Cruise Stop 1: Kotor, Montenegro

I can’t remember when I first found the photo of Kotor taken from the city walls, but I knew as soon as I saw it I had to go. I did some research and found out Montenegro is essentially Croatia’s underrated neighbor, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to discover it. It was pretty crazy how we got on the cruise ship, and less than 24 hours later we were approaching Montenegro.

The ship veered off the Adriatic Sea and meandered for about an hour through the fjord-like waterway of the Bay of Kotor, with high hills on each side towering over the relatively narrow passage. This alone was a highlight of our Montenegro visit, as people gathered on deck to soak in the sun and the views.

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We didn’t book a shore excursion for this stop because my main goal was to climb the city walls. In hindsight, that wasn’t the wisest decision because we ended up having to wait an hour and a half for tenders to take us to shore and if we had booked an excursion, we would have been first off the boat.

By the time we got to land, we only had about 3 hours to see the town and the sun was already starting to set behind one of the hills. My sister and I scrambled through the labyrinth of Kotor’s old town trying to find the entrance to the walls. It was rushed and very stressful, but we wanted our pictures before the light was gone! Mom and her bad knees decided to sit this one out. From the bottom, the red Montenegrin flag of the fortress didn’t look so high up, but as we climbed the 1000+ steps to the top, the climb seemed never ending. I consider myself to be in great shape, but it was still extremely difficult for me. I was honestly shocked how many people were able to make it to the top. But the views and ruins of the fortress definitely lived up to the hype for me, and we made it just as the sun settled behind the hill. Success! The way down was almost as rough as the way up, but luckily we could take our time, meaning I could stop and pet each cat we passed along the way. At one point, I even got on the ground with two extra friendly ones and a man came over and put a third one on top of me—I was in heaven!

When we finally got down into the old town, we had some time to calmly wander the pedestrian-only streets, so no cars to look out for, only cats! Everywhere! They’re almost like a tourist attraction. There’s a cat museum, cat souvenir shops, and a square with a little green patch that had at least 20 lounging around. Naturally, I pet as many as I could.

My sister and I stumbled upon a little market with stalls selling handmade goods where we bought some Christmas ornaments (I try to collect one from every country we visit). The Montenegrin vendor was really the only Montenegrin I had time to speak to, but he was so friendly. He asked us about where we come from, and we asked him about Montenegro. It was just a really positive interaction, and I’m sure the people are thrilled that we were interested in visiting their country.

After the intense hike, all we wanted was a cold drink. Luckily we found our mom sitting at a cafe on one of the squares with a mojito, so we sat with her and ordered our own, relaxing until it was time to return to the ship.

It’s hard for me to say a lot about Montenegro because we were only there a few hours, and I felt like I spent the whole visit stressing about having enough time (one of the main issues with a cruise), but I thought climbing the city walls was a super rewarding adventure and I’m definitely open to exploring more parts of the country if I get the chance.

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