The Overwhelming Beauty of Kotor Bay
There’s something extraordinarily surreal about traveling with a head cold– the brain-fog adds a layer of disconnect, which numbs out certain things while emphasizing others.
I was sick as can be by the time I arrived in Kotor, but I was determined to explore this pretty city and the surrounding area. I’d booked additional nights there anyway, so I would have time to rest, recuperate, and then explore.
But despite my halfhearted attempts at rest and a slew of drugs from a Montenegrin pharmacy, I never managed to shake my cold.
It probably didn’t help that after a couple of days, I got so bored in my hostel that I decided to go out exploring anyway.
A head cold, apparently, makes a busy old town seem empty. Though I was physically aware of the intense tour-group-and-cruise-ship crowds flowing relentlessly through the streets, I felt weirdly disconnected from people, and wandered the backstreets in a half-dazed reverie. It was a small joy to get completely lost and somehow reorient myself– Kotor is perfect for this. It doesn’t hurt that the mountains loom gracefully over the city, offering an easy reference point for the directionally challenged (like myself).
I attempted to climb to the top of Kotor’s fortress on a sweltering day, craving the storied view and some sort of goal-oriented task, though I quickly realized that I wasn’t carrying enough water. I climbed and climbed and climbed and every step hit me smack-dab with unbelievable views– this is the best place to go to see exactly how heart-thumpingly beautiful Kotor is.
But I ran out of water before the top, and the beating sun combined with my lingering cold led me to make the decision to turn back before I reached the tip-top. I dislike giving up, but I also dislike fainting on tall fortresses, so I felt confident in my decision.
After a few days, my cold hadn’t abated at all. I decided to valiantly (or foolishly) forge ahead with my plan to take day trips to the other towns on the Bay of Kotor. On the recommendation of friends in my hostel, I first set off for Herceg Novi, a little town nearly at the edge of the bay.
The bus ride from Kotor to Herceg Novi was stunning on its own: I sat with my nose smushed against the glass window, trying to breathe in all the wild views of the Kotor fjords.
I arrived in Herceg Novi with the sun shining and the exceptional beauty of this little town on full display. The red-roofed houses and white-stone walkways were surrounded by blue, from the cerulean waters to the delicate cyan of the sky to the bold navy mountains.
It was so ridiculously marvelous, and unlike Kotor, it wasn’t swarmed with tourists. I climbed the town’s fortress and spun in circles, trying to take in as much as I could. My head was still pounding with illness, but I was so HAPPY just wandering around quiet churches and flower-draped walls that I barely noticed the lingering cold.
I spend the following half-day in Perast, which is smaller than Herceg Novi but just as scenic.
I gaped as I strolled along the water at the natural wonder of the bay. Though it was possible to take a water taxi to the tiny islands off the banks of Perast , I decided to give into my spinning head and eat an ice cream cone by the shore instead.
Both of these towns looked spectacular; my fuzzy sick memories are of sunlight and sparkling water and looming mountains. It was a salve for my sickness.
Being sick somehow let me focus on the overwhelming beauty of Kotor and Herceg Novi and Perast with a strange tunnel-vision intensity. My recollections are quiet and lovely.