Fabulous Four Days in Montenegro

Old Feb 11th, 2023, 04:55 AM
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Fabulous Four Days in Montenegro

This report is part of 37 days we spent in Europe (Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia between September 5-October 12). We initially booked, with credit card miles, flights in and out of Athens without any fixed itinerary. Then, we were invited to a family grape harvest in Sicily. Eventually, Athens airport became our base, and we went through there seven times. This created an opportunity for multiple distinct trips. This is one of them.

Day One: Athens to Dubrovnik to Montenegro

Other than booking four nights in Kotor, Montenegro, we simply did zero other planning for this portion of our trip. We didnít know what to expect. The closest we had been was a cruise ship stop years ago in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

We flew over northern Greece and marveled at the long stretch of beautiful mountains and lakes. Even spotted Corfu island off the coast, a beautiful place we once visited. Our plane swooped over Dubrovnik, arguably one of the most photogenic places in the world. The Dubrovnik airport was small and modern. The many rental car places were lined up outside in neat little offices one after the other.

In minutes, we spotted the unspoiled hills of Montenegro and saw the first of many warnings for wild boars. Fortunately, we didnít see any.

There are two border crossings for customs. The line on the Croatia side was really long, even though it looked larger than the one a short distance away to enter Montenegro. In that short distance, we got our first peek at mountains meeting the sea. And, then, once we reached the customs booth, we were on our way to the Montenegro border crossing. Although it was the same number of cars heading in that direction, and Montenegro had fewer booths, there were no lines there. In all four of our round trip border crossings here, we simply handed them our passports and documents that the rental car company provided, showing we paid road taxes. No questions; not one word was exchanged.

We were so taken by the beauty of Montenegro, even for this short visit, this report will be especially heavy on photographs.


































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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 05:45 AM
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Where did you stay in Montenegro? We hired a private driver in Dubrovnik to drive us around the Bay of Kotor for a day. We stopped in Budva, Kotor, and Perast. Our driver gave us a lot of history about Croatia and Montenegro. It was one of the best days of our trip. Lucky you to spend 4 days there. That's the best way to see a place if you have the time.
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
Where did you stay in Montenegro? We hired a private driver in Dubrovnik to drive us around the Bay of Kotor for a day. We stopped in Budva, Kotor, and Perast. Our driver gave us a lot of history about Croatia and Montenegro. It was one of the best days of our trip. Lucky you to spend 4 days there. That's the best way to see a place if you have the time.
You got to see some of the best with your driver. We based in Kotor, simply one of the most beautiful places we have ever beenIn addition to Kotor, Budva and Perast, we visited Herceg-Novi, Cetinje, Lovcen National Park, Tivat and Lustica Bay. The last two were a big surprise, since they include two new fashionable resort villages, built by Russian oligarchs for multi-millionaires and billionaires. And, my biggest thrill was a private speedboat tour and ride from Kotor, through the Bay of Kotor and out to and in the crystal clear Adriatic Sea.
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 07:38 AM
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Looking forward to seeing and hearing more!
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 07:45 AM
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Whitehall, your private speedboat tour sounds awesome! What did you think of Herceg-Novi? I chose the places we wanted to stop. However, our driver told us that he thinks Herceg Novi is nicer and more interesting than Budva, and we were willing to change our itinerary. But the agency he works for wouldn't allow him to do that. Apparently, in the past when the driver suggested a different itinerary than what the client chose, the client was not happy, so the agency doesn't like changing the itinerary at the last minute. We enjoyed Budva but I always wondered about Herceg-Novi.
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
Whitehall, your private speedboat tour sounds awesome! What did you think of Herceg-Novi? I chose the places we wanted to stop. However, our driver told us that he thinks Herceg Novi is nicer and more interesting than Budva, and we were willing to change our itinerary. But the agency he works for wouldn't allow him to do that. Apparently, in the past when the driver suggested a different itinerary than what the client chose, the client was not happy, so the agency doesn't like changing the itinerary at the last minute. We enjoyed Budva but I always wondered about Herceg-Novi.
Will post Herceg-Novi later today. Lots of photos. You be the judge, but we think Budva probably had a more interesting old town.
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 01:31 PM
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Day One: Herceg-Novi

Most of our visit to Montenegro centered around the breathtaking fjord-like Bay of Kotor that comes off the Adriatic Sea.

First stop was Herceg-Novi, a popular and busy seaside city, with lots of new and old, swimming promenade, castle, and old town. We didn't expect to see so many license plates (maybe 50%) from Serbia, but Montenegro has had a long connection politically and geographically.

Although this is a significant ďbeachĒ destination, we didnít see much sand; in fact, most sunbathers compete for spots on cement. But the long promenade from the modern hotels in the newer areas to the old town is loaded with restaurants and other vendors, even a tunnel.

There is a waterfront castle, and then there is a steep walk from there up to the old town. We were impressed with an innovative gelato shop (part of an international chain) that was completely self-contained in what we thought was an old Fiat. Closer inspection revealed this car was a Zastava, a car once made in Serbia.
















































































































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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 05:39 PM
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You really get around, Whitehall.
I’m more than a little envious of all your interesting travels.
Great photos.
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Adelaidean View Post
You really get around, Whitehall.
I’m more than a little envious of all your interesting travels.
Great photos.
Hello Adelaiden. Thank you. We have been blessed. And, for some reason, we keep getting weeks and weeks of clear blue skies.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 04:51 AM
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Day One: Drive Along Kotor Bay

The winding waterfront drive along Kotor Bay is magnificent with the mountains framing the steep backdrop to the sea. I will limit the photos of this ride, because an unplanned boat ride in a couple of days will cover much of this same route, from an even better perspective.

I will start with a not-so-pretty photo of roadside advertising that we saw a lot in this part of Montenegro, where they use existing concrete embankments to sell billboard space. But soon the wide expanse of Kotor Bay makes you forget that. The entire drive around the bay is a long one, so getting around is simplified in some areas by ferries that we didnít try. We also noticed that the bay is full of various fish farming activities. One car accident on the narrow road halted movement for a little while. When we post the photos of our boat ride, you will see how easy it is to get distracted on this road.




















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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 07:19 AM
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Days One to Four: Kotor Cruise Ships

Let me get this out of the way. And, if you donít like editorials in trip reports, I apologize and encourage you to skip this post.

We have cruised many times, and we certainly donít criticize those who go on them. We would never have had an opportunity to see some of the islands of Greece without them. And, without cruise ships, we would have never been able to visit a couple dozen Caribbean islands before deciding to build a former house on one of them (one that only gets tiny cruise ships).

But, over the years, we have seen the darker side, as these ships get bigger and bigger. This includes the impact to the environment, the questionable local economic benefits, and the obvious over-tourism in precious small old towns like Kotor.

There are other forums for rants, so I will simply say when you drive into Kotor, the cruise ships are so large, they look like they are blocking the street. There can be two or three of these behemoths a day in Kotor, and when the passengers leave, Kotor is uncrowded but still vibrant. One of our days here was cruise ship free, and it was simply the most enjoyable day in town.

We have never seen water as crystal clear as this Bay, and even the Adriatic Sea, but wonder what impact these ships will have on that going forward. Fortunately, as in other places of the world, like Venice, there is a growing movement to re-assess rules and limits on cruise ships here, especially as there are reports that the cruise ship impact has even threatened Kotorís UNESCO heritage status.































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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 03:41 PM
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I really like your photos of Herceg-Novi. It looks very nice and very inviting.

I am shocked at the size of the cruise ships!!!! I think we were very lucky because we must have chosen a day to visit the Bay of Kotor when either there weren't any cruise ships in port or perhaps there was only one ship. I know I would certainly remember seeing numerous ships the size of the ones in your photos. I hope more and more places limit the amount of cruise ships that can visit a port. Disgorging that amount of people into small cities and old towns is just bad for the environment and irresponsible! When we were in Santorini this past May we saw only one or two cruise ships at the most in the caldera. And they can't dock right at the port. The passengers take tender boats to the island.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
I really like your photos of Herceg-Novi. It looks very nice and very inviting.

I am shocked at the size of the cruise ships!!!! I think we were very lucky because we must have chosen a day to visit the Bay of Kotor when either there weren't any cruise ships in port or perhaps there was only one ship. I know I would certainly remember seeing numerous ships the size of the ones in your photos. I hope more and more places limit the amount of cruise ships that can visit a port. Disgorging that amount of people into small cities and old towns is just bad for the environment and irresponsible! When we were in Santorini this past May we saw only one or two cruise ships at the most in the caldera. And they can't dock right at the port. The passengers take tender boats to the island.
Dubrovnik, Dublin, Amsterdam, Santorini, Barcelona, Venice, Key West and Bar Harbor are all reportedly making noise to limit cruise ships. If this trend continues, where will the 23 new cruise ships, currently under construction, go? Yes, thatís just the list of upcoming ships that will accommodate 2,500-6,000 passengers each for a total of more than 100,000 passengers.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 04:37 AM
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Day One: Kotor First Look

Stuffed way up at the end of the Bay, Kotor is the crown jewel of Montenegro. It is hard to believe that much of this picture perfect town was destroyed by a 1979 earthquake. Everything seems perfectly original and restored. Somehow, the cruise ships wind their way up here, and they hover high close to the outside walls of this ancient place. So, most visitors here see it in one day. And if they miss out on the steep climb along the beautiful fortifications above, they wonít enjoy the best views. The narrow streets, under the glow of lights from the upper fort, house many shops and restaurants, which are busy but relaxed in the evening when the cruisers leave. And, lots of young people populate the restaurants and bars at night.

We saw many visitors spending time with the oodles of cats that roam the old town. And that seems to be one of the themes in gift shops, and there is even a museum here about cats.

Getting in an out of tiny Kotor can be a bit annoying, due to traffic in the immediate area, but we still found it to be a great base to explore the region. There were several Orthodox churches and one large Catholic cathedral. And numerous gelato shops.

Our apartment is located on the other side of the moat that surrounds part of the old walled town.
























































































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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 05:23 AM
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I love your photos of Kotor! You do a wonderful job capturing the place with your photos and your commentary. Because we were visiting the Bay of Kotor for only a day, we did not have time to climb the stairs above the city. And I don't think I could do it physically anyways. I had hip replacement surgery several months before our trip, and I remember it was very warm and humid the day we were in Kotor. So I would not have attempted the climb if we had the time, but I always knew we missed out on the best scenery.

We have only a few photos of Kotor since our visit was short. Your photos give a better idea of how pretty it is. I know that some people on travel forums advise people not to visit Kotor if they have seen Dubrovnik, but I disagree with this advice. Kotor is very pretty and well worth visiting. I wish we had had more time.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
I love your photos of Kotor! You do a wonderful job capturing the place with your photos and your commentary. Because we were visiting the Bay of Kotor for only a day, we did not have time to climb the stairs above the city. And I don't think I could do it physically anyways. I had hip replacement surgery several months before our trip, and I remember it was very warm and humid the day we were in Kotor. So I would not have attempted the climb if we had the time, but I always knew we missed out on the best scenery.

We have only a few photos of Kotor since our visit was short. Your photos give a better idea of how pretty it is. I know that some people on travel forums advise people not to visit Kotor if they have seen Dubrovnik, but I disagree with this advice. Kotor is very pretty and well worth visiting. I wish we had had more time.
KarenWoo Thanks again. We found Kotor to be very different from Dubrovnik, which we felt has a crowded and touristy vibe, even after the cruise ships leave. We also found locals and storekeepers to be a bit more friendly here than we found in Dubrovnik. Also, as I stated, this is great base to explore the area as I will detail in the coming posts.

Last edited by whitehall; Feb 13th, 2023 at 07:14 AM.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 01:55 PM
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Day Two: Kotor Fortress

We started our day crossing the moat to the old city and noticed that the narrow streets don't even allow delivery vehicles. All goods and returns are carted to the bridge over the moat.

The Fortress of St. John, or the Kotor Fortress, is a magnificent and extensive series of castle-like ruins above Kotor itself. Well-above. There is a fee to climb up to the fortress, but it requires quite a climb over steep old rocks and steps. For those able to navigate it, the views make it worth the difficulty.

We didnít count the steps, and, in some places, it was inclines of just relatively flat rock, but we were told there were more than 1300. It takes about 40 minutes or so for the climb up.

Along the way, there is a small Catholic chapel thatís been there a while, but probably not the 1700 or so years since the fortress was first built. We walked up along the walls of the fortress, but there were even more challenging hiking trails from below and behind the fortress, where we could see further ruins and another old church.

We were impressed with the many bags along the route for people to deposit their empty water bottles. We were less impressed when we saw most of them overflowing. And, then we were truly disappointed when we saw cavernous ruins near the top stuffed full of these bags of plastic bottles.

Although this hike is strenuous and slippery, we saw one guy, who appeared to run off into the woods to relieve himself, carrying two large coolers up the steps. Not recommended.

Lots of photos follow for those who would prefer to take this hike vicariously.



































































































































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Old Feb 14th, 2023, 05:27 AM
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Day Two: Tivat & Porto Montenegro

On our way out of the walls of Kotor for our next destination, someone pointed our attention to the fish congregating in the moat. Thousands of fish, decent size, we didn’t identify literally piled on top of each other. But time to check out another nearby town.

If you haven’t heard of Tivat and its Porto Montenegro community,.this Balkan Riviera destination is well on its way to becoming the next Monaco, Saint Tropez, Costa Smerelda or Capri.

The first hint of wealth came as we drove by an airport full of private jets, reminding us of Aspen. We parked in an older area of the town and walked in via a large community park, where there were young kids from an international school enjoying classes outside.

This once dumpy port town got big buck investors, like controversial Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, the world’s richest man Bernard Arnault, and the government of Dubai, and they created a nautical village.

We found this new hotspot to be full of super yachts, with elegant shops, restaurants and condos.

Montenegro is only the size of Connecticut, but it has more than 200 miles of Mediterranean coastline and 300 plus days of annual sunshine. And, a friendly citizenship by investment scheme that allows the wealthy to buy passports from a country soon to be part of the EU.

The existing village covers a lot of ground, but it is expected to double or triple in size, with the marina going from the current 450 berths to 850.

We aren’t sure if this is a possible hideout for some Russian mega yachts, but we heard a lot of crew speaking Russian. We also quickly identified a yacht belonging to the richest billionaire in Israel, another owned by a Kuwaiti zillionaire, as well as the largest sailboat in the world, sitting while its Russian billionaire owner’s estate is being litigated.

The one problem is that places like this have owners with so many other homes around the globe, we felt like we were the only people walking around. A couple of the restaurants had some activity, and we picked an Italian place for lunch with a waterfront deck. Great food and service, at very reasonable prices. Salads even came with a flight of three different olive oils from Montenegro.

It’s a place where billionaires and crew people get around on golf carts and electric scooters, and Rolex keeps track of the time.






















































































































Last edited by whitehall; Feb 14th, 2023 at 06:04 AM.
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Old Feb 14th, 2023, 07:33 AM
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Wow!!! The view from the stairs in Kotor is spectacular! I know we missed out by not doing that hike, and I also love wandering around ruins, but there is no way I could have physically done that hike. I really admire you for climbing 1300 stairs UP and then DOWN! It's very interesting to see the details of the stairs, too. You take great photos! Now I know what we missed.
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Old Feb 14th, 2023, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
Wow!!! The view from the stairs in Kotor is spectacular! I know we missed out by not doing that hike, and I also love wandering around ruins, but there is no way I could have physically done that hike. I really admire you for climbing 1300 stairs UP and then DOWN! It's very interesting to see the details of the stairs, too. You take great photos! Now I know what we missed.
I stopped playing tennis (one of our passions) nearly two years ago, hobbled by knee pain, so I could preserve my legs for walking and hiking in Europe. Even with all the steep stuff, we usually average 5-10 miles a day on our feet when over there. Fingers crossed.
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