Everyday of our travel during our holiday this time, my first thought after waking up in the morning has been ‘Is it raining??’ It’s been that kind of a weather till now but we have been relatively lucky. Not raining at important times. Both in Zagreb and Dubrovnik.
No rain today too. But no sun either. In fact dark clouds threatening to come down any moment. Hoping for the best we set off armed with our umbrella, raincoat and backpack towards our pick up point. It turned to be a lovely seven minutes walk with a slight drizzle at the end refreshing us. The bus soon arrived and we were off towards our next travel destination. A new country, Montenegro.
Montenegro is a small country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Serbia and Kosovo to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Albania to the south and Croatia to the west. Having a population of little more than six hundred thousand, its capital is Podgorica. Cetinje is designated as the Old Royal Capital.
This beautiful country ranges from high peaks along its borders with Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and a segment of the western Balkan Peninsula to a narrow coastal plain that is only one to four miles wide. The plain stops abruptly in the north, where Mount Lovsen and Mount Orjen plunge into the inlet of the Bay of Kotor.
The name Montenegro originated from two words Monte and Negro meaning the Black Mountains. The mountains here include some of the most rugged terrain in Europe, averaging more than 2,000 meters in elevation. One of the country’s notable peaks is Bobotov Kuk in the Durmitor mountains, which reaches a height of 2,522 meters. Owing to the hyper humid climate on their western sides, the Montenegrin mountain ranges were among the most ice-eroded parts of the Balkan Peninsula during the glacial periods.
I have always been a little apprehensive about border checks after our experience last year on a day trip from Copenhagen to Malmo. Tough looking border policemen & policewomen, unfortunately picking up our bus for a thorough check, started quizzing us. With equally ferocious dogs staring and sniffing us. It was a little scary, very irritating and even more saddening as at the end of it all, they had snatched away an hour of our time and all they got was one solo traveler without a convincing reason to visit Sweden. Silly guys. God save them.
But this time our impression was different. Montenegrins are wonderful. Nice and cool guys. They let us through quickly and the journey from Dubrovnik took just a little over two hours. God bless them and the country with good roads and lots of tourists. The first stop after we crossed the border was a nice mall for some coffee and our toilet break. Coffee my love and the toilet visit before that, just bliss. Age is catching up man 😐. Stay fit to keep traveling, I told myself. Then moved my arms a bit left and right, up and down to assure myself of my fitness and we were soon off and moving.
As we were watching these beautiful views, the bus came to a stop. We had reached the town of Perast and a nice small beach on the way to the city center. Perast is an old town on the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. It is situated a few kilometers northwest of Kotor and is noted for its proximity to the islets of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks. It was time to get down for a lovely boat trip. Enjoy the journey with us as we head to ‘Gospa od Skrpjela’ island.
Wish to get a real feel of this wonderful ride. Come let’s start all over again.
We had reached ‘Gospa od Skrpjela’, also known as ‘Our Lady of the Rocks’ island. It is one of the two islets off the coast of Perast in the Bay of Kotor, the other being ‘Sveti Dorde’ or ‘Island of St. George’. It’s an artificial island created by bulwark of rocks and by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks. The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks is the largest building on the islet and has a museum attached. There is also a small gift shop close to the church and a navigation light at the western end of the islet. Let’s go around this tiny but beautiful island.
The time spent was just enough to go around, visit the church, peep at the museum, have an ice cream, buy some keepsakes and take a few clicks. We are now sailing back towards Perast city center where our bus would be waiting for us to take us further into the unseen.
Keep a watch as we sail past ‘Ostrvo Sveti Dorde’ which is also known as the ‘Island of Saint George’. Unlike ‘Gospa od Skrpjel, it is a natural island. The island contains Saint George Benedictine monastery from the twelfth century and the old graveyard for the old nobility from Perast and further from the whole Bay of Kotor. It is also remembered for a small action that took place during the Siege of Cattaro in 1813 when the French held island was captured by a British and Sicilian naval force.
Back in our bus we are now heading to Kotor. Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro. It is located in a secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor and in one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea. Some have called it the southern-most fjord in Europe. Together with the nearly overhanging limestone cliffs of Orjen and Lovcen, Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive landscape. The old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period.
Kotor is part of the World Heritage Site and dubbed the ‘Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor’. The exact time of foundation of the first settlement here is not known but according to sources, the oldest settled area dates two millennia back and its current name stems from the word “Dekatera” (from the old Greek words “Deka + Thira” meaning “Ten” + “Gate”, probably from the number of gates of this fortified city. The striking feature at the entrance of old town of Kotor is the post-World War II sign “What belongs to others we don’t want, ours we don’t give’. Let’s go in.
Kotor in its long history has been fortified since the early Middle Ages, when Emperor Justinian built a fortress above Ascrivium, as it was known then in 535. After changing hands over the ages the city was part of the Venetian Albania province of the Venetian Republic from 1420 to 1797. It was besieged in between by the Ottomans in 1538 and 1657. Four centuries of Venetian domination have given the city the typical Venetian architecture.
The city was nearly destroyed by earthquakes in 1563 and 1667 and endured the massive plague in 1572. In World War I, Kotor was one of three main bases of the Austro-Hungarian Navy and home port to the Austrian Fifth Fleet, consisting of pre-dreadnought battleships and light cruisers built between late 1880s and 1905. The area was the site of some of the fiercest battles between local Montenegrin Slavs and Austria-Hungary. After 1918, the city became a part of Yugoslavia and officially became known as Kotor. It was a part of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1992 to 2003 and subsequently in a ‘State Union of Serbia and Montenegro; from 2003 to 2006 till Montenegro became a separate country. Let’s explore further and also check out some age old churches which have always fascinated me.
Kotor has a large population of cats that have become a symbol of the city. The city has several cat stores and the cats museum as well as the Cats’ Square (Trg od macaka). Water and food is left throughout the city for the cats to feed on, and cardboard boxes are often arranged to be a place for the cats to sleep in.
With the lovely mountains as the background, Kotor outside the old city is equally beautiful. If you are staying here for few days and you are the adventurous kind, you must walk along the Kotor fortification walls and climb up to the fortress of San Giovanni for the spectacular view of the Old Town and the Boka Bay. The 1355 steps to the top of the fortress take you past a 15th century church, ruins of military buildings and finally to the top of the fortress where a castle once stood. The stairs stretch for three miles directly above the city cutting across the mountains. Let’s go up to the first level of the Old Town wall to enjoy the views.
Let’s move down and out of Old Town to get a feel of the port, the sea and more as we walk back towards the parking area and our bus.
As we take a quick coffee break before boarding our bus, you too could take one for yourself. We’ll be back with you soon to explore further. A new destination and a happening town.
Montenegro. Loving every moment in this beautiful country with it’s towering mountains, the inviting Adriatic sea, the lovely islands, nature and rich history.