These 5 Historical Activities Are Why You Need to Visit Kotor, Montenegro

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Flash back a few months ago and we were in Kotor, Montenegro, a stunning Eastern-European city only a few hours by bus from Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The title of this blog post is an another article I wrote for wanderingeducators.com on the 5 best history related things to do in Kotor. From an intense fortress hike, to a legendary church in the middle of the bay, Kotor is a must-visit for history lovers and adventure seekers. You can click here to read the full article :).

I loved Kotor both because it is gorgeous, and because pushing through crowds of summer-time Dubrovnik tourists got old very quick. It was so much quieter here. Kotor’s old town may be small, but the stone walls of its streets, and the bright orange tile roofs that cover every house carry all the romance and ambiance you could ask for. Even more amazing were the blue Adriatic waters, the mountains, the interesting history, and the dangerously delicious meat-filled pastries in every bakery to fall in love with.


These 5 Historical Activities are why you need to visit Kotor, Montenegro

1)Hike the Ancient Castle Fortress

When you arrive in Kotor, the first thing you’ll see are the massive stone walls of St. John’s fortress, which, while they ascend the mountain, seem to touch the clouds. The walls carry all the aesthetic of a centuries-old fortress, with crumbling rocks laced with green, overgrown nooks to explore, a historical church, and even the occasional goat. The hike itself starts from the very back of Old Town Kotor, and takes a good 30 minutes to an hour to reach the top. It’s a very steep and somewhat challenging climb for sure, but definitely worth it. The reward for trekking is a dazzling view of the city of Kotor and its immense blue mountains rising out of the bay that form the only fjord in the region.

The history of the fortress goes way back, as the mountain has been fortified since Illyrian times. Later, it was expanded under Venetian and Albanian rule. During the 16th and 17th century, the Ottomans successfully laid siege to the fortress and occupied the area twice. Finally, the fortress was a part of both world wars. It was controlled by the Austrians in WWI and the Axis powers in WWII, until it was liberated in 1944.

The View from the top of the Bay of Kotor fortress, things to do in Kotor, Eastern-Europe travel

View of the Bay of Kotor and Fjord from the top of the fortress.

Want to read the rest? Click here. Thanks for reading and happy travels! -Izzy

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Malaysia First Impressions

The sun has just set on our 2nd week here in Malaysia so it seems like a good time to finally write about this awesome country. To be completely honest, upon leaving Thailand, all I knew about Malaysia is what I read in the inflight magazine… so in other words… nothing. Just two weeks here have left me speechless. Malaysia has surpassed my expectations for a multitude of reasons.

Malaysia first Impressions. Petronas twin towers

Yes, taking a selfie with the Petronas twin towers is as hard as it looks

The first one being the diversity. I expected Malaysia to be a lot like Thailand, they are neighbors after all. I was wrong, very wrong. Thailand, in general, is not all that diverse. The majority of people are both Thai and Buddhist. Malaysia on the other hand is home to a melting pot of different religions, cultures, and ethnicities. The main ones are Malay, of course, Chinese, and Indian.  From food to clothing to architecture, Chinese and Indian cultural influences are very visible in nearly every aspect of society.

 

Malaysia First Impressions. In Georgetown mandarin script dominates old British colonial building

Mandarin script dominates buildings from British colony days.

Little India in Georgetown, Penang has so far been my favorite place. The closest I’ve ever felt to actually being in India. Along its busy streets are shops full of gorgeous fabrics for sarees, traditional Indian dress. Blaring pop music from 2008 plays into the street next to shops full of copy written movies. As I aways imagined India to look, the streets are full of color. Colorful head coverings of muslim girls, and flowing, vibrant fabrics of traditional sarees flood the streets. Then, there is the food. I don’t think I could ever grow tired of Indian food. Everything from somosas to deserts are cooked by street vendors. The smell of curry and spices wafts into the street from every direction.

Malaysia first impressions. Indian food, colorful textiles, and street scene of Little India

Sight, smells, and colors of Little India in Georgetown.

Malaysia’s state religion is Islam so everyday, five times a day, we hear the call to prayer blaring out of the nearest Masjid (mosques). Contrary to some other Muslim countries, the law promises freedom of religion. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and various other Chinese religions are also widely followed.

Malaysia first impression. Chinese temple in penang

Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang

Contrary to popular belief, while Muslims practice modesty in clothing you don’t have to. As long as you are wearing clothing you should be good. T-shirts and shorts are perfectly fine- especially in cities like Georgetown or KL.  The only restrictions are your comfort zone, and (women) covering your knees and shoulders in Buddhist, Hindu, or Chinese temples. Mosques are a little trickier to visit because for women you must cover to the wrists, ankles, and hair. Men only need to wear slacks. Ug.

Evidence of Malaysia’s colonial past is also preset. The big giveaway is that everyone speaks English. Menus are in English, venders speak English, and you can easily ask for help- which people are usually more than happy to give. There’s nothing like being able to order food easily, and know what you are eating after a long day. The language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu, but for many people this isn’t even their first language. Many people speak English as a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th language.

Malaysia first impressions. Fruit and English menu

Notice the English menu

Food. Like I said earlier Malaysia has some bangin’ Indian cuisine, but that’s not all. There are also outdoor covered food courts all over the place. I don’t remember seeing anything like it in Thailand. Dozens of vendors set up shop under this huge tarp. All you have to do is walk around, order food, and they vendors bring it to your table. It’s super cheap too, a meal running 3-6rm (.75 – 1.50 USD). No more expensive than Thailand! These food courts are hubs of Chinese food especially, and are very popular with the locals. In KL they feature more diverse food options like Arabic and western food.

Malaysia first impressions. Malay soup and street food

Food!!

Last but not least, the transportation system. Malaysia has invested quite a lot into their transportation system in the recent years and it is very visible. Even the lowest class on long distance trains are very nice. Super clean, Aircon, reclining seats, and pretty good food. We ate on the train to KL (something we avoided at all costs in Thailand) and the food was surprisingly good, comparable to airplane food. It was cheap aswell, just 3 USD each. Penang has an awesome bus system that can take you around the entire island (with aircon) and KL has an amazing light rail system that travels just about anywhere in the city.

Malaysia first impressions. On the train to Kuala Lumpur

Boarding the train to KL

All in all Malaysia is pretty great.  I havn’t found one thing to complain about yet. Can’t wait to explore even more in the next months!

Thanks for reading and happy travels! XX -Iz