Saturday, June 7, 2014

Montenegro: Our Weekend in Kotor

     I hate to admit it but the best trip, thus far this year, was Dear Husband's doing.  Earlier this year, we learned that RyanAir (our local discount airlines) was offering flights to the capital of Montenegro from an airport only 30 minutes from our house.  He was so adamant that we had to visit this country that he researched apartments and found us a place to stay.  Perhaps he should plan more trips because this one was totally AWESOME!
     Montenegro, part of the former Yugoslavia, means The Black Mountains.  It only became an independent country in 2006 when a whopping 55% of the population voted for independence.  It is a tiny country sandwiched between Albania to the south and Croatia to the north.  Our destination was Kotor Bay and during our 90 minute drive from the airport, we saw not only how spectacular this country was but also how it is fighting to shed its prior communist existence.  Throughout our trip, we saw the most beautiful sights standing right next to unbelievable poverty.  However, I think that we would all agree that the people are eager to welcome you into their country.  They are friendly, they work hard and they are very proud of their heritage.
From the top of the Kotor Fortress...1,400 steps up!
     At the end of Kotor Bay lies the fortified city of Kotor.  At one time, a 4.5km wall surrounded not only the city but the fortress located high above the city.  Immediately, you can understand its former strategic position.  From the fortress high above the town, you could easily see ships making way through the bay.  The historic city is completely encapsulated within the walls.  It is unbelievably pristine...the cobblestone streets look like marble and they glisten each morning after they have been washed.  Stores open early and close late.  It was interesting to take the narrow alleyways only to walk into another wonderful square dotted with restaurants and perhaps a church or museum. 

Rambling through the streets of Kotor

One of the many churches in Kotor

     We dined on local seafood...and squid was the meal of the trip.  We had a wonderful apartment and yet, for the first time, we were not tempted to cook a meal.  We were having too much fun dining outside at casual eateries on plates of fried sardines or squid stuffed with shrimp.  We drank the local wine as the winery is State owned and you found the bottles not only at stores in the village but in every restaurant.
Dear Daughter at the Adriatic
     We took a side trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia which was about 2 hours by car.  Dear Husband and I had tried to visit this town years ago but the war prevented us.  We booked a two hour walking tour of the town and it was truly one of the best experiences of this entire adventure in Europe.  Our guide spoke a lot about the war but what came across most, was his devotion to his city.  We had a wonderful time strolling through the streets trying to avoid the cruise ship tourists.  We found a bar located outside the walls which looked out over the Adriatic and enjoyed a pre-lunch drink.  The clear blue skies and the mesmerizing sea could drain away every ounce of a matter of seconds.  We lunched outside; sampling oysters from the Adriatic and comparing them to oysters from Brittany.  We tried a Croatian white wine and found it similar to our beloved Alsatian Riesling.  We laughed at the border crossing which seemed to take forever even though there were only 7 cars ahead of us.
Dubrovnik, Croatia

We could have stayed at this bar forever!

     It definitely was an adventure...a beautiful, memory inspiring one.  The scenery was spectacular and a bit untamed.  We could already see development moving in and while we wish the best for this tiny country, we hope that it can maintain its peaceful beauty.
Church at Perast - built on a manmade island

     In Dubrovnik, we came across an outdoor food market.  We picked up a small bag of the local treats:  dried figs mixed with candied orange rinds and almonds.  The orange rinds came out to be the clear favorite, so much so that we are making them now at home.  Super easy and really versatile.  Recipe will follow in a few days along with perhaps a recipe for stuffed baby squid...which was TO DIE FOR!
Kotor Bay

     It is warm today in Belgium.  After spending the morning doing outside chores, I hope to dine outside tonight...easy grilled flank steak and sweet potato fries.  I have to be up early tomorrow to go to a large flea market in Waterloo (yes, the sight of the famous battle).  Who knows what treasures I might find.
Squid stuffed with Shrimp...delicious


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