We checked one of our planned trips off our list on Saturday with a day trip to Kotor, Montenegro. Originally we had looked into taking the bus, but the itinerary isn’t great (leaves in the morning but comes back in the early afternoon) and all of our research had said that the drive was a highly enjoyable experience. Plus, once I looked into rental cars I found a great deal with the Avis in Port Gruz so in the end it was only 258 kuna (about $47), versus 460 kuna ($85) for the bus. This was a very pleasant surprise since we had heard over and over that renting cars in Europe was SO EXPENSIVE (and we’d received quotes from other companies for 70 EUROS/day), but Avis treated us right and didn’t even charge us the extra insurance for leaving the country since we’d be back the same day. We will definitely be using them again.
We took the bus over to Port Gruz around 9am and picked up the car without incident. We were going to rent a GPS as well, but the Avis agent assured us that it was literally the same road the entire way to Kotor so we left it behind and saved the extra $20. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that he didn’t try to up-sell us, but I’m not complaining!
The border of Croatia and Montenegro is about 45 minutes from Dubrovnik. We had about a 20-minute wait since there was a bus in front of us, but there were no problems once it was our turn and we went on our merry way and stopped for a snack/bathroom break at an extremely clean and well stocked gas station. Jared spent the first Euros of the trip on some peanuts that were impossible to open (everything here is vacuum-packed).
About 15 minutes past the border we reached the Verige Strait, the narrow entrance to the Bay of Kotor (easy to defend but deep enough to allow trade ships). From here we got our first views of the bay and Perast across the water (more on that later).
From here it was about 30 minutes more to Kotor. We were going to stop in Perast and see the Island of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks, but we weren’t sure how much time we would need in Kotor so we kept going. I was pretty bummed since that was one of the top stops on my list, but (spoiler alert!) we fortunately had enough time on the way back to stop and check them out. We made it to Kotor around noon and started to explore. The town was small but dense, and there were all sorts of interesting details to take in.
We walked around the main Square of Arms and then meandered along winding streets without much of an itinerary. It was way more fun to wander and see where we ended up, and it’s such a small town that we didn’t have to worry about getting lost. Around lunchtime we checked out the Cathedral of St. Tryphon and the small but beautiful museum of vestments and relics (sadly, no photos allowed).
Afterward, we sat down for lunch on the cathedral square (our first meal out of the trip!) and were visited by a little friend.
Kotor was as loaded with feline friends as Dubrovnik, and as you know we are huge softies when it comes to cats. It’s really tough not to get attached to some of these little guys, since they are all so sweet. I have always been the cat person in our relationship, but Jared has really jumped on the bandwagon since we adopted our second cat Yoshimi. A few days ago we came across some rather skinny cats on our way to the beach, and ever since then Jared has insisted on carrying some tins of cat food in case we see them again. We came across a super skinny little guy in Kotor and Jared was so pleased to have something to give him! We sat and watched him eat to make sure nobody stole his food, and my heart was totally melting that my man had become such a devoted cat lover!
We spent another hour peeking down alleys and around corners before we were ready to start heading back. In a lot of ways, Kotor was like Dubrovnik, but it seemed like there were a lot more quirky things to discover, and there was a certain flavor that seems lacking in Dubrovnik (or perhaps the Venetian influence is just more apparent). I’m sure at the height of the season Kotor is just as overrun with tourists, but this time of year it was pretty quiet and the character of the town was front and center.
We had reserved our rental car until 8pm, so when we left Kotor we still had more than enough time to stop in Perast and still make it to the giant grocery store with enough time to return the car. I had remembered the stunning pictures and video we’d watched of Our Lady of the Rocks in preparation for the trip, so I was so excited to get a chance to visit the island. Perast, while not having much else to see, is still a very beautiful town in it’s own right. Still, it’s so small that we parked and were on a boat out to the island within 5 minutes.
It was so worth the detour and 5 Euros each to get out to the island. The island was created from a custom of returning sailors tossing a rock into the water near a reef where an icon of Madonna and Child was found. Eventually some ships full of rocks were also intentionally sunk to create an island on which the church was built. We paid an extra 2 Euros to visit the tiny museum in the church, where sailors and locals leave gifts for the Madonna to keep them safe at sea and to thank her for returning them safely home. The most famous piece in the museum is an embroidery that took over 25 years to complete and lovingly incorporates the hair of the woman who made it (I opted to buy a postcard of this rather than take a picture).
The trip was a great way to get out of the city, and renting a car and driving was way easier than we thought. We went to the store on the way home and still got the car back an hour early, and we were able to keep the whole excursion (minus groceries) under $200 since we only used about 1/4 tank of gas. It also just felt great to get out on our own. There’s something about having your own car and being in control of the itinerary that feels really good, and this trip made us feel very capable an in touch with our environment outside Dubrovnik. The world got a little bit smaller – which is kind of the point, no?