Kotor turned out to be everything I’d hoped: beautiful, friendly, and a great base to explore. We spent the morning of our first full day in Kotor hiking to the top of Kotor’s St. John Fortress. Two access points from the old town to the path up are manned buy locals who exact a fee of around €3pp. Steep stairs and rough, cobblestone paths make the ascent easier than mountaineering, but it’s still 87 stories-worth of climbing! The fortress is entirely in ruins, with occasional small shrines and a little church along the climb and a surprising wealth of wild purple irises and bright yellow wildflowers covering the rocky terrain. We thoroughly enjoyed the climb, but were told it could be hot and crowded in the summer. Thankfully, we had neither of those problems.
At the summit, we explored the ruins of the fortress proper, climbing through window holes and up dead-end stairs. Huge flocks of black birds swooped and swirled, both above and below us. Clouds had gathered, but fortunately rain held off and we had a beautiful view of the bay beyond the red tiled roofs of the old city.
We descended the mountain to exit further south than our entry point, but still within the old city walls, at a spot near Sveti Tripuna (St. Tryphon’s) Cathedral. It seemed the perfect opportunity to visit the cathedral and explore the small museum there. The cathedral is small as cathedrals go and the museum is tiny as well. The museum’s collection is typical of medieval churches, but worth a look and the visit does not take long.
The real pleasure of Kotor is simply being there, exploring the maze of narrow streets, strolling around the harbor, sitting in a café. It’s a luxury to simply have time there. Cruise ships are now docking at Kotor and, while we certainly understood the appeal of this beautiful little city and the right-there dock, it was annoyingly crowded when a ship pulled in and a relief when it sailed away. The old town is already over-supplied with shops selling souvenirs and depressingly-similar restaurants. I imagine it will only get worse as tourism to this beautiful little country increases. [This was a scenario I would soon find to have already played out in neighboring Croatia.]