This morning we boarded the bus at 8:30 and drove about an hour up the coast to visit Our Lady of the Rocks. This is a manmade island where they built a small church. It is in a scenic location, but I failed to see why it has become such a tourist attraction. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people a day take a boat out to tour this site. It was a pleasant boat ride and it was a cute little church. From there we drove on to the town of Kotor which is at the end of a deep bay. Today there were three large cruise ships that were unloading hordes of people in to the town. The big attraction is the “old town” which is a walled city that dates back hundreds of years. There were a number of squares with streets no wider than three or four feet leading to the next square. Even a horse drawn wagon couldn’t navigate these narrow passages. We toured the town, had a group lunch, and then had an hour on our own to explore. I used my time to sample several gelato stands. I declared the stand in the main square had the best offerings and the best prices. My favorite flavor was cheesecake which narrowly beat out Black Forest. Tonight we were left on our own to try local restaurants. We found a nice little place less than 100 meters down the street, and Gord and Marlene from Windsor, Ontario joined us for dinner. Tomorrow we leave Montenegro and return to Croatia. Lois and I are happy about that because in Montenegro people can smoke virtually anywhere.
Now Lois writing
This is an interesting part of the world to travel in. We now have 3 different currencies in our wallets: US dollars, Euros (for Montenegro, which is not yet a part of the EU) and Croatian Kunas (even though that country is a part of the EU). It is confusing the keep track of how much things are really costing us – and we are math majors! Using a credit card is simpler, but that is not always an option.
Fortunately, kids in both countries are taught English from an early age, so we don’t have much trouble communicating. Our two guides on Monday were speaking to each other in a language we didn’t understand, so I asked them which they were using. Our main Croatian guide is named Juge, and we had one from Montenegro names Eniko. Each was talking in her own native tongue, and they said that they had no trouble understanding the other. Both languages are southern Slavic, and are quite similar. All European kids (and most adults) know English, plus at least one or two other languages. They have to, since the countries are so small in area that tourism brings everyone together. For example, today we chatted with a British couple who took a 3 day vacation to Montenegro, as well as a couple from Munich who hopped on a plane for 1 hour from Germany. As Americans, we are used to being able to drive for days and still have the same language and basic customs. Not so in Europe!
Tourism is the main industry here, and although it is nearing the end of the season, the main sights are super-crowded. Our group is larger than we would prefer (26), but at least we have wireless listening devices, so our guides can speak relatively quietly and we can all hear every word. As we have found in other locations around the world, Chinese tourists come in large groups, are pushy and rude, and never really look at anything since they are so busy taking selfies. The weather now is really nice – apparently it is usually colder and rainy – so it seems like a nice time to come to this part of the Mediterranean coast. One thing I find surprising is the number of school age kids who are around, though one set of British parents told me that their kids have this week off for “Fall Break”.
As John mentioned, we visited the walled city of Kotor, which lies at the head of a huge bay off the Adriatic. It was jammed! There are several large plazas (and a whole lot of churches), but most of the streets are so narrow that a vehicle would not be able to pass. So everyone is walking. And a lot of people are smoking. We find it surprising that there are still so many smokers (nobody in our group smokes), since most other countries have free health care. For some reason, the governments have not yet figured out that they could probably get more money in taxes if they raised the price of cigarettes, and lower the cost of health care if people gave up the habit. Or maybe they just want people to die younger?
The Bay of Kotor is very large (big enough for large cruise ships up to 1000 feet long), and the water seems to be quite clean. We saw evidence of mussel and oyster trapping, but there is no commercial fishing – only fishing for sport. We saw quite a few folks swimming too; there are a few small sandy beaches, but mostly people were heading into the water from the rocks or from gravel clearings. Even though I got kind of warm, I was not tempted to take a dip.
On the return bus ride back to our hotel in Igali, a few of us wanted a bit more exercise, so we were dropped off near the marina in an adjacent town called Herceg Novi. From there we walked back to our hotel via a paved promenade. They told us it was 2 miles, but it seemed longer than that, since we first had to drop down to the level of the sea (at least 100 stone steps), and we were in some intense afternoon sunshine for most of the time. At least I felt like I had earned dinner, which was not included in the program that night.