Montenegro! It's been almost six months since I was there and I still get goosebumps looking at my pictures. We did SO much here in a short amount of time (a mere 3 days!) before heading on to Dubrovnik. To be honest with you, I would have gladly stayed here a bit longer and maybe skipped going to Dubrovnik altogether, but I'll get to that in another post.
Day 1 - Kotor
We arrived on May 30, so we were still in that sweet spot before high tourist season. We came by way of Mostar (our awesome hostel was able to give us a lift), and the drive was so beautiful! Stay awake for it if you can! Border crossing was pretty painless too.
Lou and I found a charming apartment through booking.com and you can check it out here. The apartment is technically across the bay in Muo, which is a 20-ish minute walk from the Old Town. But you can still catch some spectacular sea views! And you know, us, we don't ever mind a good walk. The apartment was SUPER clean and beautifully decorated -- very modern and updated decor. We had a cute little kitchenette with a mini fridge and we spent a good chunk of time watching Serbian soap operas before bed. We also caught an episode of what appeared to be the Serbian/Montenegrin version of Family Feud? I have to say, the show is not the same without the great Steve Harvey.
On our first day, we went up to the Castle of San Giovanni near the Old Town and wandered around a bit. This fortress had a LOT of steps to the top! But the views were great and rewarding (this was also the day I chose to "hike" in a sundress and flip flops -- maybe not super wise, no but regrets)! As you can see, the Bay is just lovely...
We found a place to eat in Old Town after much deliberation. We were trying to find something both super-delicious and super-cheap. Sadly, food was not as cheap as it was in Bosnia, but it certainly won't break the bank! I can't remember the name of the restaurant we went to either!
Day 2 - Lovcen National Park, Cetinje & Skadar Lake
We took the Great Montenegro Tour with 360 Monte and it was incredible! Check out their website here. There's so much we got to see in a span of about 12 hours. We took a ride up the long and windy hairpin turns of the Austro-Hungarian road. After that ride, I gained a lot of respect for the driver of our van. Lord knows we would have careened over the side and into the water had I been at the wheel. We stopped about halfway up to take some more pictures of the Bay.
At the top, we stopped for breakfast! First we tasted a bit of Rakija, which one website describes as "Balkan hospitality in liquid form". I'd say that definition is pretty spot on. Rakija is fruit brandy that's pretty popular in the Balkans, and how potent it is depends on where you're getting it from. We got a taste of the legit, home-brewed stuff, and it's pretty strong. Our tour guide, Slavko, informed us that his grandmother drank a little every morning and she lived well into her nineties. Must be something fortifying in that stuff.
After the Rakija, we got to peek inside a smokehouse where some locals were making prosciutto. Better yet, we got to taste some that was ready to eat!
We continued on up to the National Park of Lovcen, the part I'd been waiting for! The pictures below were taken up at Lake Peak in the park (about 1600 meters above sea level). It was pretty cloudy up there and shortly after we arrived, we could see thunder and lightning in the sky a few miles away from us! Felt pretty neat to literally stand among the clouds. We even saw an eagle flying overhead!
I also recommend taking a peek inside the mausoleum where the Montenegrin ruler, Petar II Petrovic Njegoš, is buried.
After leaving Lovcen, we headed to the village of Cetinje. Sadly, I did not take any pictures :( I remember there were a lot of cute stray dogs that followed us around town.
Later on, we hopped aboard a boat and hit the Crnojevic River. We stopped near Skadar Lake for a bit and I snapped a few pictures. After swimming in the chilly waters in Bosnia, I was hesitant to jump in, but the lake was pleasantly warm!
I also caught a glimpse of Sveti Stefan, the exclusive little island where rich people come when they visit this corner of the world:
Day 3 - Rafting on the River Tara
It's hard to even believe this now, but I was on the fence about going on this tour. I was being cheap, and was reluctant to spend the money. Plus, I've been white water rafting before in Ecuador. But Lou was really keen to try this rafting tour (again through 360 Monte) and I agreed to give it a shot!
Poor Lou ended up getting sick that day and she couldn't come along :(
On the drive up, we stopped for a glimpse of Perast, a little island with a tiny church. I was told that sailors would drop big stone at the bottom of the Bay on the way back from their journeys. Once enough stones collected to break the surface, they built a church on the rocks.
I don't have a water proof camera, so I didn't take many pictures of the Tara river itself. But not relying on a camera made me cement the beauty of the surroundings into my memory -- I think we forget to do that sometimes! Those images are that much more precious to me because I can't look a photo to remember what I saw.
I learned that the canyon where the Tara river flows is the deepest in Europe and one of the deepest in the world (1300 meters deep!). The river is SO beautiful and some parts are so clean that you can drink out of them (gave me flashbacks to the perfect clear water by the Dervish House in Bosnia). Bosnia is on one side of the river and Montenegro is on the other.
I was in the middle of the raft, and there weren't enough paddles for me to have one too. I held on to the handles at the bottom of the boat and laughed/shrieked whenever a big splash got me wet (you guessed it -- the Tara river is super cold!).
We stopped in a couple of places along the river to see some small waterfalls and do some cliff jumping! I'm not sure how high up I was when I jumped, but boy, is it a shock to hit that chilly water at the bottom! Thank goodness for my life jacket, or I think my limbs might have seized up and sent me sinking to the bottom. After jumping off the cliff, you gotta swim hard to get to the other side of the bank. And if you're small in stature like I am, the water will do its best to try and sweep you away! I'd definitely do it again! Kind of got my adrenaline pumping.
On the long drive to the river and back, we passed some pretty stunning views...what a beautiful country!
After this, we had to leave Kotor and head to our final destination: Dubrovnik!
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