were only in Montenegro for a short time, but it was definitely worth a visit. The speed limits could drive one crazy. Danny is looking forward to not having to drive for a little while we are in Dubrovnik. I am looking forward to experiencing King’s Landing.

M

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