Following on from what was the mushiest thing I’ve ever written, I hope we’ve all recovered from the fact that I’ll be featured in the next issue of Ripley’s Believe it or Not as one of those pretty peculiar people who marry countries and cars and sheep and the like.
Look out for me in the 2018 issue guys – page 219.
Now that I’ve made my love for Montenegro well and truly known to the world, let’s talk about what exactly led me to making this pretty huge statement shall we?
Please don’t fact check me on this, but I’d hazard a guess that Kotor is one of the most popular places for visitors in Montenegro.
The Bay of Kotor, to be precise.
In popular culture Kotor is probably most well-known for being the setting of James Bond film Casino Royale. Except whereas the storyline was based in the area, none of it was actually filmed there. Go figure.
Outside of popular culture however, Kotor (specifically the Walled City) is known for having a lot of stray cats. Apparently there’s no logical reason for it, but stray cats seem to congregate in the town like it’s their own little cat-infested palace.
My grandmother visited Kotor years ago as part of a cruise and warned me about the insane amount of cats there but I thought surely she’s just exaggerating and there can’t be that many cats.
I took a hike up the mountain on my first day and may have interrupted a meeting between the Mayor of Cat Town and his minions, which was taking place in one of the old abandoned parts of the fortress.
It was a really really bizarre situation.
The Cat Mayor sort of looked at me, cocked his head to one side, gave me the evilest of evil glares then turned with a swish of his tail and walked away, followed in close succession by his gaggle of cat minions. They all gave me equally disapproving looks and one of them whipped me with his tail on the way past.
If looks could kill, I have been murdered by a cat gang.
There are so many cats there that they have a Cat Museum. A CAT MUSEUM! A whole museum about cats!!! It’s hidden away in one of the squares off of the main square in the Walled City but still, it exists.
I didn’t go in because a) I hate cats and b) it was closed (oh hello off-season travel!) but merely the knowledge that it’s there is good enough to make you fully appreciate just how many cats are in this town. So many cats.
The Old Town
When I think of the Old Town of Kotor, I think of Sims Medieval, Pirates of the Caribbean and A Knight’s Tale. Despite it being the 21st century and there being some very, very modern additions to the town, it still has an overpowering medieval feel to it.
The buildings are that aged yellow colour, kind of like the Sepia filter you used to get on those really old flip phones, the streets are narrow and the floor is cobbled or tiled the whole way through. Trust me when I say it’s a death trap in the rain.
Because I visited during off season there were barely any other tourists around and, I’m not sure if it’s the norm during the summer months, but the whole town seemed to go to sleep before 6pm. On my first night I ate a €2 slice of pizza for dinner because I just couldn’t find any restaurant that was open with other diners inside. The next night I resigned myself to taking advantage of the hostel’s bargain €4 dinner because I knew I just wouldn’t find anywhere else.
There’s hardly anything to do in the town if you don’t like casinos but I didn’t get bored.
Just walking around, getting lost in the winding alleys and dead-end streets was more than enough fun for me! And because the streets were so empty, it were as if I was the star of my own medieval fantasy.
Hiking the City Walls
The Old Town of Kotor is otherwise known as the Walled City because, yeah, it’s a little medieval town surrounded by walls. These walls, or fortifications, stretch all the way around and up, up, up into the mountains where there are some bloody fantastic views (and casual gatherings of cats) to check out.
I am not an enthusiastic hiker. In fact, I’m the furthest from an enthusiastic hiker you could possibly get. I am as unenthusiastic for hiking as I would be for putting pine needles in my eyes. I’ve never seen the enjoyment in going for what is more often than not a really long, monotonous walk through scenery that never changes.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who do enjoy hiking, but it’s not for me.
Give me the promise of a pretty view at the end, though, and I would hike the length of Russia barefoot with chains around my ankles.
The views from St John’s Fortress are more than worth the effort in this case, and the hike itself wasn’t actual so bad. Aside from the insane amount of steps and near-death experiences as a result of the serious lack of health and safety that seems to exist everywhere outside of the UK, it was positively pleasant!
There were walls to clamber over, old structures to explore and even an abandoned village.
And the views from the very beginning of the hike to the top of the fortress were incredible.
I ended up watching the sunset from the top of the fortifications, not due to forward planning or anything but because I’m really lazy and couldn’t be bothered to climb back down after reaching the top so sat and listened to the whole of Zac Brown Band’s album.
And you know what?
It was bloody fantastic.
I feel like there’s a lot more to be getting on with in Montenegro during the summer months – there are water sports in the bay, more hiking trails and probably more, but for my first taste of the Balkans, and for my first few days of complete and utter solitude (not including the nice Korean fella sharing my dorm room) in a long time, it was the perfect setting.