Kickin’ it in Kotor, Montenegro

Kickin’ it in Kotor, Montenegro
A few days before I was set to fly to London, Tommy, Ian and I decided to leave Pristina and head to Montenegro where Ian and I had the same flight to Stansted Airport on the following Sunday – talk about a small world! 
We initially thought that Kotor for two nights would be wishful thinking considering the shoddy bus timetables from Pristina and our impending Ryan Air flight, but with a series of miraculous connections and brazen attitudes towards the bus drivers we made it there by nightfall.  

Overlooking Kotor Bay with Tommy

During the numerous legs of the trip, I was continuously entertained by the endless stories and hilarious sense of humor of these two crazy guys.  It didn’t hurt that we managed to continuously acquire beers throughout the journey, either.

Ian had spent time in Kotor earlier in the season, and was able to get us straight to the hostel where he had called ahead to make a reservation for us.  All that was left? A night on the town, of course! 
Winnie The Pooh Champagne for pre-gaming? Ian needed to pose with it
We had a great time exploring a few local pubs with live music.  Luckily for us, it was one of the last weekends of local activity before these watering holes closed down for the winter season.  The locals, food, ambience, and landscape reminded me of my time in Dubrovnik in October (the two cities are only about 2 hours apart by bus).  It was perfect!
The following day Tommy and I decided to have a look around the town.  Since Ian had already explored the viewpoints over Kotor Bay, he decided to split from us and we agreed to meet up for a beer a bit later.  “The hike to the fortress and around the town should take about an hour and definitely no more than two”, he said as we parted ways.
Stray kitten buddy who insisted on snuggling on my shoulder
During our hike to the fortress lookout, Tommy and I had a very long discussion.  The topics ranged from history and politics to favorite books to bucket lists.  It was not one of those “Oops, my coffee is now cold because we were talking so much” chats.  It was more along the lines of  “Where the hell have you guys been? You left five hours ago.  I’ve had a meal since then and have been considering contacting the local authorities!”  
To say the least, the views were stunning and I had incredible company for the exploration.  Tommy is an extremely interesting, well-read, hilarious North Irishman.  I walked away from our chat with a handful of new perspectives and a plethora of takeaways, not the least of which is new additions to my reading list.  One of my favorite subjects that we covered was Irish history (of which he is well versed, no surprise), which turned into our respective family trees and family history, which I’ll get into a bit later.
Atop the Fortress
Visiting Kotor Bay was definitely a treat, and since it was mid-November, we had the place to ourselves with the exception of a few Erasmus students.  The day was beautiful and we chatted while we leisurely explored our surroundings from atop the fortress walls.   If you get a chance to visit Montenegro, do not miss Kotor Bay!
I don’t think I would have done the full day bus from Pristina to Kotor alone with so little time for mishaps and the dubious bus schedules available.  Obviously, I’m thrilled that I met Ian and Tommy, who made this trip to Kotor a reality for me and kept me laughing the entire way.
During my recent visit to Atlanta, Tommy’s discussion prompted me to spend an afternoon with my paternal Grandmother specifically for the purpose of endless inquiries about our family history.  I learned a lot. 
I always like hanging out with my Grandmother and talking about life in general, but this specific day was especially meaningful to me because I got to hear her stories, see pictures, go through travel albums and spend time learning about our history with her.  I will always cherish that day, and am so glad we were both able to make it happen while I was home.  I learned that my Grandfather lived in Finland for a short period of time as a young boy, and that we are part of a subset of the rather small Finnish population known as Swede-Finns.  Sound shocking?  Probably not to you, but I grew up thinking that we were fully Swedish on my father’s side…
After I learned that my paternal Grandfather’s family comes from Närpes, Finland, I wasted no time in attempting to contact long-lost family there.  I have since made plans to visit later this spring, and am hopeful that this plan will come to fruition.  I’m excited to continue to piece together my family history, and have Tommy to thank for being the catalyst behind my newfound interest.
Around Kotor
Last week, I was chatting with a few people who were at my table for our family-style New Years Eve feast and party.  They were from Helsinki, Finland, and I shared my slightly embarrassing, but seemingly relevant Finnish story.  They immediately started giving me fun facts about “our” country and introduced me as Finnish to other travelers as we partied the night away.  

Though my brief trial run as a Finn is a far cry from being full bred, it was a fun surprise from the universe to ring in 2015 shouting “Kippis!” surrounded by Finns, as well as travelers from many other nations.  I’m looking forward to the continuous learning offered to me by traveling and another year of incredible memories and experiences!