It was pouring with rain when I arrived in Kotor and walked from the bus station to the tiny Old City, and yet it was still quite pretty. Situated on a narrow harbour, with deep sapphire waters and dark green mountains surrounding it, one cannot complain about the location. It’s simply beautiful.
The rain didn’t stop at all on my first day there, and so I explored what there is of the old town before hitting up the supermarket to buy something to cook for dinner. Stashing my bag of food upstairs in the kitchen – which was accessed separately from the rest of the hostel, necessitating leaving the warm dry room and traipsing outside and up the stairs in the rain – I thought I’d have an afternoon snack downstairs. Ordering a kebab burger, which had been safe to eat in Bosnia and Serbia, turned out to be incredibly disappointing and stomach-turning when, after taking a bite, I realised that it was pork. I’d mistakenly assumed that like elsewhere, it would be beef or lamb. I discovered that not only does the idea of eating pork make me feel sick, I don’t actually like the taste. At least I learned something! Not wanting to appear rude, having not asked what kind of meat it was made of, I wrapped it up in some napkins and told the guys in the fast-food joint that I wasn’t all that hungry and would finish the burger later. Needless to say it was deposited in the rubbish bin upstairs. My disappointment continued, however, when I realised that the cevapcici I’d bought for dinner were also pork. They, too, were deposited in the bin once I’d ascertained that the only other guests at the hostel were vegans and thus unlikely to accept an offering of flesh.
In winter, practically the only things to do in Kotor are explore the empty old city and visit the fortress. The main reason I came to Kotor was because a guy in Dubrovnik showed me pictures he’d taken from the top of the fortress, so I figured I’d better check it out. And luckily for me, when I woke up in the morning the sun was shining and the rain was nowhere to be seen. The only problem was that I was feeling lazy and my knees were playing up [I swear I have the knees of a ninety year old!] so I decided to only go partway up.
Another problem soon emerged, however – each time that I decided I’d gone far enough and that it was time to wander back, I’d spot something interesting. So I’d decide to just go a little further. Slowly. With regular breaks to munch down on some sweet pears or chocolate, or take pictures, or just sit on the crumbling walls and absorb the view. And then I’d figure, well, I’ve come this far…surely a few MORE stairs won’t kill me. That’s the trouble with stairs. The damn things always lead somewhere. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I have something of a hateful curiousity regarding stairs. Sneaky bastards, always promising something more. At Kotor, however, they really do deliver.
First I had to explore a tower that has a name, which is probably on a map that I cut up and stuck part of in my journal. Then it was only about sixty steep stairs to a hole in the wall that offered tantalising glimpses through to the other side of the fortress. And it was climbing through that hole in the wall that truly made all the stairs worthwhile. To start with, the view was stunning – it felt like I’d stepped into a fairytale. Bright green grass rolling gently, fresh trees and white rocks; I thought I’d stepped through the hole in the wall and back in time a couple hundred years.
There’s a little track that leads down to a very old church, and peering through the gate you can see what’s left of the once-vibrantly painted interior. That wasn’t enough for me though, so I fidgetted with the wires locking the gate closed, and snuck in once I’d got that open. It appears that the church has long fallen from grace; today it’s used as a tool shed for a local farmer – my guess being the farmer who lives in the little house halfway up the hill.
This little church, in its gorgeous surroundings, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on my trip. And as you may have noticed I’ve been to quite a few places! Seeing a couple of people peeking through the hole in the wall, I headed back to let them know it’s worth exploring and to continue on my journey upwards. Rejuvenated by the landscapes surrounding me [and possibly the pear and can of diet coke I’d consumed], I was ready to hit some more stairs.
I’ll be honest – the top of the fortress itself was nothing exciting. Crumbling ruins have been restuck together using ugly concrete slabs and rusty iron bars, and the small rooms are littered with broken bottles and chip packets and smell of stale urine. The view, however – there’s simply no better way to see Kotor. Down below, in winter, the streets are lifeless and the city feels abandoned. From above you can forget all this, and immerse yourself in the majesty of the soft turquoise water, the red tiled roofs, the white boats, the deep green mountains and the stormy skies.