Since you can basically max out the Kotor old town and historical context in a day, we were able to use our second day to relax as well as hiking Kotor. Even though we only had 2 nights and not 3 in Kotor, this was an opportunity to take it easy that we relished. After an above average hotel breakfast (but nothing beat the breakfast we had in Ljubljana), we set out for hiking Kotor by finding the path up the mountain from an alleyway in the old town. We found it towards the west side after a bit of searching, and unfortunately were met by a pay gate. Brendan remembered reading something about there being a secondary entrance that was free outside the city, so we set out to find it. On our walk, we ran in to these cuties rambunctiously playing. The old name for Kotor, Cattaro, was certainly fitting. The free entrance to get up to the fortress and hiking Kotor was actually from a path behind the parking lot we used on the northwest side of the city. You can see the paid access path inside the city walls with the squiggly line. Here’s a view….
We wheeled our suitcases from the parking lot and easily found our lodging in Kotor, Hotel Vardar, at the end of the entrance square. Check-in was easy and they had a parking spot open up in their lot – farther away but 10 Euros a day. We immediately went and moved our car after checking in. This was a proper hotel, and we felt it was a huge upgrade since our Dubrovnik room – it was nice to have a little space. We set out to see the city for the remaining daylight hours and thought a walking tour would be a good idea. It was around 1630, however, and all the tour agencies were closed and next availability online would be the following day. So we went back to reception and asked if the hotel could arrange anything – and they did. A guide, Nina, showed up almost immediately, we negotiated a fair price of 30 Euros total and she met us back at 1800 to commence the tour. The weather held up at first, but after about 30 minutes it started to rain, then pour, then pour cats and dogs. In between, we still managed to have a….
Today was all about traveling south from Dubrovnik to explore the Dalmation Coast in Montenegro, on our way to Kotor. The previous day we had some time to explore Dubrovnik, and take a Game of Thrones tour. We were ultimately glad that we only stayed for two nights given the crowds and touristic maturity of the city. We were not sure what to expect for Kotor, but we did know it was also another cruise stop (my parents had visited a few years ago). After an hour continuing through Croatia, we crossed the border to Montenegro to continue the drive down the Dalmatian Coast in Montenegro. Look at those awesome Junipers! The route we took was called the Adriatic Highway. The border crossing took a while, I’m not going to lie – and then it took even more of a while on the Montenegrin side (since you have to go through two checkpoints, one for each country). Travel blogs recommend going through Bosnia & Herzegovina to avoid making this particular crossing. But, once through, the views of the Dalmatian Coast in Montenegro was spectacular – so it was worth it for us, plus we had nowhere to be, so to….
Dubrovnik by day is much different than seeing it by night, and today we had a whole day to explore – not to mention enjoying a Game of Thones Dubrovnik tour. We had scheduled the tour with Game of Thrones Dubrovnik, who touted tour guides who were extras in the show, at 1000 in the morning. This would be just in advance of the series finale Sunday evening US time – we wouldn’t get to watch it the until the following day in Kotor. An early morning tour had the benefit of forcing us to get up early, and we also opted for the cold -cut and continental breakfast at the guest house (again prepared by Marija’s mother in-law). We were glad we did because it saved us some time, and the variety and the coffee were good. Coffee in a pot is hard to find in the Balkans! We walked down to the city over the steep staircase we had become friends with the previous night, and enjoyed seeing some familiar cats along the way. At the bottom, we headed to Pile Square we were supposed to meet our guide for the Game of Thrones Dubrovnik experience. It was….
Heading out of Mostar, we decided to follow Google Map’s routing instructions for the driving to Dubrovnik – big mistake! We ended up on mountainous, windy, two lane back-roads without a center divider and occasionally loose gravel or dirt. This was the last time we chose Google’s directions over local signage (local signage usually vectored us on larger, more major roads). We are pretty sure the Google algorithm prioritized simple distance as the crow flies when it is lacking data around road quality and speed limits. The drive through the mountains to Neum (the one coastal city possessed by Bosnia and Herzegovina) was beautiful, but it was rainy and I had to really concentrate on oncoming traffic. Drivers in this part of the world did not like to stay in their lane, even around curves. The high point of the drive was picking up some lavender growing wild on the roadside to freshen up the car and our moods. Once we made it to the coast and Neum, driving to Dubrovnik was simple. We just followed the coastal road south, over the border crossing. Shortly after the border crossing, we were entering in to the Dubrovnik city limits. Our destination….