Kotor is a little town in Montenegro which was originally founded by the Romans in the 5th century BC, but was fortified in the 5th century and thrived during the Venetian era. The old town itself is very small (you can walk across it in under 10 minutes) and is surrounded by Venetian fortifications. The town now extends around the old town, but is still very small (although it does blur into other little villages along the Gulf of Kotor).
Our apartment was fantastic – it had two bedrooms in the loft, with a large living room, kitchen/dining room, and bathroom downstairs. This turned out to be very fortunate as one of our two days in Kotor was miserably rainy, and we spent most of the day inside!
We originally intended to do mostly outdoor activities in Kotor – kayaking on the lake, maybe a trip to the beach at Budva. The weather put an end to that. Our first day was spent exploring the town itself, and we went for a walk up the walls which extend up the mountain behind Kotor. Various stretches of the wall are graded according to state of disrepair and danger – we did the main walk right up to the top which had an excellent view across the bay, without taking any of the more dilapidated branches off the main wall.
The walk is only about 1200m long, but is uphill the whole way. It does have several cool places to stop and explore though – old towers which have fallen apart, lookouts (both over the bay and backwards across a valley through the mountain) and other outposts.
The second day was so rainy we only ventured out a few times – mostly for meals but also to book our bus for our trip on to Dubrovnik the next day. The walk to the bus station took us along the marina where we had a look at the extravagant yachts moored from all over the world (all countries along the Adriatic have harbour towns which are major attractions for boats touring either the Adriatic or the Mediterranean seas).
The next day we took a much more straight forward bus than our previous trip. It took us across the border (no need to get off the bus this time – our passports were collected and taken for inspection all together) into Croatia and straight to Dubrovnik. The trip was excessively long for the distance covered – they like to take the coastal routes to hit all the beach towns along the way, rather than the inland highway. But we got there with minimal fuss, and from the bus station it was a local bus trip to the old town of Dubrovnik, where we were staying.
Dubrovnik was certainly one of our favourite spots on the trip. It also thrived during the Venetian era, and is surrounded by huge fortified walls. It was also a key film location for several seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, so we were able to find familiar places as we walked around the town.
The first thing to do when you arrive in Dubrovnik is a walk around the town walls. It cost something like 10 euros, but the ticket also gets you into a few other places around town. The walk around the walls is a kilometre and has great views not only of the old town, but also the coastline, nearby island and Fort Lovrijenac just outside the town wall. Along the wall we also came across the tower (Fort Minceta) used as the House of the Undying that Daenarys visited in Qarth in GOT.
There is also a little evidence remaining of the siege the city suffered during the Croatian War of Independence (one of the Yugoslav wars). Most of the old town has been repaired and rebuilt, but a few buildings still bear shrapnel scars, and the gutted upper level of one building which was firebombed has remained mostly untouched as a memorial from the war.
We also visited Fort Lovrijenac, the fortified castle where the scenes inside the Red Keep (and Joffrey’s tourney) were filmed. It’s not so much a castle as a fortified defensive outpost – it doesn’t really have rooms to explore, but passageways and excellent views where canons were once mounted.
There is also a great little bar along the exterior of the seaward side of the city walls which looks out across the sea, with uninterrupted views of the horizon. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw such a flat, perfectly defined horizon (in Greece the horizon tended to be a bit obscured by sea haze). Probably not since we left Australia. It was pretty crowded when we got there just before sunset, but we found an empty table and managed to steal another table along the railing a bit later when someone else vacated it. Unfortunately the clouds came over and ruined our sunset view, but it was still a wonderful view and we were able to watch the day’s tour boats come back in to the harbour.
Another great view of Dubrovnik is from the cable car station at the top of the hill behind the town. It’s not a cheap trip (108 kuna, or about 15 euros) but there are spectacular views from the top, right up and down the coast and across the hills which spread out from the coast. If you get up there before 6pm, there is also a pretty affordable lunch/snack menu at the restaurant (the dinner menu is significantly more expensive).
On our last day in Dubrovnik, our bus was not due to leave til mid-afternoon. So after leaving our bags at the left luggage at the bus station, we had a bit of a look around the marina in the modern part of town and got lunch at a little cafe nearby. Completely coincidentally, we also passed a little shop selling phone accessories so decided to have a look on the off chance that they sold covers for our phones (most places don’t – normally they just stock for iPhones and Samsungs, not Sonys). Lo and behold, we found covers for both our phones! Then it was on a bus bound for Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina.