Budget Holiday in Montenegro, Part V: Boka Bay / the Bay of Kotor (feat. Professor Massage)

IMG_20180624_121212In the background: Hostel Pupa. Talk about perfect location!

Day 9: Professor Massage Strikes – Hitchhiking from Kotor to Perast

After the relaxing weekend in Petrovac, I packed up my bags again and caught a bus to Kotor. Surrounded by mountains and turquoise waters, the historical old town of Kotor is currently one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, though its protected status is now threatened by excessive development. Around the bay, there are also several other picturesque towns, of which Perast appears to be the most popular one. So that’s where I needed to go, too.

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A road trip around the Bay of Kotor appears to be a very popular choice among travel bloggers, but I wasn’t keen on renting nor driving a car there. Since the end of June is still officially low season in Montenegro, there were few if any buses running on a Sunday. I started to walk along the coast toward Perast, which allowed me to really take in the views and the sights along the way.

IMG_20180624_160448IMG_20180624_144512Decent views for a little Sunday afternoon stroll
IMG_20180624_145330__01The most common “beach” type around the Bay of Kotor: a private concrete platform with stairs leading into the seaIMG_20180624_152426Instead of going to public beaches, it’s also possible to find your own empty stretch of rocky beach – perhaps not ideal for sunbathing, but swimming is definitely possible!

Kotor and Perast have 12 kilometres between them, which would have been a bit too much on foot – especially since there are several parts along the way with no room for light traffic. That’s why, at first, I was delighted when a tiny red car stopped next to me and its driver offered me a ride for the remainder of the way.

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The man, who was about my age, spoke very little English, but I thought we had reached a mutual understanding of where we were headed. After all, Perast must be Perast in any language, right? Well, we had only been driving for about a minute before he already changed his mind. From his Montenegrin babble and miming I was able to deduce he wanted to go for a swim with me on the secluded beach nearby. I wasn’t interested and told him I just wanted to get to Perast, please. It didn’t work; he simply stopped the car by the road in the middle of nowhere. Then he introduced himself as Professor Massage – I kid you not. Professor fucking Massage. The next thing I know, his hands were already reaching for my shoulders and below. That was my cue to get the hell out of the car. I started walking away from the car at a brisk pace, and fortunately the “professor” didn’t follow me. Instead, he stayed behind in his car and kept yelling at me through the open window: “No massage? No massage?!” Nope, no thanks. Not now, not ever.

I don’t claim to be an expert at hitchhiking, but I have done it a number of times very successfully. However, this was only the second time I had ever hitched a ride by myself, and it didn’t exactly encourage me to try the same for a third time, anymore. Even though he did scare me, I never felt like being in any major danger. The man was so scrawny I’d like to think I could take down at least three of his kind at once if it ever came to that. It still wasn’t a pleasant experience. I guess I should try to get over my distaste for taxis and give them a try sometime.

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Well, Perast was alright when I finally got there. I suppose the tiny scare on the way kind of ruined the mood a bit, as I wasn’t all that interested in touring all the sights anymore. There was at least a clocktower, several churches, narrow streets and paid boat tours – in that sense Perast seemed like some kind of a Mini-Kotor. A nice day trip destination, but I don’t think I’d want to book any accommodation there. I only stayed long enough to walk through the village once and finish eating my snacks. Then I headed to a bus stop hoping for a miracle, and within minutes my faith was rewarded – I had never been so happy to see a tour bus before! It was luxurious to get back to Kotor in a comfortable, timely and safe manner. I ended the day with a long evening swim to wash any professor bacteria off my back.

Day 10: Kotor Fortress and Old Town

On Monday, it was time for some hardcore touristing in the form of climbing up to the Kotor Fortress. Normally, tourists are charged 8€ a pop for the privilege of hauling their own arse up the hill. However, I got this nice money-saving tip from my hostel, which I’d now like to share with others: the entrance fee is only charged to those who start the hike in the old town, but there is another route to get to the fortress for free.

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I was going to embed the Google map here, but it seems to default to the paid route. Instead, here’s a screenshot of my walking instructions: first up the serpentine goat trail marked in blue, then down the stairs marked in gray. When hiking up, you’ll always see the outer wall of the fortress on your right. Eventually, you’ll reach a small abandoned church, and from there a trail marked with red-and-white dots takes you to the fortress. You can enter the fortress by climbing through a window in the wall – and yes, the entrance through the window is still part of an officially marked trail, and using it requires no criminal tendencies.

IMG_20180625_114622I still made this crime against aesthetics – goodbye to chafing! No wonder people so often mistakenly think I’m German.IMG_20180625_115920Added bonus: you’ll meet plenty of goats. It is a goat trail, after all.IMG_20180625_120424Goat trail with the best views over the bay

IMG_20180625_120855Follow the danger!

IMG_20180625_122550Entrance to the abandoned church
IMG_20180625_123753Enter through that window! Note the trail marker on the wall.

A nice chunk of the fortress is marked with signs saying it’s a “high risk zone”, which I assume to mean to enter at your own risk. Few people paid any attention to those signs, though. Even if for some reason you’re not particularly interested in touring the fortress, the views alone are worth the climb.

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IMG_20180625_134456Despite the herds of visitors, nature is slowly beginning to claim the area back to itself

In addition to the fortress, the old town of Kotor with its terracotta roofs is also worth a visit. The area is very compact, but it’s still easy to get lost in the maze of narrow cobblestone streets. One of the curiosities of the town is the Cats Museum, which despite its name is not dedicated to the famous musical but countless cat-themed items and artwork. The museum is said to be located in Kotor, because “Kotor” is almost the same thing as “Cattor”… Umm, ok? The locals do seem to be quite fond of cats, of which there are many strolling the streets of the town.

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A special shout-out must also be given to a grill called BBQ Tanjga, located near the bus station. It doesn’t exactly seem tempting from the outside, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. First of all, the owner’s larger-than-life personality is something to cherish in its own right. The concept is also interesting: on the inside, the place kind of looks like a butcher shop, and customers get to pick which slabs of meat they’d like for the staff to grill to perfection. Though there are a couple of tables inside, the best tables can be found in the beautiful and hidden inner yard of the building. Out in the back, they also have a cooler from which customers can get whatever drinks they want, self-service. After eating, people go back inside to pay for their meals and drinks – the trust is strong here, because there’s no staff watching the cooler. It seems to work, though. The portions are huge, the size of a tray, and inexpensive too: I paid a grand total of 7,50€ for a chicken skewer with two fillets, fries, salad and a coke. I can warmly recommend this place to everyone other than vegetarians!

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Day 11: Tivat and Porto Montenegro, “the Monaco of Montenegro”

Tivat was the wild card of my holiday – I had absolutely no prior knowledge of the place. While planning my holiday and browsing the TripAdvisor message boards, I came across an anonymous comment which briefly mentioned Tivat as an interesting destination. The commenter didn’t elaborate on why it was interesting, and I didn’t really even care. I had saved up one free Hotels.com rewards night which was about to expire this summer. I had no other use for it, so might as well spend it on an apartment with a sea view in Tivat.

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On the bus to Tivat, I finally decided to google the town. Its harbour, Porto Montenegro, kept getting compared to Monaco, so I expected to see fancy yachts and all kinds of luxury on top of luxury – not really my scene at all. Oops. Next time, I swear I’ll do my research better. However, my first impression of Tivat came in the form of two goats leisurely strolling past me on the pavement*. Well, that’s not too bad. Nice and down-to-earth, right?

*Yes, unlike in many other parts of Montenegro, there are actual pavements in Tivat! Kudos for that.

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Pretty soon it became abundantly clear that even though goats and chickens do freely roam the many parks of the town, the good people of Tivat also have the luxury part down. Wide seaside boulevards, well-maintained palm trees and flower instalments, fountains, fancy boutiques, expensive restaurants and massive yachts as far as the eye can see – that’s what Porto Montenegro is made of. Still, in late June, I could feel the peculiar vibes usually found in abandoned villages, and the harbour area seemed quite unfinished. There were many cranes and fenced-off construction areas all around the place. I’ve actually never even been to Monaco, but I’m still pretty sure Tivat has a long way to go before it can seriously compete in the luxury seaport cup, no matter what all the random bloggers and marketing gurus are claiming. Let’s give it another ten years and see if the scales have tipped yet.

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I hadn’t realized I was missing out on the perfect Instagram moment. No self-respecting social media influencer would leave Tivat without posing by the 64-metre infinity pool at the Porto Montenegro yacht club, but my quick googling had failed to inform me of its existence. Fortunately, the number of my followers (love you all!) is still in the double digits, so I don’t have to worry about any kind of influencing whatsoever. This happy oversight also saved me the 50-euro entrance fee. Whew. I spent the evening chilling out on the Ponta beach. The day had been too windy and cloudy for swimming, but I had zero complaints about the sunset.

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As a brief summary: Kotor is an incredible town everyone should see, and personally I could have easily spent a lot more time there than I already did. In my opinion, the Bay of Kotor is the second most beautiful location in the whole Montenegro, right after the mountains in Durmitor National Park. I could have done without Tivat, since my itinerary was already full before adding it to the list, but it was still OK because my accommodation was free. If I had had to pay nearly a hundred euros of my own money just to go look at rich people things, I probably would have regretted it. Tivat would be a good choice for someone looking for luxury and perfectly composed Instagram photos, but a budget backpacker is probably better off going somewhere else.

Read the rest on my Montenegro tour in English here: Montenegro18EN

2 thoughts on “Budget Holiday in Montenegro, Part V: Boka Bay / the Bay of Kotor (feat. Professor Massage)

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