Visit: 14th July 2013
Since our first ‘lads trip’ abroad in 2009 to Bruges, we have tried to continue going further afield each time. Along the way we have managed to accidentally go to WHSs on each of our trips (Bruges in 2009, Bamberg in 2010 and both Brno and Prague in 2011). We booked a holiday to the Balkans – specifically to Montenegro and Croatia – with the plan being to visit somewhere unusual (Podgorica) and somewhere better-known (Dubrovnik).
This trip was actually booked before the WHS challenge was conceived, so when I looked into the area we would be visiting I shoehorned Kotor into the plan. Chig had originally turned down the offer to come with us, but he had a change of mind when out drinking with Ross one night in February. To make sure he didn’t make a mistake by backing out when his hangover kicked in, I booked his flights for him at 11pm that Friday night! Come July 12th and after a refreshing morning pint at Gatwick airport, we flew Montenegro Airlines direct to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.
Montenegro is a small country, with a population of just 632,000. Its capital is a city of under 200,000 people, which, to put that in perspective, makes it comparable in size with Bournemouth. Podgorica was known as Titograd from 1946-1992, named after Yugoslavia’s former leader. We spent a night there (“You are tourists? In Podgorica? But why?”) and then went sightseeing the next day. The principal sights from our perspective were the city’s Millenium Bridge …
After Podgorica we took a cab to Budva, an up and coming seaside destination (with a history of its own) that is described as “the Ibiza of the Balkans”. We had our best meal of the trip there in an Italian-style restaurant, and spent a relaxing evening drinking in the main square.
Finally we get to the crux of this post…on Sunday morning we headed in another taxi to Kotor, a World Heritage Site and ancient medieval port town located deep within an inlet. You can see from the map below just how well defended it was from naval attacks by its two main threats, pirates and Ottomans.
The old town (translated as Stari Grad in Serbo-Croat) of Kotor is the focal point of this ‘Culturo-Historical Region’, and it was here that we spent our only night in the area.
It really is a beautiful town – all narrow medieval streets crowded by red-roofed buildings. The old town is car-free, so the only way to get around is on foot. After navigating the maze to our apartment we went out for a drink. The prices in Kotor are high by local standards because this is a tourist destination – cruise ships stop off here, and while it isn’t crowded, it isn’t quiet either. Nevertheless, we found a bar that was basically no more than a room with chairs in selling beers for €1.20. It is interesting that Montenegro – which is not a member of the EU – uses the Euro as its de facto currency, whereas Croatia – which became a member on July 1st – still prefers kunas. We had a beer here whilst debating whether to climb the city walls.
Well, it turns out Chig won the battle on that one, and so we set off to walk to the top.
The walls around Kotor remind me less of the gently undulating walls of Dubrovnik, and more of the exhaustingly steep Great Wall of China. Scaling the 280 metres in the heat of the day is not recommended unless you are prepared to get sweaty (though luckily there is a beer vendor half way up!).
At about 250 metres you reach the fortifications, which even featured in the Napoleonic Wars as a French stronghold. In 1814 British captain William Hoste smoked them out after deploying his cannons on land in “a very unmilitary manner”.
The view from the top was fantastic, as it had been at the various stopping points on the way up. That evening we went to the local nightclub Maximo, which is a good place (probably also the only place) to go if you want to stay out late in Kotor. We were just sitting there minding our own business when a 10 ft robot with a giant laser gun came out from nowhere and vaporised the DJ! Here is a pic of that.
Final pic of us in Kotor, walking up the staircase to nowhere! (There’s just a dead end up there)
The next day we took a taxi over the border to Dubrovnik. We drove around the entire inlet to get there (see map at top). Not a good hangover cure. But beautiful scenery and an integral final piece of the WHS inscription, Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor.