I failed to update this blog with the fact that after a few mild sunny days, winter returned to Copenhagen with a vengeance. Snow fell, fierce winds blew, the lakes refroze and people grumbled. Even though Southern Europe’s weather isn’t extremely better at this time of year, we were ready to get on a plane and head anywhere that didn’t have snow on the ground.
We flew into Dubrovnik at mid-day and Matea literally did a “happy dance” when she came off the plane into 60 degrees (F) and sunshine. Yes, only 60 degrees and we were all doing a happy dance! It felt wonderful.
We rented a car at the airport, installed our travel car seats and were driving to the Montenegro border within 30 minutes of our arrival. We had heard that crossing the border here would be hassle-free, however we encountered a surprising glitch. Brett’s driver’s license shows an expiration date of 9/2/13 – which every American would recognize as September 2nd 2013. However, 3 Croatian officials read it as the Europeans do, with the day and month reversed – February 9th 2013. Being that it was March they were concerned that it was expired. We tried to explain that it was not, but they looked at us as if we were completely nonsensical. Finally, after much debating back and forth, they noticed his birth date in his passport – written as 2 Sep – and let us pass.
Amazingly, this happened 2 days later, on the way back into Croatia also. This time they had us pullover and about 5 officials looked over our paperwork while two very curious little kids asked us questions from the back seat. They asked for my driver’s license also this time and decided that since mine doesn’t expire until “December 4th” (actually April 12th) that “the lady will continue driving the car”. At this point, it was very hard for us not to laugh. We respectfully switched places and they gave us a smile and let us pass. We reflected upon the fact that had one of us been born after the 12th of the month, perhaps the hassle would have been avoided. Yet, moments like this are what add richness to the travel experience and make for memorable stories later. (Later, on a day-trip to Bosnia, we had to pass through 12 check points (!) but we wised up and didn’t even hand over the license and they never asked for it.)
We made a few stops along the way to Kotor to take in the view. The photos below were taken from a lookout at Verige Strait, the narrowest point in the Bay of Kotor. Watching this huge cruise ship pass through the strait was quite a sight! The beautiful town of Perast can be seen on the other side.
We made a short stop in Perast.
When we arrived in Kotor, we were able to find our apartment with a rather sketchy map, thanks to the small size of the area. (We decided on this trip to book our accommodations through Airbnb – a newer online company that allows locals to rent out room. This has been a great experience. It is affordable and allows the traveler to have a little more local interaction.) It is also notable to mention that March is low-season for the Adriatic. This, combined with the fact that heavy tourism has not yet arrived in Montenegro, meant that these towns were quiet and mostly void of other tourists. The beautiful Old Town of Kotor is one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Adriatic, as it is remarkably undamaged by war. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a fascinating history. In all our travels, I don’t think we have ever wandered around such an idyllic setting and had it all to ourselves.
The girls were obsessed with chasing stray cats, which are abundant in Kotor. We didn’t allow them to feed them while we dined alfresco (although I did save 3 mussels in a napkin for later – as this mama also has a soft-spot for animals ‘in need’). But later we discovered a shop called “Cats of Kotor” that gave out little bags of cat food. The girls were in heaven wandering around town giving small kibbles to the skinny, stray felines.
Day Two: We hiked up the “Great Wall of Kotor”. The girls bounded up this mountain like it was nothing. We were thoroughly impressed. If you look closely in the picture below, you can see the wall – or rather the stone structures along the wall. It is ancient, amazingly well preserved and offers stunning views of the bay.
This is Matea at the highest point she hiked to (with Brett – I went down a bit earlier with Dahlia, whose little legs finally tired from all the stairs. For the record, these girls are troopers).
We descended the mountain for breakfast. Have you ever had deep-fried ham and cheese crepes? We had not and they were quite tasty.
Then, after a stroll through the Sunday market, we headed for the Budva Riviera – A more developed, yet still lovely coastal area to the south of Kotor Bay. Here we found the beach!
Just a bit farther south and we arrived at the rather mysterious Sveti Stefan. Once an exclusive resort for the rich and famous, today it still operates in this way (so we hear), but at the time of our visit, it seemed completely deserted. The window shutters were all closed and a security guard denied access to people who wanted to venture onto island. But we hear the privacy and seclusion is the objective here, so perhaps this is just the way it is. Never-the-less, it is a gorgeous site and surrounded by 18 hectars of botanical gardens and pristine beaches, the setting is stunning. It was well worth the extra bit of driving to just go and have a look.
The following morning, as difficult as it was to pull ourselves away from lovely Kotor, it was time to say goodbye to Montenegro and head to Croatia.
To be continued… Read Part 2