I spent the last week in two UNESCO protected walled cities along the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik, Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro. Both cities are extremely popular summer destinations but completely empty in December, which was kind of cool, even though it rained a lot.
I’ll preface with, I didn’t learn much about history in these places. I did an overpriced one hour walking tour in Dubrovnik that was mostly about churches and patron saints, I can’t even tell you one thing about the famous city walls that I didn’t look up on my own. I really wanted to go to the war museum, which covers the Siege of Dubrovnik from 1991-1992, but it’s at the top of the mountain requiring an expensive gondola or uphill hike, and the weather was terrible, so I opted out.
But I did brave the city walls in the rain, ventured out to the abandoned Belvedere Hotel (a 5 star hotel destroyed in the 1991 siege and location of the famously gruesome GoT fight between the Mountain and Oberyn), and got one clear night for a spectacular sunset over the Adriatic.
By the time I arrived in Kotor I was battling a bad cold, itchy all over thanks to some bed bugs I met in Mostar, and the entire city of Kotor was flooded, including my hostel. I managed one night in a room with five boys and decided that after over three months of hostel dorm life it was time for my first hotel stay of the trip. Luckily I got a great deal at the Palazzo Drusko right down the street, was checked in by 10 am the next morning, and basically slept for the next 24 hours.
It rained on and off for the next two days so I caught up on sleep, cooked meals in a kitchen no one else was using, binge watched The Sinner on Netflix, and started in on my plans for Asia.
By Monday it cleared up and I ventured out for some hiking up and around Kotor.
I wanted to check out the Kotor Maritime Museum in old town, but it’s off season hours over the weekend were 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, which didn’t work with my sleep schedule, and Monday and Tuesday were so nice out that I chose to do hikes instead. I felt bad that I didn’t learn anything about Kotor so I did some quick research online for the basics:
- The city is really old, first mentioned in 168 BC in Ancient Roman times, and is entirely surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period.
- The city is located on the Gulf of Kotor and many call it a fjord (a long narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs created by glacial erosion). In fact, it’s a ria, a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley, or a submerged river canyon. I know, tomato tomahto, either way, it makes for a really beautiful landscape.
- Kotor has been ruled by everyone – Ancient Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, the Kingdom of Serbia (pre-Yugoslavia), the Kingdom of Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, the Hapsburgs, the list goes on. But the Venetian’s ruled here for over 400 years and that is where the old town’s architectural influence came from.
- St. John or San Giovanni’s Fotress dates back to the Illyrians, as early as the 9th century, and the fortifications completely surround the city from bottom to top, roughly 1,350 steps up.
- There are many churches within the tiny Kotor Old Town and the bells seem to ring at random. One day I was hiking they started going at 11:46 am, another time at 5:27 pm? They all seem to be ringing to their own tune at different intervals, it was weird.
- There are cats EVERYWHERE. So many that they even have a Cat Museum in the old town.
While I’m a bit sad to leave the comfort and privacy of my hotel room, I’m excited to get back into a social setting, and the next place for that will be Tirana, Albania! Headed there first thing tomorrow and you can bet I’ll have a much more historical post on Albania coming shortly.