That title is so much drama, but it’s genuinely how I feel. Kotor was brilliant and romantic and empowering and life-giving.
After saying goodbye to Crystal that morning in Podgorica, I got on a bus to Kotor. I could probably write an entire essay on the bus ride alone. It was stunning to see Budva and Sveti Stefan from above and to wind down along the coast. Dazzling. When I arrived in Kotor I followed the adorably vague (but effective) directions to the hostel: walk towards the water, turn right at the yellow house, walk under the stone arch, etc. The hostel was inside the walls of the old city, and it has tied for first (along with Little Big House in Thessaloniki) for my favorite hostel I have ever stayed in. Everything about it was completely charming.
For the first time in two months I was alone and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But I did what I normally do when I travel alone: I wandered. I walked through the old city for a little more than an hour absorbing all that I could. There was a British cruise ship docked in the harbor and so all of those tourists were swarming through the city as I walked, which I got tired of quite quickly. So I left the old city, went to the grocery store, and then found a little place to sit by the bay where I wrote for a while. Everything I saw inspired me.
In the evening, I went out with some people from the hostel and sat on the steps of a pub talking until midnight.
I felt calm and happy and young.
The next morning, I woke up at 7 am and went to hike the mountain behind the city. There is a castle part way up and behind that the ancient road that zig-zags up and over the mountain connecting Kotor to other cities. I hiked for 6 hours and it was glorious and empowering. I didn’t encounter many other hikers which I preferred. I did meet two American guys who lived in Albania. They were biking down the trail (which seemed like an impossible thing to do because of how torn up the road is). They were impressed that I was hiking by myself which made me feel kind of cool and a little bit like Cheryl Strayed.
Halfway up the mountain I encountered a little house where a Montenegrin family lived. I stopped there for some tea and a sweet 13-year-old girl who spoke perfect English gave me a colored egg for Orthodox Easter. I talked with the girl for a while, asking her about school and her family. She told me she had learned English from all the tourists that had come by her house her whole life.
When I arrived at the top of the mountain, it felt like a dream. The view was surreal. Kotor bay is gorgeously blue. The surrounding mountains are intimidating and sublime. I could have stayed up there for days. The mountain gave me power. Even the air made me braver.
I came down from the mountain so reluctantly. I smelled terrible, my feet were sore, and my back hurt. But it was the best kind of pain. Soon I will write a love poem to that mountain. I was late coming back so I wolfed down a pizza, checked out of the hostel, and went to the bus station to start the trek back to Kosovo.
I cannot say enough good things about Montenegro. The people, the seaside, the mountains, the views. All of it was overwhelmingly sweet and good. I know I’ll be back soon, if only to make sure it really exists and wasn’t all a dream. It was a perfect few days, a peaceful sabbatical that I didn’t know I needed. I just love the Balkans.
Where I stayed: Old Town Hostel
Best Place I Ate At: Old Winery
Favorite Cafe: If you can count the family’s home on the trail up the mountain, then that.
Favorite Thing I Did: Hiking hiking hiking.