Five gorgeous short hikes in Europe

The ‘man who hiked the world’ is an Instagrammer from London who travels the globe in search of great walking routes. Here he picks his favourites in Europe, all under five hours

A cycling tour of the Balkans: two wheels, three countries, four days

A challenging trip taking in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro

The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro

From my book on The Balkans

The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro contains a number of stunning man-made sights, but the true beauty of the bay comes from seeing the mountains sweeping down to the sea. This can best be appreciated from either the water or from the fortifications above the town of Kotor itself.

Beginning in Kotor, my advice would be to obtain a map from the tourist information at the Venetian built Sea Gate but then put it away, safe in the knowledge you do have some help if you get horribly lost in the Stari Grad (Old Town). In other words, Kotor is a place to wander around with no set plan or destination in mind. At some point you will pass by the Maritime Museum, St Tryphon’s Cathedral, The Clock Tower, a stone pyramid and the Cats Museum, though not necessarily in that order. There will be time to admire the shops, squares, and churches of the Stari Grad and eat or drink coffee/beer in some of the numerous cafes and restaurants.

The more energetic can climb the 1350 steps to the fortress, situated 260 metres above the town, for unforgettable views of the Bay of Kotor and the old town with its seemingly triangular shaped walls. There may be a cruise ship docked at the quay while other, smaller boats will be ferrying visitors to some of the other sights in the bay, such as Perast and the Our-Lady-of-the-Rock Island. This is a view to savour and, in my opinion, it is better even than the view from Mount Srd over Dubrovnik as the grey, steep-sided mountains appear to clutch the bay in their grasp as they disappear to the horizon.

Kotor Ship Museum

From my book on The Balkans

If you are in Kotor and love model galleons, ship paraphernalia, and examples of the material benefits of trade then this is the place for you.

Models of galleons, xebecs, tartanes, and container ships such as the MV Pomorac, built in Sunderland by Austin & Pickersgill, fill some rooms. Paintings of Montenegrin sea captains with individually distinctive beards adorn some walls. There are some fine individual discoveries. There is a painting of Captain Ivo Visin, who was the first Slav to circumnavigate the globe between 1852 and 1859. He did so in the brig Splendido. There was a commemoration by the city of Erie to Captain Nicholi Zec, awarding him an honorary citizenship of Erie, for his contribution to the advancement of foreign trade at the port of Erie. There are the steps to one of the local sailor’s dances and a gilt medal awarded to Tito in 1973, when he was awarded an honorary admiral rank in the local navy, called the Boka Navy.

There’s a room full of items brought back from overseas by local sea captains, such as china from Cardiff, vases from Shanghai, and a monstrous French clock, surmounted by a Tartar horseman. There’s also a room full of armaments, mainly rifles and long, sharp-looking knives.

What is also interesting are the visitors to the museum: some faithfully stop at each of the appointed places and press the right number for that place into their hand-held guides; others march into a room, look at one piece, and then exit the room, without casting a glance at anything else; yet others photograph each of the multi-language explanation cards with their digital camera and then take another image of the piece the card refers to.

One of the books on display has the following snappy title:

The Chronometers Companion or A Compendium of Nautical Astronomy comprising Methods For Finding The Latitude By Meridian Altitudes By Reduction To The Meridian And By The changes of the Sun’s Altitude in one Minute of time; Together With The Method Of Finding The Time By The Sun And Stars And The Longitude By Chronometer And By The Sun’s Depression Below The Horizon

Bay of Kotor

The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro contains a number of stunning man-made sights, but the true beauty of the bay comes from seeing the mountains sweeping down to the sea. This can best be appreciated from either the water or from the fortifications above the town of Kotor itself.

Beginning in Kotor, my advice would be to obtain a map from the tourist information at the Venetian built Sea Gate but then put it away, safe in the knowledge you do have some help if you get horribly lost in the Stari Grad (Old Town). In other words, Kotor is a place to wander around with no set plan or destination in mind. At some point you will pass by the Maritime Museum, St Tryphon’s Cathedral, The Clock Tower, a stone pyramid and the Cats Museum, though not necessarily in that order. There will be time to admire the shops, squares, and churches of the Stari Grad and eat or drink coffee/beer in some of the numerous cafes and restaurants.

The more energetic can climb the 1350 steps to the fortress, situated 260 metres above the town, for unforgettable views of the Bay of Kotor and the old town with its seemingly triangular shaped walls. There may be a cruise ship docked at the quay while other, smaller boats will be ferrying visitors to some of the other sights in the bay, such as Perast and the Our-Lady-of-the-Rock Island. This is a view to savour and, in my opinion, it is better even than the view from Mount Srd over Dubrovnik as the grey, steep-sided mountains appear to clutch the bay in their grasp as they disappear to the horizon.

In the town of Kotor there are no signs or reminders of the recent Balkan War and it’s possible to believe that the people who live here, even in the Old Town, can have some semblance of normality in their lives even during the main tourist season. The old town never appears to be busy, except perhaps between the Sea Gate and the cathedral, and there are no pigeon-filled squares to avoid.    

Great European city breaks you’ve probably never thought of

These small cities may not pack the cultural punch of Europe’s grande dames – and that’s the point of going. All are full of local colour but also served by budget airlines. Perfect for a weekend break

Kotor Bay in Montenegro

Beginning in Kotor, my advice would be to obtain a map from the tourist information at the Venetian built Sea Gate but then put it away, safe in the knowledge you do have some help if you get horribly lost in the Stari Grad (Old Town). In other words, Kotor is a place to wander around with no set plan or destination in mind. At some point you will pass by the Maritime Museum, St Tryphon’s Cathedral, The Clock Tower, a stone pyramid and the Cats Museum, though not necessarily in that order. There will be time to admire the shops, squares, and churches of the Stari Grad and eat or drink coffee/beer in some of the numerous cafes and restaurants.

The more energetic can climb the 1350 steps to the fortress, situated 260 metres above the town, for unforgettable views of the Bay of Kotor and the old town with its seemingly triangular shaped walls. There may be a cruise ship docked at the quay while other, smaller boats will be ferrying visitors to some of the other sights in the bay, such as Perast and the Our-Lady-of-the-Rock Island. This is a view to savour and, in my opinion, it is better even than the view from Mount Srd over Dubrovnik as the grey, steep-sided mountains appear to clutch the bay in their grasp as they disappear to the horizon.