Draped in bougainvillea, ancient villages are dwarfed by commanding mountains and framed by cobalt waters. The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro is intriguing but it became even more so, when I discovered I was sharing the region with a President!
Researching a trip to the Balkans and seeing photos of the town of Kotor and its surrounding natural beauty, I was visually entranced.
Sometimes referred to as being located on Europe’s most southernmost fjord, a narrow inlet of sea between steep cliffs caused by glacier erosion, I learned that Kotor is technically not on a fjord but a bay or ‘boka’ – locally known as Boka Kotorska.
As I traversed the waterways after arrival, geographical explanations became inconsequential.
Whichever way the region might be defined, what is paramount here is that nature’s brilliance is unquestionable.
Kotor is the primary launching point for discovering Montenegro. Ancient walls define the perimeters of this UNESCO World Heritage site, much like its bigger neighbour Dubrovnik in Croatia, but easier to navigate with far fewer steps.
Thankfully there are also fewer tourists here than in Dubrovnik, trying to cram through the old wall entrances. Nevertheless, this port is a popular cruise ship destination, so you might not have the fortified town all to yourself.
Navigating the compact winding cobbled streets can be a little disorientating at times but it is enthralling, with every alley and corner offering a new opportunity to be impressed by colourful architecture, charming local life and a few surprises.
Taking a sunset walk up to the old fort on the mountain behind the walled town, the landscape takes on a different perspective.
At a height, at twilight, I could revere on the old town’s beauty, steeped in dramatic magnificence.
Next on my agenda in the region was visiting a ‘modern day’ beauty, the pool bar, Purobeach which is situated at a luxury super yacht marina at Porto Montenegro, in Tivat.
At around thirty EURO for a day bed, it wasn’t cheap but I justified that it was the sort of indulgent luxury I was well deserved after weeks of budget conscious travel.
As I sipped my cocktail, lapping up the sunshine, I noticed camera crews setting up. My investigations uncovered that the Austrian President at that time, Heinz Fischer was about to arrive to do a press conference. A local patron stressed the significance to me, as an Austrian head of state had not visited Montenegro, formerly aligned with Serbia, since before World War 1.
In 1914 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were shot dead in Sarajevo, Bosnia, whilst on a visit to inspect imperial armed forces in the region. Austria-Hungary and many other countries blamed the Serbian government, which at the time had the support of Russia and France. Within a month Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia and soon World War 1 broke out, involving Russia, Belgium, France and Great Britain pitted against Austria-Hungary and Germany.
Now I felt that I was no longer just in paradise but I would also be witness to political history.
It isn’t just important political leaders who come to Purobeach.
Discussing the venue with the waiter, he told me a UK billionaire had recently flown an entourage of friends from England to celebrate his 40th birthday at the venue.
The next day, I was further captivated by the bay and mountainous terrains when taking a day trip with a local water taxi to the town of Perast.
A quaint village which is made minuscule by incredulous peaks is characterised by two religious sites, the tiny islands in the bay, the man made Our Lady of The Rocks and St George.
I felt quite excited about discovering the eclectic “Pirate Bar,” on the road out of town, where you can jump off into the water for a dip.
Getting hungry for lunch I ventured back into the village where one restaurant in particular took my fancy. When my boat driver and I entered the Conte Hotel restaurant we were told that indoors was closed for a private function. That was fine as I preferred the terrace anyway but noticing some bulky looking men in suits sitting nearby, my curiosity piqued. Asking the waiter what was happening, I was told “The Austrian President is dining.”
It was a good choice for us both – the food and location was exquisite.
As the political entourage departed with countless bodyguards, I laughed. Evidently I was on the same touring circuit as Austria’s President, a sign that I was covering the must see places.
The Austrian President and his security entourage
En route back to Kotor my boat driver took me a beach stop at Bajova Skidaonica.
Wading in the waters, revelling in the natural splendour around me and reflecting on my brush with a President, I almost felt like royalty myself.
- Kotor is two hours drive south of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Buses are frequent between these destinations and the border crossing is fairly straightforward.
- Purobeach at Porto Montenegro is a fifteen-minute drive from Kotor. Aside from the pool bar, it also has a restaurant, live music and DJ’s, massage and yoga.
- Budva is a lively old town thirty minutes from Kotor. It is a busy nightlife hub with bars, restaurants and clubbing.
- Further south in Montenegro is the picturesque Sveti Stefan about forty minutes drive from Kotor. Whilst the scenery is lovely to look at the downside is that the nicest beaches in the area are privately owned and a visit to the beach will set you back around fifty EURO. This makes nearby local public beaches such as Przno extremely crammed and crowded.
- The up side of Przno is that it is a quaint seaside village with some pleasant waterside seafood restaurants.
- The currency in Montenegro is the EURO and the Montenegrin language is fairly similar to Croatian and Serbian.