Subtropical Paradise Of Balkans – Montenegro

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Montenegro is the newest Balkan country, having regained its independence in 2006. It is the next destination on our exciting budget train tour.

General Information and history The most interesting destination in Montenegro is the Gulf of Kotor with its amazing coastal towns. The Gulf of Kotor is really the Little Italy of the Balkans, especially in terms of Mediterranean architecture, vegetation, and cuisine (like everything in the Balkans).When you arrive at the towns in Gulf of Kotor (and we will check out two of them) you will feel like you are on the Italian coast. The Montenegrin coast was until recent years much less famous than the Croatian shore, but no less beautiful and interesting. Without question, however, the Gulf of Kotor has an important advantage over the Croatian coast as it is quite a bit cheaper.

 

 

How to get there? There is only one Montenegrin town on the coast that can be reached by rail. So traveling from Bosnia by train may be a bit complicated, but it isn’t impossible. Take a train from Mostar to Sarajevo and then a train from Sarajevo with a transfer in Uzice. From Uzice you can connect with a train to Bar and finally reach the Montenegrin coast. All tickets added together shouldn’t cost more than 30-40 euros. The trip can last around 15h without transfer time, so you will probably spend one whole day or a night on the train. It can be a unique experience for observing mountain scenery from the train windows, or while passing through canyons or over the bridge crossing Skadar Lake on the Albanian border. When you finally reach Bar you have to take a 2h bus ride (around 6 euros) to the Town of Kotor.

 

 

Kotor (the town of cats and narrow streets)

General info: Kotor, the most interesting town on the eponymous Gulf, is located at the edge of the mountains and at the Gulf’s deepest point. The town was always an important seaport, and because of that throughout its history it has been an important center of trade, like Venice or Dubrovnik. It had autonomous status during the Serbian Kingdom, and during the Serbian Empire it was within the Empire’s borders while after that it was ruled by Venetians. The city was always rich and never fell under Ottoman occupation.

 

 

Main attractions:

Old Town: This is the “must see” area of Kotor. The Old Town dates from the middle ages and is under the protection of UNESCO as one of best preserved old towns on the Adriatic. It has very narrow streets with old faded buildings, lanterns, and fountains. The old buildings, old balconies, and old lamps bring back the atmosphere of the middle ages. Passing through old streets is very interesting at night – many mysterious streets from different directions call you to enter each of them, and it seems that you really don’t have time to check all of them out. They are all remind you of each other, and you may easily get lost and feel like you are in a real maze. The Old Town has one Catholic cathedral and also many Orthodox churches built in Mediterranean style. Kotor is a significant tourist attraction, and you will see visitors from all over the world. But still Kotor preserves its old spirit, and the town remains untouched and unchanged from what it has been for centuries. You will get confused because of so many souvenir shops selling paintings, glasses, vases, old watches … It would be hard to decide which one to go into first.

 

 

Maritime Museum: If you are interested in the history of Adriatic shipping this is a great place for you. Entrance is only 4 euros, but the exhibition is large and varied. There are models of sailing ships, navigational instruments, paintings, weapons, and portraits of captains.

Old fortress: The old fortress sprawls across the hills behind the town. The high stone walls were built in the middle ages to defend the town against Ottoman invasion. You should climb up to the city walls, but be careful as it is very steep and exhausting. The views from the walls encompass an amazing panorama of town, dark blue sea, and mountains.

 

 

Cats: Cats are the main symbol of Kotor. It is estimated that there are more than 90 of them living within the old town. Most of them are stray cats, but everyone likes them and feeds them. You can see a great variety of colors of cats and a variety of sizes from large and full grown to young kittens. They are all like the big cat tribe of Kotor. At night it can be a bit scary when you see a black cat watching you from a narrow street. Also it won’t be a surprise if you see cats chasing bats through the streets during the night, which I saw personally, and it really surprised me.

Time for food: Kotor offers various specialties from the sea such as shrimp and various types of shell fish and sea fish. I suggest that you to try shrimp or brancin fish. Brancin is widely eaten here with marinade and cooked potato. A serving of shrimp can cost around 9-12euros while 1kg of Brancin can cost 10euros. You can find many Italian restaurants that offer pasta and pizza, which is typically outstanding. Every year when I visit Kotor I eat pizza before I leave. A 500g pizza will cost 8euros only. You can try pizza with local delicacies such as smoked bacon and garlic. I suggest the Konoba Kantun, Dekaderon, and Cesare restaurants.

 

 

Evening, the time for wine: Nightlife in Kotor is quite peaceful. There are dozens of pubs and wine houses. With an optimal subtropical climate, good wine is made here. You can try Vranac red wine, which is the best Montenegrin wine. A glass can cost around 2.50-3euros while a bottle costs around 12-15 euros.

Time for rest: There are plenty of hostels, and the price per night ranges between 10 and 20 euros.

Herceg Novi – a town of stairs and lively nightlife. Herceg Novi is my favorite town on the Montenegrin coast. A small town located on a steep hill next to the sea, it is an especially interesting mixture of cultures and buildings as there is evidence of Serbian, Ottoman, Venetian, and even Spanish influence. But the Venetians ruled the longest, from the 17th to the 19th century. You can reach Herceg Novi by bus from Kotor in 45 min or 1h. The price of a ticket is around 4euros. Buses are frequent and depart every 30-40 minutes.

Why a town of stairs? Because of its steeply sloping location, there are dozens of stairways leading from the old town to the waterfront promenade. Some stairways have more than 500 stairs. Descending can be interesting. But if you are accommodated in the old town you may have to go upstairs to turn in, which can be very exhausting.

 

 

Where to go and what to do?

Old Town: Small but very beautiful, and a real masterpiece of Venetian architecture. Pass through narrow streets and up and down stairways, with house walls close to you and balconies above you. Flowers and drying laundry hung on windows give the atmosphere of Italian old towns. On the main square there is a big Orthodox church and a very beautiful white marble fountain. There are many coffee shops with terraces, and you can have very good espresso for about 1.20eur. In Old Town there are many souvenir shops selling various old objects such as swords, glasses, tea or coffee sets, magnets, and paintings of the town and the sea…There is also another square with a Catholic cathedral. In town there is big presence of Mediterranean vegetation: tall palms in squares and in parks, fig trees, lemon and banana trees in courtyards, and orange and olive trees in parks. In one big courtyard there are even bamboo trees. Herceg Novi is a real subtropical paradise.

Promenade: When you reach the promenade you can walk in two directions and enjoy beautiful palm trees, watch the sea, take pictures and take a seat in one of dozens of bars or coffee shops located there. I suggest the Dodo confectionery, where you can try one of 10 types of cakes served there. A piece of cake is only 2.50euros. Also there are around 15 different types of ice creams, with one scoop of ice cream costing 60cents. Along the promenade there is a big selection of beaches. Most of them are concrete beaches, but there are also a few gravel beaches. So if you are here during the summer time, don’t miss a chance to have a good swim. I suggest Hotel Beach, Boka Beach, or Tunel Beach.

 

 

One monastery and three forts: Because of its commanding geography, Herceg Novi was always coveted by the great powers. Real evidence of the town’s dynamic history can be found in a monastery and three forts from different periods built by different occupying powers at various points in the past. The Savina Monastery is evidence of the Serbian presence, and its oldest parts date from the 11th century. The location of the monastery is very beautiful as it is situated among palm groves and provides a nice view out to the sea. Kanli Kula is a very old fort, dating from the XVI century and built by the Ottomans. It served as a Turkish prison, and it was known as a place where prisoners were tortured and therefore it got its name, which literally means Bloody Fort. Today the fort serves as an outdoor theatre where film and music festivals take place during the summer. Forte Mare is a fortress built by the Venetians in the XVII century right above the sea. Today it is an outdoor cinema, and entrance only costs 2.50eur. If you want to enjoy a movie beneath a sky full of millions of stars and watch a dark sea at night you are in the right place. Spanjola is the highest fortress above the town, built in the XVI century by the Spanish during their two year rule over Herceg Novi. This fort provides the best views over Herceg Novi, the surrounding hills, and Kotor Bay.

 

 

When you get hungry: Don’t worry as there are plenty of things to eat, as is the case everywhere in the Balkans. Seafood is amazing here. At Konoba Feral you can try mussels with rice (6euros), grilled squid (8euros), and octopus salad (14euros). And you can try delicious pasta with Bolognese sauce at the Tri Lipe Restaurant for only 5euros. Other good restaurants are Konoba Kantula, Ancora, and Gradska Kafana.

 

 

When night falls: If you are not exhausted, enjoy the best nightlife in Montenegro. That’s why many young people choose to vacation here. Most pubs and nightclubs are outdoors, located on the promenade, right next to the sea. In open air pubs, draught beer can cost around 2 euros while a shot of brandy costs around 3.50euros. I suggest the Admiral, Bluefin, Raffaelo, Porto, or Kruso pubs. If you prefer clubbing, La Bamba, Peoples, Casa, and Lobelia are the best clubs in town. Be prepared there for slightly higher prices as beer is around 3 euros, a shot of brandy 4, and a shot of vodka or whiskey 5 euros. Whatever you choose, you won’t regret it as you will have an unforgettable night full of young and friendly people.

 

 

When you need to sleep: Apartments can be found anywhere, with prices per night ranging between 9 and 25 euros.

Other tours from Herceg Novi: 1) Take a tour to take in the XVII century Ostrog Monastery. The coach ride lasts 2h and costs 25euros. The monastery is unique as it is located in a cleft in a mountain. The monastery’s water is believed to have healing powers. Take your own snacks there.

2) Take a boat trip (round trip 12euros) for a day tour to Zanjice Beach, a gorgeous beach located 40min by boat from Herceg Novi. The Beach is known for its white stones and azure blue sea. In addition to swimming, you can enjoy underwater diving and watch many fish swimming around and other sea creatures on the bottom of the sea such as octopuses, crabs, shells, starfishes, and sea urchins. There are restaurants near the beach. When you get tired you can rest in the shadows of an olive tree forest.

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