We decided to rent a car for a couple of days while we were in Croatia, so that we could take trips to neighboring Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. When we first started planning our trip, we were looking to go somewhere that neither of us had visited. We were sitting in Barnes & Noble looking at a map, when Ryan exclaimed that he wanted to go to Montenegro, because that is where Casino Royale took place (however, we would later learn that not a single shot from the movie was actually filmed in Montenegro). After a bit of research, we realized that it was probably better to stay in Dubrovnik, as there was more to do, but we could still schedule a day trip to the town of Kotor in Montenegro. Score.
On Wednesday morning, we left for Montenegro bright and early, so that we would have be able to cross the border before traffic became too heavy. Luckily, it was a fairly smooth process, except for the part where I lost the great last name debate. See, my maiden name is a Mc name of Irish origin, and when I married Ryan, I acquired another Mc last name (it's a McCoincidence....har har). I've tried for years to convince him that his last name is Irish, and he has always defended that it is Scottish (lets be honest, he secretly wants a reason to wear a kilt). Well, the Montenegrin boarder patrol agent took one look at our passports, turned to my husband and said...Mc****, what a nice strong Scottish name. So, yeah, if a Montenegrin border patrol agent tells you that your last name is Scottish, it must be true. Ryan: 1, Katie: 0.
The drive to Kotor, and around the Bay of Kotor, was actually one of the best parts of the trip. The scenery was unbelievably stunning (the pictures don't do it justice, of course), and just got better and better as we went along. Plus, they drive on the same side of the road, and on the same side of the car as we do in the U.S., which makes everything run a lot smoother (i.e. I'm not screaming every 5 min. that I'm going to die in a car crash). There is one point where you can take a ferry, which takes a good amount of time off the trip, but I'm so glad that we didn't do this. By taking the longer route, we were able to pull over at a bunch of different points and take the time to admire everything.
We passed some very nice yachts along the way...
Welcome to Montenegro! Or, should I say...Dobrodosli!
Ryan was obsessed with the supermarket. Hence the reason we have a picture of it.
Another great part of any road trip through the former Yugoslavia...playing "Dharma Van" (for any LOST junkies out there). So much more fun than "Punch Buggy."
There were a lot more signs of the war, and of the communist era in Montenegro than we saw in Dubrovnik:
This is the town where the ferry is located (which you can see on the right side). Also, I'm not quite sure what is taking place in the billboard in the background:
But, by skipping the ferry, we got to see things like this:
If you enlarge this picture, it almost seems as though the mountain is coming over that little town.
Beautiful scenery, and smashingly handsome husband. Pretty sweet deal.
Look at the amazing blue colors of the water! The guy isn't too bad looking either...
Driving through Montenegro, and even more so in Bosnia-Herzegovina, you see lots of memorials to people who lost their lives in the war.
Taking in the stunning surroundings.
After about an hour and a half (which included many a photo stop and the time spent getting through the border crossing), we arrived at Kotor. Part of the Bay of Kotor, just outside of the town walls, was a bit of a disappointment, as the town allows very large cruise ships park there. This means that most of the best views of the Bay surrounding the town are obstructed. The town was very pretty though (it almost feels like your somewhere in the side streets of Paris), and I'm glad we spent a few hours walking around and exploring.
Entrance to Kotor through the city walls.
Everything looks better with strands of large glass hanging lights.
You know...just wandering around the tiny alleys in Montenegro.
I think green shutters may be required in Kotor. Lets be honest, green shutters are quite pretty.
Lovely old building.
One of the main attractions in Kotor is the Church of Saint Tryphon. Legend has it that a ship carrying St. Tryphon's remains had to take refuge in Kotor because of bad storms. However, every time the ship tried to sail after the storms, more storms came along. The sailors finally took it as a sign that St. Tryphon wanted Kotor to be his final resting place.
Located behind this screen are 48 relics, which include Saint Tryphon's head and bones. Creepy, yet interesting at the same time.
The church was really quite fascinating and housed what almost felt like an art museum on the second floor. There were all sorts of wonderful paintings that often showcased the town's position on the border of Eastern and Western Christianity. Often the faces were more life like (western/ gothic style) and the bodies were stiff and elongated (eastern/ byzantine style).
While the main attraction is a Catholic church, the town of Kotor is actually predominantly Orthodox, so we also took the time to stop in one of the Orthodox churches.
Outside one of the Orthodox churches.
And inside. I loved looking at all of the beautiful icons.
First up: Perast. Oh my goodness Perast. Words cannot describe how pretty this town is.
Only local traffic is allowed in the town, so you have to park at the top of a hill, and then walk down towards the town. This is what the walk looks like... not to shabby!
As you get closer to the town, you see lots of tiny (and larger, touristy) boats with sailors waiting to take you out to Our Lady of the Rocks. By taking one of the smaller boats, you get to pay less AND you get to have a private boat ride. Score. While the island is beautiful, the trip there and back is definitely the best part.
Just chilling on a boat with my husband.
View of Perast from the boat.
I'm on a boat. I'm on a boat. Everybody look at me cause I'm sailing on a boat. (insert SNL skit reference). Yup, I went there.
Right before you get to Our Lady of the Rocks, you pass the island of Saint George, which is closed to tourists, but houses a small monastery:
Then you come upon Our Lady of the Rocks. This island is that it is completely man-made. Legend has it that two fisherman discovered an icon of the Madonna in the reef near the island of Saint George. They tried over and over again to bring the icon ashore, but it kept getting washed out to sea to the exact same spot. Eventually, fishermen returning home began dropping rocks in this spot. The practice then took up among the villagers, and over two centuries, an island of rocks was formed.
View of Our Lady of the Rocks from the sea.
Walking around the island. It's really quite small. There's a church (coincidentally called the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks), a small museum and a snack stand where you can buy beer and ice cream (both of which my husband bought).
Ryan on one end of the island.
I shall call this my sassy island girl pose.
After wandering around for a bit (and purchasing Ryan's ice cream and beer for the trip back), we jumped back on our boat to enjoy another ride.
Thumbs up for Montenegrin beer. The brand is Niksicko incase you are wondering.
This is Ryan with George, our boat owner & sailor. George knew little English and we knew no Montenegrin....however, George knew Italian and Ryan knows Spanish, so somehow they bonded and communicated through a combination of the two. George also told us the island of Saint George was named after him. He was pretty awesome.
Perast as seen on our ride back.
George was even kind enough to take a picture of us.
After leaving Perast, we continued on our drive back to Dubrovnik, and made one more stop for some tasty food at Konoba Catovica Mlini. The restaurant is a bit hidden in the town of Morinj, but there are a lot of road signs that lead you in the right direction.
The restaurant has been family run for over 200 years!
You have to walk through a bamboo garden to get to the restaurant.
Ryan in the bamboo walkway.
The food was unbelievable and unbelievably affordable, given that the service is quite formal and you are in such a beautiful location.
I wish I could eat meals in front of views like this everyday.
After the delicious meal, it was time to continue on our way, and before we knew it we were back in Dubrovnik.
As the night ended, we were treated to a lightning storm that created some amazing scenes right outside our window:
And before we knew it it was time to rest up for our trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina the next day!