Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Kotor, Montenegro (MNE)

We left Dubrovnik quietly early in the morning; our bikes were unscathed, even though they were parked for 3 days in a free public parking lot accessible to all. On the way south on the main road, I kept looking back in the rear mirror to catch a last glimpse of Dubrovnik. The roads in Croatia are in great shape. I am now used to the way the signage is arranged but before I knew it we were at the border with Montenegro.
The international sign for Montenegro is MNE and MNE is listed on all car license plates. The currency in MNE is the Euro, which is a sure indication that MNE is part of the EU. We had some extra paper work to do to get into MNE since Stefan Knopf did not add MNE to the insurance papers we bought through him. The border guards were very thorough but it was painless. We were able to buy the needed Insurance at the border for 10 Euros and the coverage is good for one month.
As always, there is a change in appearance when crossing a border in Europe. MNE has a much more Slavic look than I thought. The former Russian influence is strongly visible. MNE is very mountainous with few areas for anything that needs flat ground. The coast offers some respite in spots but then all of this flat space is occupied by housing. MNE seems crowded. The one road along the coast is heavily trafficked and the speed limit of 50 KM is strictly enforced. Progress is slow. Many times I was in 1st gear, crawling through city streets. I bought a map of the county as soon as we crossed the border and it helped me get my bearings quickly. Having a baptism on the use of Balkan signage in previous countries, I understood the directions just fine. Before long we came to the town of Kotor, a scenic site and officially marked as such on the map. Kotor is a UNESCO site because of the well preserved Old Town and the many stone walls protecting the city from invaders from all sides.
Cruise ships stop right at the door step of this old MNE town. I mean it literally, the cruise ships dock not more than 200 yards from the entrance to the Old Town. There is no parking to speak of. The only main road along the coast passes between the docking area and the entrance to the Old Town, which is off limits to any motorized traffic. We had planned of stopping here but needed to find a hotel although none were visible. We understood immediately that there is just not enough room for hotels, no room for anything, really.
We found a coffee shop a bit out of town and stopped to address our predicament. We wanted to stop for the day especially since we had been riding in a heavy down pour for the previous hour and were soaking wet. I remembered the Russian saying: “What to do?” With the help of locals we found out that there is a hotel inside the old town and that it might be possible to even park our bikes inside Old Town Kotor if the hotel had room. After we parked our bikes near a bench in front of the main gate, with Carol sitting nearby to watch our belongings, I walked into town and yes, for 50 Euros, incl. breakfast we had a room for the night. Getting our motorcycles into town was a bit tricky since no motorized vehicles are allowed inside the ancient walls. The hotel had a storage facility for our bikes but getting into town, along the very narrow, very slick cobblestone streets gave me a challenge. Pushing the heavy bike was out of the question, leaving them unprotected outside the old city walls was no option either. So, like so many times in my life, I do what seems the most logical. We rode the bikes to the hotel. Now that we were at the storage spot I found out that there was no way to get our bikes up this high curb into the room. Lucky for us there was space in front of the storage facility and we just hoped nobody would mess with our transportation.
The town of Kotor is not very large and was originally set up in a triangle. Kotor is built against a very steep cliff wall, surrounded by the sea on one side, and a large river on the third side. It has a natural protection from 2 sides and the 3rd side of the triangle is the cliff wall. The protection of the cliff wall was further enhanced by high, defensive walls, which surround the town completely even at sea level. Kotor is a formidable fortress yet feels like a smallish settlement.
While idling away the hours inside and outside of town, we saw other bikers with the same predicament we were in a few hours before. Where do you park your bike? How do you find a hotel? How do you manage to visit? From the cruise ships the visit to Kotor is easy. Just walk in. With a bike or a car it is not a very logically set up. There is just not enough room for anything too touristy. Enterprising folks used towns nearby to set up hotels but the traffic and distances makes this cumbersome. We helped one U.S. couple and a young German rider to find the way to ‘our’ hotel but since they were on a very tight budget they decided against staying and paying 50 Euros for one night. The couple, Elizabeth and Jason from NYC,
had just married and were on a one year tour around the world, or as far as they could get in time and/or money. They were riding 2 up on an R 80 BMW. Daniel, the young man from Zwickau, Germany rode a brand new GS 800. We had a coffee together and shared some info but they soon needed to leave since it was getting dark and the sky clouded over, again, too.
Carol and I just walked the small town, walked through every conceivable alley since we had time. Dinner was a pizza for me, spaghetti for Carol.


Michelle said...

Glad you're seeing Croatia. SOudns like you found a bunch of really great places to see. I've gotten 3 post cards to date. Each one more interesting than the next. Thank you. Love'd the Lipizzaners! Love your Blog too. Now go have more fun. Love you!

Hans Muellers said...

Hi Michelle,
The Lipizzaner Horses are not as huge as your horse is, but they are the royalty of the horse family.