Kotor in pictures – part 1

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Budva, Montenegro

After our full group reconvened on the bus, we made our way to Budva.  Budva is supposedly the place that the casino from Casino Royale is located but from my understanding, it’s not true. That being said, you will find a Casino Royale there in Budva that uses the movie as its claim to fame. That being said, we pulled up to Budva and it was by far one of the most interesting cities I’ve seen so far.

The city has a lot of money from Russia and you can see the influence from the money in the architecture which proves to be a crazy contrast to the rest of the city. You have the standard Old Town which contains old cobble stone roads and stone buildings surrounded by the wall and water. Then there are super modern buildings and in between you’ll find buildings that look like they came right out of the 80s.

Our bus parked by a giant building that looked like it belonged in Miami Beach in the 80s and then we began walking along the water to Old Town.  Our guide recommended that we eat in Budva because there were more options. Along the coastline are a bunch of restaurants that you can check out and look out over the coast from the decks. There were definitely significantly more options around Budva than in Kotor. I think with it being more of a destination for people with money, the holiday season doesn’t affect the businesses as much and things are actually open during the winter season.

Most of the tour group decided to go grab food and I decided to head straight for Old Town. I wanted to make sure I could do all my tourist things before sitting down to eat, and I knew that I could always just buy food and eat it on the go. I wandered Old Town and to be honest, it was actually significantly smaller than Kotor and so I was done with it after about 20 minutes. I even climbed the wall and looked out over the coastline and contemplated life, or at least I pretended to but really my stomach was starting to grumble and I needed to get food.

So I started back toward the restaurants that the guide had recommended and decided to stop at a seafood place. I walked into the restaurant and immediately turned around and walked out. The instant you walked in there, you could feel the cigarette smoke consume you and I personally do not do well with smoke. So I decided to check out a few more restaurants along the water but their menus weren’t interesting or they weren’t open. I eventually found myself inside of the gates of Old Town again and I saw an Italian restaurant that sounded delicious so I went there and walked in, only to turn back around again because yet again, people could smoke inside.

I ended up leaving Old Town and walking to a few of the hotels on the other side of the wall in search of a grocery store and/or a hotel with a restaurant that wouldn’t have people smoking inside.  Sadly enough, all the hotels allowed smoking where the restaurants are and when I finally stumbled up on a grocery store, they didn’t have any prepackaged foods that I could grab and go.  So I was without food after about an hour of hunting.

So I went back to Old Town, found a pizza stand and grabbed a slice of folded up pizza (also known as a pizza wrap) and made my way back to the coastline.

To be honest, there isn’t much to see in Budva.  I’m sure it’s a beautiful city but it didn’t feel that great to me. While it was super interesting architecturally, it wasn’t that eventful for me. I think that most people actually go there to gamble more so than anything else, but we obviously didn’t have enough time for that. I eventually, found myself at a little market where I roamed the stands and then eventually made my way back to the bus to get ready for the drive back to Dubrovnik.

Thoughts – RBF

Recently I was told that I have the worst case of RBF. Yes.  I have a mean face when I am just staring blankly into the world with zero thoughts. I think I get this from my mom. And, frankly, I am 100% okay with this. I don’t need to look overly friendly and approachable all the time do I?

The friend that told me this was driving by me as I was walking down the street.  And, this is actually the second time that this has happened. The first time, I had a friend walk by me on the street and I looked him dead in the eyes and immediately heard “wowwwwww”.  Only to realize that we were friends and I had just given the rudest look to someone I knew. To be honest, when we made eye contact – there was no part of me that processed who he was or what I was seeing.

You see, over the years of living in a big city, I’ve learned to zone out when I walk. I can make eye contact with every person I walk by but this does not mean that I process who I see or what I am seeing around me. I can’t help it if I look mean and unapproachable when I walk, but it keeps people from talking to me.  I don’t think I necessarily do it on purpose but I do know that when I am in my own head and walking, my eyes go dead. It is like there is nothing going on in my head and it’s usually because I am too lost in thought.

Or, sometimes, I am legitimately blank. Walking is therapeutic to me and helps me decompress from my day even if it is just for a few minutes. I use it as a time to focus on nothing and let the music take over all my thoughts but not in the sense that I think about what I’m listening to but rather it drowns out all my thoughts and I go blank. I think about nothing, I don’t day dream, I don’t process anything and it’s those few minutes where I can just exist. Nothing worries me, nothing bothers me, I’m not happy and I’m not sad. I know it sounds strange, but I love it.

I love looking off into the distance and not necessarily processing what I see. It helps rejuvenate me and let my mind just clear itself for a bit.

I feel like my mind is in a constant state of thinking and overthinking and then overthinking what I’ve already over thought. Does that make sense? No, but it makes sense to me. I dream so much about what could be, how else I could have responded to something, how I could have reacted. I have a bad case of would have, could have, should have. So when I zone out while I’m walking, it’s my chance to not experience the would have, could have, should have syndrome.

I gladly embrace my RBF all day if it means that for a few minutes a day, I can get some solitude and just exist outside of my head.

Kotor, the other side of the wall

After leaving the gates of Old Town, I made my way to the docks where all the boats were.  I wanted to see the water, see the rest of the city and stare back at Old Town from a different perspective. The docks of Kotor looked out into the water and the surrounding mountains and after the rain, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  There were some clouds still around just chilling around the mountains, still trying to censure things like it was their job. The sun was shining and reflecting off of the water and it was absolutely beautiful.

When I stood on the dock and turned back around to look at Old Town, I could see the church in the distance just overlooking all of Kotor as if it was taunting me for being too terrified and clumsy to walk up the rain covered steps.  Regardless it was still beautiful.

I took some time at the dock then started walking along the side of the road and eventually ended up at a park near where our bus was parked.  I stood there and took in the sights around me.  Kotor is small, and from what I could tell, not a lot going on while we were there.  Our bus was parked near a shopping mall which seemed to be the most modern and largest building around.  Otherwise, everything else was relatively small and it looked like you could walk from one side of Kotor to the other in just a few minutes.

I hung out at the park for a bit, people watching, mountain watching and then just overall staring off into the world and being so grateful that I had found this random tour last minute.

When it was time to head back to the bus, I crossed the street and made my way to the bus pass the canal.  Honestly, I think that this was actually a moat that was built around Old Town to help protect it but the water was so unbelievable reflective and green.  You could make out all the intricate details of the mountains in the reflection in the water, and it was beautiful.  Especially with the slightly overcast skies after the rain. I stood there for a bit, stared at the taunting church in the mountain and then made my way to to the bus where we ended up waiting an extra half an hour because part of our group didn’t realize that we were supposed to meet at 1215 and not 1250…

Next stop: Budva.

Kotor – Old Town – Wandering on my own

After our guided tour, we had about an hour left over to wander our on own.  So I thought that this was the best time to go find magnets for my mom and then actually let myself get lost in Kotor.  But there was one thing I absolutely needed to do before I could go on a hunt for a magnet worthy of my mother.

There were stairs along the backside of Old Town that led up the mountain to a church.  We were told that it was about a 20 minute walk up the stairs and you can get a full view of the entire city out to the water from there.  According to all the guides, this was the best view of Kotor that you could get. That being said, we were also advised not to actually do this walk because the stairs get super slippery in the rain and since it had been raining nonstop for a few hours, it would be super dangerous.

As someone who has been living in Seattle, I thought that this warning did not apply to me. So I started walking toward the back of Old Town until I found the start of the stairs up the side of the mountain.

As a Seattle-ite, I thought that I was in the proper shoes for rain and cobblestone steps. I thought that I have plenty of experience walking in the rain. I am careful.

These, in retrospect, are all stupid thoughts.  I started up the stairs which I quickly realized did not have any banisters or anything to hold onto.  I also quickly realized that there was no one around. And by no one, I legitimately mean no one.  No one else had tried to climb the stairs, no one else was a the top of the mountain, I couldn’t see anyone at the church and there was no one behind me. But instead, I continued on my journey up the stairs.  I managed to get up to about 20 steps when I realized that uneven cobblestone steps really were not a good thing to be climbing when they were slippery.  So I finally had some common sense and decided to turn around and start back down to go wander Old Town.

And then I fell. I slid down about 5 steps on my butt and managed to pop up immediately after. It was like those moments when I would go snowboarding and you slide for such a long period of time that you can actually get your feet back underneath you and pop back up. It was amazing and I wish someone could have seen it. Actually no. I take that back. I am so happy no one saw me slide down the stairs.

I managed to get down the rest of the steps without any issues except my bruised ego, my soaked pants and a few scrapes on the heels of my hands.

I continued on my journey around Old Town, walking very cautiously and being terrified of slipping on anything else the rest of the time that I was wandering around. I’m pretty sure people who walked by me thought that I was being a bit overly cautious on where I was stepping but it was better to be cautious that sitting down in a puddle which would have been the second time that day.

I eventually found myself a trinket shop, one of the few that were actually open, and purchased a magnet for my mom.  After that, I decided it was time to leave Old Town and check out the rest of Kotor before heading back to the bus.

Kotor – Old Town, guided tour

After leaving Our Lady of the Rocks, we made our way to Kotor. We had been driving for quite a few hours at this point so it was almost time for food but the guide suggested we wait until Budva before we eat since there were more options there. So we stood under the awning of a building waiting for our giant charter bus to come and grab us, then we reloaded onto the bus and headed out toward Kotor. The first part of the time that we had in Kotor was going to be a guided tour around Old Town.  As you’re probably aware, more cities have some form of an Old Town. They eventually all start to look and feel the same but it’s cool.

We parked our charter bus, learned the exact location of where we would be picked up and then made our way as a giant group to Old Town. There we received giant paper maps that had to be immediately packed into our bags because they were going to be useless in pouring rain and began our tour. The guide was great because he was able to provide lots of information on the history of Kotor and the architecture.  In addition, he knew all the little shops, churches and buildings we could hide in for a bit to try and get out of the rain for just a second. I have to admit, I didn’t really enjoy the tour because it was hard to hear with the rain, and we were all soaked.  I wanted to get lost in Old Town on my own and wander.  We did check out some really cool churches but what was interesting is that none of them were heated and it was about definitely less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside so I was surprised that there were people hanging out in the churches without heaters.  Granted, they did all seem very bundled up so they were probably toasty and the fact that they weren’t soaked to the skin probably helped out the situation.

The overall guided tour would have been great had the weather been better.  I think I would have been able to process and learn a lot more information regarding Old Town and Kotor but it’s okay. He tried his best. He did show us some really great buildings plus the giant Christmas tree in the middle of Old Town.  He also provided some great insights on where we should check out when we were done with the guided portion of the tour.

After we were done with our tour, we ended up on the top of some stairs looking out over the boats parked on the other side of the wall.  By this point, the weather was clearing up, the sun was starting to come out and the rain was finally stopping.  We had about another hour to hang out and explore the rest of Kotor on our own so I started wandering around.

Adulthood – Letting go

Recently I was told some news that rocked me to my core. Not in the same way that someone passing has but in a different way. That night, I felt physically ill and attributed it to eating a bad burger.  I couldn’t sleep, I remember spending that entire night tossing and turning in my bed feeling waves of nausea and thinking that it was the burger.  Or at least, that’s what I tried to convince myself that it was but let’s be honest – I have an iron stomach. Over the next few days, I felt queasy on and off, I lost my appetite and I was hardly sleeping.

To be honest, I don’t think it was the food. In fact I know it wasn’t the food.

I think it was the realization that something I had invested so much of myself in was officially over. But not in the sense that something terrible happened but in the sense that I had to officially let go. I wasn’t ready to let go and I think there was some part of me that thought I would get a second chance. That everything would fall into place, sacrifices and compromises would be made and second chances would turn into less of a chance but rather something permanent. It was just under a year of thinking that if I said and did all the right things, everything would work out in my favor and I would come out on top.

But that didn’t happen and I became physically ill. I’ll never admit it to anyone that I think that this was it.  This was supposed to be the forever because I had never felt this way before. This was the only thing I could focus on for the last two years and it was all I wanted. Even when I thought I could logically tell myself no, everything else in me said yes and to continue. I remember trying so hard to talk myself out of it in the early days, but I couldn’t stop myself.  And now, it’s over.

This is only the third time in my entire life that my heart has physically hurt in relation to something external to me. The first two times were when people in my life passed away and this time was when I realized that what I wanted is something I can’t have.

I still play the conversation over and over in my head, I can feel the heat in my face when I think back to hearing the words. I remember feeling my stomach drop when the words settled in.  I remember how quickly I walked away to avoid the tears. But there’s nothing I can do but move forward. It wasn’t meant to be. And if it was, maybe another time that is not now.

To be honest, this is the closest I think I’ve ever been to being in love. And now, I suppose in the best cliche possible, if I love something, I need to let it go.  If it’s meant to be, it’ll come back.

So here it is. I am letting you go. Officially. Good-bye.

Our Lady of the Rocks – Montenegro

It was a bit of a drive from the unincorporated land between Croatia and Montenegro to get to Our Lady of the Rocks.  Our tour guide was great because he was providing little tidbits of information to us as we were driving so it kept the drive pretty interesting.  For example, did you know that Montenegro actually uses the Euro as its main currency but it is not actually a part of the EU but apparently, they were given permission to use the Euro as their main currency because the EU is trying to get Montenegro to join.  I don’t know if this is actually true, but it’s interesting to think about.  Especially given that Montenegro is known for having a heavy influence of money from the Russians and the Middle East. I think Casino Royale was supposed to be set in Montenegro. Regardless, the other interesting thing that I learned on the drive is that Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia all speak different languages but in all reality they’re very similar languages because they were derived from the same base language after Yugoslavia stopped existing as one kingdom.  So the tour guide was bragging that he technically knew 7 languages, but they all sounded essentially the same minus a few words.

As we continued our drive, we eventually came upon the Bay of Kotor. Before we actually stopped in the city of Kotor, we were going to make a stop at an island.  We drove along the coast line of the bay and as we pulled into into the actual bay, we saw the island we would be visiting.  To be honest, if you missed this island, you’d be blind.

In the very center of this bay is an island called Our Lady of the Rocks.  There is a myth behind it that many, many years ago some seamen found an icon or a picture of Madonna and Child in the middle of the water and started throwing rocks at that location every time they made it home safely. Eventually all of these rocks turned into an island.  Now there is a building that is a church standing in the middle of the island, a small building for a bathroom and then just same walkways where you can stand and look out into the bay.  There’s really nothing else out there but it’s beautiful.  The church stands out against the mountains, the water and the green of the trees because the dome of the church is almost a robin’s egg blue.

The day that we were going, it was raining so everything was gray and dark except for the dome of the church that seemed to catch all of the light that had somehow found a way to break through the clouds.  It was surreal.

We parked our bus and shuffled off to our water taxi which was a tiny boat that, honestly, should not have held as many people as it did.  We paid our 5 Euros and then made our way across the water to the small dock at the island.  We had about 30 minutes to walk the island, check out the church and enjoy the scenery.  Considering the fact that it was raining, it was not the most pleasant of experiences but it was still absolutely breathtaking.

I walked from one edge of the island to the other and could not believe how absolutely picturesque it was even though it was pouring rain.  The bay rivals almost any other natural beauty I’ve seen like Milford Sound and Iceland. Standing in the middle of the island, in the center of the Bay, I felt like I had the entire bay to myself.  Yes, I was standing on this island with the rest of my tour group but given that we were a small group, I had moments where I could stand on the edge by myself and hear nothing but the sound of the rain drops hitting the puddles around me.

After taking an absurd amount of photos, I headed into the Church and checked out some of the many paintings that were inside then it was time to make our way back to the boat and head onto Kotor.

Dubrovnik to Montenegro

Remember when I said I don’t like doing tours? Well, I don’t but I will do them if provides me new opportunities to visit places outside of a main city. In this case, it was a tour for me to leave Dubrovnik and Croatia. I decided to book a tour to go check out a few cities in Montenegro. I was so excited that I had found this tour because it was only offered a few days a week and luckily, it happened to be the time that I was in Dubrovnik so I was going to go check it out.

I was picked up from the front of my hotel at 730AM and then we collected the rest of the tour group and proceeded on our way south.  We eventually ended up at the border between Croatia and Montenegro.

Our tour guide told us that sometimes in the peak season, people can wait up to 6 hours to get across the border but luckily we only had to wait about 30 minutes.  It’s actually an interesting process because we had to give our passports to the guide and they would take it to the border patrol then magically come back to us with them stamped and ready to go.  We eventually made it through the border and then stopped at a gas station so that people could grab snacks and use the restroom before we started our way into Montenegro.

It was actually really interesting because the place where the gas station was located was actually in basically some unincorporated land between Croatia and Montenegro but it was past the border patrol of Montenegro which is interesting because technically the border was still actually a few minutes south of the border patrol. Regardless, this place was beautiful because it was in the middle of the mountains and there was this beautiful fog that had rolled through just around the middle of the mountains so you could see things over the fog and just underneath it but it was like the fog decided to censor just a bit of the landscape.

When the snacks were purchased, bathrooms were visited, and people got back on the bus – we began making our way into Montenegro.  First stop, Our Lady of the Rocks in Kotor Bay.

Driving into Dubrovnik

Once I grabbed my Uber, we drove down the one and only road that goes rom the airport directly to Dubrovnik.  Yes, one and only main road.  Apparently in the summer season, it can get ridiculous because if there’s an accident or anything then it can cause the entire route to be backed up. But the amazing thing about this road is that as you’re driving into Dubrovnik, it is along the coastline and eventually as you get close to Old Town, there’s a great extra shoulder that you can pull into to see Old Town from the view that you see in Game of Thrones.  I was so lucky because my Uber driver was super nice and gave me some backstories on the city and pulled aside so I could jump out of the car to take a picture of Old Town that you typically wouldn’t get.

Note: If you plan on getting this view, the view point is actually on the side of the road leaving Dubrovnik. So if you plan on trying to get that photo, you’ll either need to do it when you leave or just be cautious of traffic.

I have to admit that while I thought the flight into Dubrovnik was out of this world, driving there and actually getting to see everything up close as we drove by, it was infinitely more beautiful that I thought it was going to be.

We eventually pulled up to my hotel and I realized just how far away I was from Old Town and the main city center but it was okay because once I got into my hotel, the view of the bay that I was staying in was unbelievable.  I checked into my room and then made my way to the room where I saw that I had a nice view of the bay plus my own little balcony. It would have been a great place to chill but the balconies were all connected so I did feel a little weird having my door open and sitting out door when others were out there too.

After I settled into my room, I decided to go on an adventure to go find some food.  According to Google Maps there were some restaurants around and at the base of the hotel so I decided to adventure out.  There were some stairs down the side of the hotel that eventually led to the water and the main area of the bay. I started down the walking path and realized that since I was there in the middle of the standard holiday season, all of the restaurants that were supposed to be open were not.  The only things available were bars where people were smoking and all I wanted was food.  So I walked all the way down the walking path to the main road, found no food and had to make my way back to the hotel and back up the stairs.

I ended up ordering some room service and settling into my room for the night. I had a tour planned the next day that would be grabbing me at 730AM so I decided it was best to get as much rest as I possibly could.