Reunited with Kotor!

Walking the city wall in Kotor 5
Ever since I visited Kotor briefly many years ago, I have wanted to go back to experience more of this ancient fortified city.

With the city walls crawling up the hillside behind the houses, I decided I had to climb it. And watch the view, of course.

But first things first; parking and finding a place to stay for the night. We parked the car on a big monitored parking lot just outside the city walls. Leaving the luggage in the car, we could easily search for a nice place to sleep. We ended up with a two-bedroom apartment with double beds at D&Sons Apartments, right inside the wall.

Time for some speed sightseeing before heading off to climb the wall. The city was as beautiful as I remembered, and since we were there a bit late in the afternoon, and outside the main tourist season, we also escaped the tourist crowds.

The entrance to the city wall was close by the apartment. The fee is 3 Euro and include a leaflet with some information. Climbing upwards, gave me the urge to stop many times along the way, as the photo opportunities were constant!

While looking for a place to have dinner, we stumbled upon a concert in the church of St. Nicolas. The atmosphere was magic, and the music just marvelous!

Having a nightcap at the vine bar just across the street from D&Sons Apartments was a perfect end of the evening!
Kotor 1
Kotor 2
Kotor 3
Kotor 4
Kotor 5
Kotor 6
Kotor 7
Kotor 8
Kotor 9
Kotor 10
Kotor 15
Kotor 14
Mmm, lamb!
The way to the city wall walk
Walking the city wall in Kotor
Walking the city wall in Kotor 2
Walking the city wall in Kotor 3
Walking the city wall in Kotor 4
Walking the city wall in Kotor 6
Kotor panorama
Walking the city wall in Kotor 7
Walking the city wall in Kotor 9
Walking the city wall in Kotor 10
Walking the city wall in Kotor 13
Walking the city wall in Kotor 11
Walking the city wall in Kotor 12

Kotor by night 3
Kotor by night 2
Church concert

View other posts from Montenegro or the road trip through Balkan!

Sveti Stefan – the «forbidden» island

View of Sveti Stefan

View of Sveti Stefan

I have seen many pictures and driven passed earlier myself, and always wanted to get closer and experience the beautiful scenic island of Sveti Stefan. I bet you have done the same! But I will kill your hopes right away; you are not allowed to enter unless you are staying at the hotel that has taken over the entire village.

So this is basically what you have to settle for…

Sveti Stefan up close, but not close enough...

Sveti Stefan up close, but not close enough…

Stari Bar, the pleasant surprise

Bar was never a part of our planned route. But again, that is the beauty of being on a road trip; having the freedom to do whatever you feel like just then an there. This was one of those moments. Seeing the signs directing to the old town of Bar, we looked at each other. Without a word, we both said “why not”, and I drove off in that direction.
Stari Bar
The first thing that met us was a small market, selling groceries and some other things. Walking through the main street, the locals were sitting outside, enjoying a coffee or a beer. Continuing up towards the entrance to the fortified city, we passed a few small restaurant. If we would have had the time, we would definitely sit down, after having difficulties deciding which one to choose.

Unfortunately, our time was running out, and we had to prioritize.

To get within the city walls, we had to pay two Euro each. An earthquake heavily destroyed much of the city in 1979 and even the thick city wall was split. Walking around gave an impression of the nice community that once was there, and we were definitely glad we did the detour! Yet another reason to visit Montenegro!

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Street life in Stari Bar.

Street life in Stari Bar.

Many nice cafes and restaurants.

Many nice cafes and restaurants.

Old church in Stari Bar. If you wish to look around inside the supervisor will open for you.

Old church in Stari Bar. If you wish to look around inside the supervisor will open for you.

Old paintings on the ruined wall .

Old paintings on the ruined wall .

Stari Bar 2
Stari Bar 3
Stari Bar 4
Stari Bar 5
Stari Bar 6
Stari Bar 7

Wall in Stari Bar ruined by the earthquake in 1979.

Wall in Stari Bar ruined by the earthquake in 1979.

Stari Bar 8
Stari Bar 9
Stari Bar 10
Stari Bar 11

Ulcinj

Sitting on the terrace with perfect view of the old town, listening to the waves breaking at the beach, makes me forget about the sleepy town below.

Ulcinj by night

Ulcinj by night

I have been to Ulcinj for a very short stop two years ago on my way from Croatia to Albania. Even though it was in August, and both the beach and town was packed with people, something in me wanted to come back to explore.

Ulcinj city beach and the old town up on the hill.

Ulcinj city beach and the old town up on the hill.

This time I came outside the tourist season. And it shows. Most of the restaurants are either closed or empty, and there are almost no people around. Sitting on the terrace of one of the restaurants in the old town, overlooking the bay, all alone, gave the first hint. During high season, you would have to struggle to get that spot.

At first sight the old town seemed mainly to be restaurants, but walking passed them, you will get to the residential area. Most of the houses were either destroyed or damaged during the earthquake in 1971, but are nicely restored with stonewalls and cobbled streets.

Ulcinj old town

Ulcinj old town

Ulcinj old town3
Ulcinj old town2

By all means, I am really not a fan of overcrowded places, but at least some other people would be nice. But again; sitting on the terrace with perfect view of the old town, listening to the waves breaking at the beach, makes me forget about the sleepy town below.

Where to stay: Up on the hillside behind the city beach. There are several options for small private accommodations near the monument. Make sure you get one with view to the beach and the old town.

Terrace view

Terrace view

Ulcinj monument

Ulcinj monument

View other posts from Montenegro or the road trip through Balkan!

The Norwegian fjords lookalike – Koman lake

Koman Lake 5
The Koman lake is said to be one of the highlights not to be missed in Albania. Upfront we had read about a car ferry going from one end to another, and planned the trip with this option. As we were not able to find any timetable online, we asked at our hotel in Shkodra before going out for dinner yesterday. It turned out that the car ferry is only running in the summer season. If you are lucky…

However, they thought there was a tourist boat (not taking cars) leaving around 9 in the morning, but could not guarantee that either. The last option was the one we eventually decided to go for; to take our chances that some locals would hang around with their own boat, hoping to earn some money.

Lessons learned (but not really…), the way there of course took us longer than expected. But, I must confess; this time I have to blame myself as well, as I several times stopped to take photos.

The road was not very busy. At least not with cars. On our way we met 13 cars, 7 donkeys, one cow, four pigs and a turtle (!). Cars-animals: 1-1, that is! Or 13-13, if you wish…

Donkey on the road to Koman Lake.

Donkey on the road to Koman Lake.

A turtle passing by!

A turtle passing by!

A turtle passing by on the road to Koman Lake 2
As we had wished for, some local boys were waiting with their boat. We decided to make a two-hour trip, and agreed on the price of 5000Leke in total. An elderly local couple was also waiting at the pier, so we brought them with us. They were going to visit some friends living up in one of the mountain farms. After a short while, we let them of by a mountain trail, and they started the steep walk.

A couple walking to visit friends at a mountain farm by Koman Lake

A couple walking to visit friends at a mountain farm by Koman Lake.

Start the steep walk.

Start the steep walk.

The dam holding the lake was built in 1971 for a water power plant. Before that, there was a river running freely, 75-80(!) meters below what is now the water level! Before that year there were about 1000 families living there. Many of their homes were flooded, and only half of the families still live there. The majority of these live at small farms in the mountains along the lakeside. Most of them earn their living by fishing and trading parts of the catch for other goods, as the lake is full of fish. The Chinese that helped build the dam brought fish to breed. This fish is commonly known as the Chinese fish, and are quite large in numbers. There is also trout and other kinds as well.
Koman Lake 1
Koman Lake 3
Koman Lake 2
Koman Lake 4
Koman Lake 6

Mountain farm.

Mountain farm.

Old power plant by Koman Lake.

Old power plant by Koman Lake.

Some of the farms are situated higher up in the mountains, like the farm the elderly couple was going to, and some will even be hours walk.

The trip was well worth both the time and money. Some of the parts were even similar to the Norwegian Fjords, except this is a lake, not a fjord by definition. But definitely beautiful!

A short stay in Shkodra

Shkodra is situated by the Shkodra Lake (surprise, surprise), and was more or less just a place for us to spend the night before heading onward to Koman. Arriving just before sunset, we only freshened up and went out for some food and drinks.

Sitting outside in the main street was nice, but made me feel that this was more or less all that was to be seen here. By all means, correct me if I am wrong! I have not much knowledge about the place.
Shkodra1
Shkodra2
Shkodra3

The detour via St. Naum Monastery to Tirana

When we were in Ohrid, we were advised to visit St. Naum Monastery. It is situated in the south end of the lake, close to the Albanian border.

The monastery and the area around in itself was quite nice, but they were in the process of building many small tourist shops just outside, so it is only a matter of time before it loses its nice atmosphere.

Entrance to Monastery St. Naum

Monastery St. Naum

Monastery St. Naum

Monastery St. Naum 2

Peacock at  Monastery St. Naum.

One of many peacock at Monastery St. Naum.

Backyard of Monastery St. Naum.

Backyard of Monastery St. Naum.

Surrounding of Monastery St. Naum
Taking the long way all around the lake from Ohrid via Elshani, St. Naum Monastery and Pogradec, took much more time than expected. The road on the Macedonian side were in quite good shape, but more or less the moment we entered Albania, that certainly changed. Most of the way we had to drive very slowly to prevent the car to get damaged by all the holes. By all means, not all the roads in Albania are that bad. We have driven many streaks of decent standard, and some even great highways. But in general; expect to use much longer time than you think!

Another sign we had entered Albania.

Another sign we had entered Albania.

View on our detour around the lake from Ohrid to Tirana.

View on our detour around the lake from Ohrid to Tirana.

Both of us had been to Tirana before, but I had not been up to mount Dajti by the cable car.

We decided to take a taxi to the cable car station for the Dajti Ekspres, and it turned out to be money well spent. The road condition up there is really, really bad, so the chance of damaging your own car is quite big.

The cable car journey is 4670 m long, and took us up to 1420 masl, an elevation of 812 m. The area is quite green, with a few small villages and farms along the way. On the top there is a park, a restaurant with panoramic view, and even a hotel, if you want to spend a calm night surrounded by the nature.

Dajti Ekspres in in Tirana.

Dajti Ekspres in in Tirana.

Dajti Expres in Tirana 2

View of Tirana from Mt. Dajti.

View of Tirana from Mt. Dajti.

Back in town, we walked around in the areas around Skanderbeg Square, trying to explore by getting ourselves a bit lost in the streets.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana 2

Colorful houses.

Colorful houses.

Colorful houses in Tirana 3

Apartment buildings in Tirana

Apartment buildings in Tirana

The orthodox cathedral.

The orthodox cathedral.

As I have a few friends living in Tirana, I was just hanging out with them in the evening. It is always nice to know someone when you visit a place!

Friends visiting Kopi at work

Friends visiting Kopi at work

My previous visit to Tirana.
More post from Albania.
More posts from the Balkan road trip.

 

Ohrid – a beautiful pearl!

Ohrid view

Ohrid view

We have not exactly been lucky with the weather along the way, but our luck seem to have changed when we arrived in Ohrid, a beautiful pearl of a city.

We had booked a room in the old part of town, at Vila Mesokastro. It was greatly located, in a charming narrow cobblestone street. My room had a good-sized terrace with magnificent view of the city, looking over the red roofed houses and the green but snow topped mountains surrounding the harbour by the Ohrid lake.

Room #13 at Vila Mesokastro in Ohrid.

Room #13 at Vila Mesokastro in Ohrid.

Fantastic view from the room terrace.

Fantastic view from the room terrace.

Many red roofed houses.

Many red roofed houses.

Red roof in Ohrid

Walking around in the charming city made me want to use the camera repeatedly. Along the lakeside there are several nice restaurants, some where you could almost dip your toes in the water.

Ohrid lakeside

Ohrid lakeside

Ohrid 4
Ohrid 3
Ohrid 1
Ohrid 2
Charming street in Ohrid
Charming street in Ohrid 4
Charming street in Ohrid 3
Charming street in Ohrid 2
Ohrid 6
Ohrid 5

Main street in the old town of Ohrid.

Main street in the old town of Ohrid.

Continuing around the headland, you will reach the Church of St. John. This is an Orthodox church situated on the cliff over the old fishing village Kaneo. The year of construction is unknown, but it is believed to date back to the 13th century.

Walk around the headland

Walk around the headland towards the orthodox church of St. John.

Orthodox Church of St. John

Orthodox Church of St. John.

Orthodox Church of St. John 2

Other sights of interest are the Samuil’s Fortress, the Ancient theater and some other sights both in town and just outside. And off course, just walking around, soaking in the atmosphere of this beautiful ancient town by the lake.

Samuil’s Fortress and the Ancient theater of Ohrid.

Samuil’s Fortress and the Ancient theater of Ohrid.

Ohrid harbour by night

Ohrid harbour by night

Ohrid harbour by night2

Find more details about Ohrid on Macedonia’s official tourism website.

Mavrovo

Driving through the national park of Mavrovo is a scenic drive through roads narrowed by trees, mountains, rivers and lakes.

Narrow roads.

Narrow roads.

Since we were in Mavrovo national park, we felt we had to take the small detour to Mavrovo village as well. Driving off the main road, over the dam, we followed the croocked road.

We very fast noticed that this was a popular skiing destination after passing by a fence made by used skis. But the way to the end of the road also lead us through beautiful green landscape, to a fabulous old run down church by the lake, cows eating gras and minding their own business and idyllic houses spread all around.

Fence in Mavrovo made by skis.

Fence in Mavrovo made by skis.

Faboulus old run down church by the lake.

Faboulus old run down church by the lake.

At the end of the road we found a few hotels and a ski lift. It was no snow (but could easily have been…), so the place did not show itself from the best side. But it still showed potential. It could off course not match the bigger places in the Alps, but offers a different experience.

Mavrovo village.

Mavrovo village.

Heading onwards through the national park, we passed many charming, small mountain villages.

Heading onwards through the national park, we passed many charming, small mountain villages.

The detour to Bajram Curry

Since we found ourselves near by the border to Albania, we decided to take a short detour, going to Bajram Curry. Well. It ended up not being that short, as the road conditions are quite bad most of the way, and we had to drive very slowly. At least we had good time to enjoy the scenery!

The city in itself is not very charming, but it is supposed to be a very good starting point for many great hikes in the area. And with the beautiful nature we passed on our way there, I have absolutely no trouble believing just that.

We passed a charming small village.

We passed a charming small village.

Passing by nice scenery

Passing by nice scenery.

Beautiful combination of green grass, snowy mountains and clear blue sky

Beautiful combination of green grass, snowy mountains and blue sky.

Beautiful view on our way to Bajram Curry.

Beautiful view on our way to Bajram Curry.

Farming in the mountains close to Bajram Curry.

Farming in the mountains close to Bajram Curry.

Street in Bajram Curry.

Street in Bajram Curry.

Read more posts from Albania.