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Kotor, Montenegro's Most Breathtaking Views

...and I do mean breathtaking in two very literal ways.

But first, let's back it up a minute and talk about making our way to Kotor in the first place. Short story: it was hell. Long story: we didn't buy bus tickets from Dubrovnik to Kotor in advance, and the bus to the bus station was delayed, and then the station didn't accept credit cards, and it was SO crowded and overwhelming, and so so hot, and this girl was not a happy camper.

UNTIL. This:
I know I keep on saying this about roadtrips in the Balkans, but you guys, I think this takes the trophy for Most Stunning Drive Ever.

It took a couple of hours longer than usual to make it through the border, but once we reached the Bay of Kotor... well, I don't have any words. I was in a state of shock, paralyzed by idyllic snapshots like the one above. Through all of the twists and turns along the bay, we had a front row seat to mountain peaks rising dramatically in the perimeter, hugging the edges of the bluish-green waters. 

This drive was bookended by us being hot MESSES, for sure - see: the situation above first of all. Second of all, there's only one road into the center of Kotor, so we were stuck in one-lane traffic for the last hour. Then, we were all hungry, tired, and pissed at each other (traveling! with! friends! so! fun!!!!) and seething at the injustice of it all as we dragged our suitcases to our Airbnb, red-faced and sweaty. Like a mirage, our host Gordana emerged in sky-high wedges, a crop top, with the prettiest blonde hair, all smiles and warm greetings. We were quite the juxtaposition, I'll tell ya!
That night, the plan was to wander over to Old Town - only a 5 minute walk away - and hit up the top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, then take it easy at the apartment.

Except that we didn't realize that the restaurant was closed for good. We walked around in circles for much too long, getting hangrier and hangrier by the minute. Finally, calling it as a loss, we sat down at the first restaurant we saw along the water and ordered the first things we saw on the menu. I'm not even exaggerating right now - the waiter couldn't even put down the appetizer before we inhaled it. He literally just picked up the plate again and took it away. That's also the closest I've ever come to vomiting from over-eating, I shoveled down my entire plate of pasta so fast that I almost choked.
That is all to say - even in the most beautiful of circumstances while traveling, you'll still hit  plenty of roadblocks. But I'll take it!

The next day was so much lovelier.

Alarms rang extra early, and we headed over to Old Town once again.
Old Town Kotor is very similar to Old Town Dubrovnik - a little less polished, a little smaller, a little sleepier, but no less enchanting. We ordered takeaway coffees from a corner store, and then...

it was time to hike!

The #1 thing to do in Kotor is to hike up to San Giovanni's Fortress, where you'll be rewarded with unbelievable views overlooking Old Town Kotor and its surrounding lands. After an early setback - we couldn't find the entrance to the hike - we slowly made our way up.

Correction, Cassandra and I slowly made our way up.

Hanna and Leah practically sprinted their way to the top. They were 700 feet ahead of us at any given point, and would take water breaks while waiting for us to catch up. Cassandra and I called our pace the "Slow Tour of Kotor." 
Once we reached The Church of Our Lady of Remedy (marked by that cross in the picture above), I flopped down on a stone bench, chugged a lot of water, and dramatically applauded myself for making it all the way up to the pinnacle.

"...uh, we're not even halfway there," Hanna quipped helpfully.

So then, we were back at it.
Now, if I were to speak strictly from my own personal experience -

this hike was quite arduous - it's an uphill battle and you feel quite winded once you're at the top. So - breathtaking in that my lungs were on fire.

But I think my friends would say... it's a walk in the park up a hill. My friends + the old lady who would take twenty minute breaks every few steps, and still managed to beat us to the top, that is. What can I say, I do not excel in this department. Also, and don't ask me how - we managed to get lost on this VERY direct route. We'd poke our heads into crumbling structures and squeeze into narrow alleyways... only to end up where we started. Later, on our way down, we realized that there were very clear, marked red dots that pointed you exactly where you were supposed to go. It would've made the trek a lot easier.


It was all worth it. Because:
Uh, yeah.

Breathtaking, in that you forget to breathe because LOOK. AT. THIS.
Feeling like I'm on top of the world!

Because we were so ambitious about getting to San Giovanni's Fortress early, we had the advantage of being relatively alone there too. This was wonderful for a few reasons. One, I'm overwhelmed by crowds. Two, crowds scare me. Three, crowds suck.

Four, we had some peace and quiet to soak in this insanity.
Five, we weren't obnoxious to too many people as we went to crazy lengths to capture the sights:
The rest of our day was filled with more... shall we say, leisurely, activities.

(Thank God.)

Things like sandwiches picked up from a deli, eaten on old stone steps next to a hostel,

or strolling into antique shops for a browse,

or stopping for the obligatory ice cream...
(One of our funnier moments in Kotor was when we were aimlessly wandering around town with our ice cream cones in hand. We saw another little hole-in-the-wall ice cream kiosk, and peered curiously over the shoulders of the people ordering. They picked chocolate raspberry, and in complete unplanned synchrony, we all went "mmmmm chocolate raspberry" under our breaths.

The family turned around and stared at us, and as one, the four of us pivoted on our heels and walked away licking our ice cream, laughing hysterically. Absolute gluttons.)


...or searching for much-needed caffeine. Tucked away on the rooftop of Hotel Hippocampus is a quiet oasis, where we nursed frothy cappuccinos away from the craziness of cruise ship crowds. 
Stray cats are everywhere in Kotor, so much so that cats have become a symbol of the city. This little kitten was tiiiiiny and to this day, I regret not bringing her home with us. Most of the markets and shops in town offer cat treats for purchase - we of course bought a couple of packets, and made sure that we gave every cat we saw some extra sustenance.
Aaaand because, like I mentioned, we live to eat even as we were stuffed from an afternoon of indulging -

we couldn't resist the gorgeous cakes and outdoor seating at Forza Cafe. I can't recommend the service here - it's brusque and not the nicest; but the treats were delicious.
In Belgrade and Sarajevo and even Dubrovnik to a certain extent, we made an effort to leave our apartment to partake in the night scene. But by the time we reached Kotor, we were quite honestly exhausted. 

So we vowed for a quiet evening in, and... well, I'll cherish this night for the rest of my life. It started out tame - a glass of wine each and a pink sunset. But then we sent Leah and Cassandra out in the pouring rain for more wine and candy, aaaaand all plans for "quiet" was out the window.

We finished four bottles of wine, and then ended up drinking beers in the bathtub, hysterically laughing, mascara streaming down our cheeks. Below, you'll see the progression of my evening - we took a picture after each glass of wine. Glass #1 is the top left, and Glass #6 is at the bottom right; all glasses afterwards are undocumented. THEN, I NEEDED food so I dragged them all out of bed and into the night, casually bypassing a few cops. We made it to Tanjga. The best way to describe Tanjga is half butcher shop, half deli - you select the meat, and they grill it up for you - then stuff them into sandwiches with veggies. The crowd was made up of mostly locals; in my broken Serbo-Croatian, I sheepishly asked the girl manning the meats to surprise us. 

Fifteen minutes later, we had our grilled chicken, pljeskavica and cevapi sandwiches in front of us. Holy heck, they were AMAZING. (Spoiler alert: we ended up coming to Tanjga four times in our three day stay). We each had one sandwich in our hands, would take a massive bite, slam the sandwich back on the plate, and then forcefully slide the plate to our right - a true team sport. We repeated this, in silence, until every bite of every sandwich was gone.
On our walk back to the apartment, two different groups of people our age approached us to see if we'd be interested in going off to discover some nightlife together. We awkwardly made some excuses, and headed home for the only party we were interested in: a good old-fashioned slumber party.

I have one more day to share from this trip, and then a wrap-up post and then that's it!! ...Two years later. Stay tuned!

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