As if the castle walls and ancient caravan trail zig-zagging up the mountainside weren't picturesque enough, the seaside fortifications enclose one the best preserved medieval old towns on the Adriatic. Kotor's Stari Grad ('Old Town') is a maze of marble paved lanes and Venetian architecture. You walk down the narrow streets, which run around and into each other, feeling air conditioner breezes from boutiques and being shot in the stomach by the cupid's arrow that is 'pizza smell.' Then, out of nowhere, your lane opens up into a piazza. There, cafes tables are set out. Fans twirl, fine mist wafts down from cooling systems, you sit for an ice cream or coffee with some beautiful old church or mansion looming above. And never want to leave.
A year ago today, we were in Zadar, reveling in our position outside the real 'hotspots' of the Croatian coast, ouching our way into the water along a pebble beach on the edge of romantically picturesque university city. We've come a long way since then, but are remarkably close to that very spot now. It feels a little like returning to old stomping grounds, something we don't get to experience very often. A big plate of grilled squid surrounding a mound of blitva (garlicky chard and potato) greeted us like a friend last night. Well, you haven't changed one bit! Kotor is a lot like Zadar - an incredible spot that has the lucky misfortune of less-than-ideal swimming options. This keeps the droves of tourists at bay. Or, I guess in this case, out of the Bay.
For mid-July, Kotor is remarkably not crowded. The Old Town is deceptively large, there are enough cafe tables for everybody. It's something you don't really notice until looking down at the labyrinth from above (from the castle). The lanes are all swirled around like a big plate of spaghetti with red-sauce roofs. You simply can't imagine the number of noodles under there until you feel the fullness. Dumpster after dumpster of garbage and dozens of young women shopping around laminated photos of guest rooms for rent show just how many people can fit into Kotor, all still given the chance to feel like they have it all to themselves.