Referred to affectionately as the Bay of Cats, the fortified town of Kotor sits on Montenegro’s beautifully rugged Adriatic coast. Let me just repeat, it’s referred to as the Bay of Cats. The Bay of Cats. As a cat lover, this was as close to heaven as it gets.
As well as little boutiques, historic churches, and restaurants that scream romance, the walled Old Town is also home to the Cat Museum. Entry to the small two-roomed museum is a euro, and I don’t want to push the unfair agenda (probably dreamt up by a dog lover) that some cat owners can be a little bit evil, but you can pick up a magnet of Hitler with a kitty for just 50 cents. It’s probably best not to though.
Tyrannical despots aside, you can also grab as much cat food for free from the museum to feed all of the bundles of pure fluffy joy that you see. Pro tip: there will be many bundles of joy, and as soon as you feed one, another five will jump out of nowhere. Bring lots of food.
The cats have grown to be so synonymous with Kotor, that they have become a symbol of the town. And it’s not just a large cat population, but a multicultural one as well! A busy trading port for centuries, cats from the world over would stowaway on ships and then decide to stay. And so would I if I could live rent-free.
But hey, say you’re one of those (wrong) people who doesn’t like cats, what’s Kotor’s Old Town got for you? Well, wandering down the narrow alleyways is nothing short of a revelation. Striking Mediterranean architecture bears down upon you whilst the most romantic live music from the medley of obscenely picturesque restaurants provides a serene soundtrack. If it weren’t for the influx of tourists from the cruise ships that dock in the nearby marina, it could easily feel like you were walking into a different century.
And if you get lost – and you’re going to – it’s all part of the experience. Discover every nook and cranny that the Old Town has to offer. Kotor is infinitely more authentic than Budva, which is about thirty minutes to the east on the coast. Kotor has coped well with its new status as a tourist destination. It’s retained its essence, and you can’t help but feel welcomed as soon as you arrive. Unlike Budva which is pretty much becoming Montenegro’s answer to Benidorm, in Kotor, you feel a genuine privilege that you’re there to experience what the town has to offer.
Kotor’s Old Town’s very location is also one of its unmistakable strengths. Situated at the bottom of a valley of gnarled mountains, there’s a breathtaking view guaranteed down every narrow street. And if you climb the mountain to the top of the decaying fortified castle, there’s the promise of an unforgettable view of the sparkling blue sea and orange-hued roofs.
But it’s when the sun sets that the Old Town truly comes alive and is a place like no other. Dusk is completely enchanting and it feels like time is standing still despite the bustle of people around you. Standing in the centre of the Old Town as the sky turned orange and a cooling shadow cast down is a moment that I’ll never forget. This is true beauty.
As the night wears on, the Old Town is illuminated by warm orange lights which flicker from the sandy bricks. It’s impossible not to be overcome by the very essence of the ancient town. It’s moments like this that make me think that travel is a requiem for the soul, which is appropriate really considering the staunch orthodox beliefs of the locals.
Kotor is often compared with neighbouring Croatia’s medieval town of Dubrovnik. There aren’t any real comparisons though. There’s something special about Kotor but there aren’t enough adjectives to explain what. Kotor is authentic, welcoming and is brimming with cats. Just to repeat, it’s brimming with cats. I mean, cats! I dare you to come to Kotor and not fall in love.