Let’s just establish from the get-go that Montenegro’s Kotor is more captivating and enchanting than words could ever do justice. Traditional Mediterranean architecture is juxtaposed with the striking mountains above, with spectacular views everywhere you look. But the Bay of Kotor is much more than just Kotor and its Old Town.
Arrive in Kotor from the bus station (the trains only service the Eastern part of Montenegro), and you’ll be greeted by a host of run-down, neglected buildings. But it’s a testament to Kotor’s warmth and energy that this is not off-putting. Indeed, the colourful peeling wooden exteriors of dilapidated buildings seem to correspond with the colours of the mountains above, as if the natural world is colliding with that of Man.
The marina is at the most a ten-minute walk from here. You’ll pass the fortified Old Town on the way, and catch a glimpse of the old castle high up in the looming mountainscape. And let’s face it, you’re probably going to encounter some cats along the way too!
By the sparkling water, with iridescent shades of blue, there is a host of tour guides, all of whom have nothing less than a perspicacious knowledge of the Bay of Kotor. You can explore the Bay by yourself by boat or follow a coastal road by car, but you can’t beat the local knowledge, or turn down a price of just 20 euros for a ninety-minute speedboat tour.
First things first though, I had never been on a speedboat before. Perhaps naively, I thought that the boat part meant that I would be dry. It did not. Every time the cool seawater splashed me on the face, I regretted sitting at the front of the boat.
The first stop is Our Lady of the Rocks Church. The Roman Catholic church was built in 1452 on a tiny artificial island made from rocks and sunken ships. It was developed further in the Eighteenth-Century, and every year on July 22nd, locals sail out and throw rocks beside the island to widen the surface in celebration of the church being founded.
The dedication of the people of Montenegro to their religion is bittersweetly compelling. It’s not rare to stumble upon small, poverty-stricken communities who donate all that they can spare, and then some, to the Church.
Perast is the second and final stop. Perfect orange roofs shelter once pristine bricks that have been long been compromised by dust and sand inflicted by a peaceful yet persistent sea breeze. With a population of only 349 people, the town is a little run-down. This only contributes to its overwhelmingly endearing and romantic charm though.
Like Kotor, Perast is also known for its sizable cat population. If you’re a cat lover, you just need to stop reading now really and get that trip booked. There are literally hundreds of cats waiting for you. Hundreds. Of. Cats.
But, also like Kotor, if you’re not a cat person (and there’s really no excuse not to be), just walking around the town’s quiet coastal road with the mountains looming above the commanding buildings on one side, with the calm body of water on the other, all below an incandescent sun is an experience in itself. And it’s an experience that I feel so privileged to have been able to enjoy.
There are very few places that I’ve travelled to that have had the same impact upon me as the Bay of Kotor. The Bay must have borne countless unforgettable moments for all of its visitors over the years, but breathing in the whole area makes you realise that it isn’t part of your story, you’re part of its. It was here long before me, and it’ll be here long after I’m gone.