вторник, 5 ноября 2013 г.

Family Holidays: Montenegro, Dobrota, Kotor (August 2013)

Author: Katherine Shalaeva (Latvia)

Over the years I’ve heard many things about Montenegro. It had become such a precious stone in my ‘dream collection’, a country I absolutely had to visit at least once in my lifetime. Now, I have captured forever the images of the beautiful rocks and the azure sea.

Montenegro fully met my dreams and expectations. Moreover, this is the first place which has me wanting not only to visit again but to stay in the same apartment in the same town, and once again to immerse myself in the amazing beauty and quietness of the bay of Kotor. 

While planning our trip I came across to a quotation by George Gordon Byron: "When the pearls of nature were sown, on this soil an overflowing handful was gathered. The most beautiful contact between the earth and sea took place at the Montenegrin littoral".
That really captures it perfectly... Pearls of Nature…
Mountains - sea – mountains! – a village - history - sweet figs - mussels in clear water... 

OK! So let me tell you about our holiday with the kids… We have a big family with four kids of different ages: 6, 12, 17 and 18.
I must admit that Dobrota, where we stayed, as well as the whole Bay of Kotor, is more suitable for kids who can at least walk a little ways and be a bit independent from their parents. There are no white sandy beaches for crawling babies where they can build sand castles.
There are small pebbly beaches where you have to clamber over some rocks to get into the sea (special shoes for protection could be quite useful here!). In some places you can access the sea from the concrete jetty where you can rent sun chairs or just lie on towels, which is what we ended up doing, finally.
To go down to the water you can use stone steps or a metal ladder, like in the swimming pool. However, our kids didn’t use these, preferring to jump straight into the clear water – obviously that was more fun :). 

If you want a good beach and a little more activity and bustle then I’d advise you to choose other towns in Montenegro on the coast (not in the bay).
One day we visited a couple of these kinds of towns: Budva and Sveti Stefan. Although the towns were nice enough we didn’t particularly like it there. The beaches in these towns were nice and wide with big waves, but there were a lot of people, including people selling things on the beach and so it was noisy and a bit dirty. These places didn’t have the Montenegrin charm and comfort that we enjoyed in Dobrota.

Here are a few photos from beautiful places in Budva and Sv.Stefan. They are more for those who like to party, rather than for people like us who were on a family holiday; we were happy to return to the Bay of Kotor.

 Dobrota is a small town located just outside of Kotor, the historical and cultural center of Kotor Bay. In the evenings we would take a 30-40 minute stroll along the coast from our apartment, sometimes stopping on the way at one of the numerous local restaurants. The prices are reasonable here, perhaps even a little bit cheaper than in the Western Europe or Moscow.
A few words about the place where we stayed - I searched for a hotel or apartment according to the following criteria:

- Number of beds (we were a party of six: 2 adults and 4 children)
- Beautiful scenery
- Proximity to the sea
- Access to a swimming pool

It was fairly easy to find accommodation in a beautiful environment but a little more challenging to find somewhere in Montenegro which had a swimming pool (they are quite unpopular, it seems). Neither the hotels or the apartments seemed to have pools but I finally found a place that met all my criteria - Coral Apartments (GPS-coordinates: N: 42,46097, E: 18,76508).
When we arrived we were not disappointed by the apartments. It was a 5-storey building up on a hill, 50m from the sea. The building is new with parking in front of the entrance and a pool in the courtyard. 

The rooms were done in an old English style with beautiful dark wood furniture, a plasma TV in a picture frame on the wall, and it was clean and well-presented throughout. A few practical details: there is a dishwasher, large fridge, microwave, oven, air conditioning, two toilets, washing machine, and WiFI. Besides a spacious living room with a sofa and two folding chairs, the apartment has two bedrooms: one master bedroom with a king-size bed and the other one for kids with one double and one single bed.  

As I mentioned before, in the courtyard there is a wonderful swimming pool with sun loungers around.

A safety note for parents with small kids: the pool is deep so you have to be very careful with kids and make sure they’re wearing swim vests or inflatable armbands for safety in the water. The water in the pool is heated and is nice and warm and clean. Since there are not that many apartments in the building the pool was never crowded. Most of the time we were had it to ourselves and so we could play water polo and dive in without disturbing anyone.
About the food. The nearest general food store is within a 10 minute walk and there is a bakery even closer where you can buy delicious pastries.
If you drive or take a taxi (which is very cheap here!) towards Kotor you can find a lot of supermarkets and shops.
We got used to our nearest shop where there was always a choice of fresh meat, delicious cheese, etc. I would recommend that you don’t buy your fruits and vegetables here though, as there is a small market in Kotor, near the Old Town, which has a huge selection of delicious peaches, watermelons, melons, tomatoes, sweet peppers. You can really taste the difference in these fruits and vegetables! It is definitely worth driving to the market in the morning and buying fresh produce there! Very tasty and inexpensive!
As well as home grown fruits you can also buy olive oil and wine from the locals, which is even cheaper and fresher than at the market.

The kitchen in the apartment is very well equipped which is, of course, convenient when traveling with kids. We mainly cooked and prepared food ourselves: fresh salads, soups, baked vegetables, meat, fish or shrimps. It was lovely!

One thing I must mention: the concrete jetty where we sunbathed had a lot of mussels under the water. Twice we picked them and enjoyed a fresh seafood dinner: mussels boiled in white wine sauce. What a treat!

Fans of fishing can fish from the shore or from the small piers.
It is beautiful under the water and kids will enjoy the opportunity to go snorkeling so don’t forget your mask.
The water here is clear and our 6-year-old daughter tried snorkeling and got so excited that every day she begged to go swimming with a mask to "watch fishes" :). 

Lastly, a few facts about the culture and history of this place:
It might seem unbelievable but in this corner of the earth the first settlements appeared in the III century BC. From 168 BC it was under Roman rule but after the Roman Empire fell in 476 BC it became ruled by Byzantium. This was when the first mention of Kotor can be seen in historical documents.

Visiting the old town and climbing its walls is a must, especially so you can enjoy the stunning views! 

For nearly 400 years Kotor was a part of the province of the Republic of Venice. These four centuries had a great influence on the appearance of the place as it looks very much like a typical Venetian town. 

Taking a walk through the narrow streets of old Kotor is a great pleasure for both adults and children! Visit the churches and souvenir shops, listen to street musicians and, of course, stop in a restaurant on one of the squares. They serve fresh fish on the grill, homemade wine and all sorts of local goodies – it was a real reward for our efforts and all our walking!

I always say that coming away with a good impression after a visit to a new country depends on the hospitality of the local people - Montenegrins are friendly and hearty.

Besides visiting Kotor, it is very interesting to take a drive on the serpentine along the Bay of Kotor in the direction of Croatia and, if you have time (about 1.5 hours), to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Along the way you will be amazed by the incredibly beautiful scenery, and Dubrovnik is well worth a separate review of its own.

If you just want to relax after walking around the town and enjoy the quiet evening you can retire to sit on the balcony overlooking the sea. From here you can watch the sunset and then the bright stars in the dark southern sky.

Finally, we discovered this great country for ourselves and we would very much like to go back…

I also wish you new discoveries!

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