Saturday, April 04, 2015

Italian Escapade - Kotor (Montenegro)

"Kotor, the best kept secret in Montenegro!"

Well, that is how one person viewed Kotor. Not having been in Montenegro before, I did not quite know what to expect, but certainly looked forward to seeing this place.

To reach Kotor, our ship sailed through the spectacular Bay of Kotor, often described as a Mediterranean fjord (it’s really a canyon carved by a submerged river). This 30-km journey was awe-inspiring; I got up very early to see the sailing into the narrow channels surrounded by spectacular granite and limestone peaks. It was smooth sailing and while still dark, I could already detect great beauty. As daylight entered, a light mist added to the ambiance and I felt transformed into a kind of 'Pieman' experience - see the following link for more information about that:

Along the way there were a couple of small islands that appeared to have 
a shrine on each. 
 The Lady of the Rock & St Georges Island

Jeanette sadly, missed this early start and I did not have the heart to wake her up. But we did share the sunrise magic as well as the entrance into Kotor harbour, which was at the very end of Kotor  Bay. Just a wonderful start to what became a favourite day on our cruise. It was sheer peace! The quietness was deafening with the water reflection adding its contribution.

Beauty and magic, all wrapped in one!
 The 'Pieman' feel (except for the buildings)!
 The outskirts of Kotor
The picturesque medieval port of Kotor itself is tucked away at the very end of the estuary. Immediately apparent is how mountainous Montenegro is. The earliest fortifications date to the sixth century AD, plus the old churches and architecture give evidence of different occupations with no doubt, some colourful history. 

 The view of old Kotor town from our ship.
The Marina almost doubled the population on the day. Great sight!
View from our cabin looking back from where we came. 
Love the mountains!

We immediately took a liking to Kotor, finding its intimacy and relaxed pace very much to our liking. One thing we hoped to do was to climb to the lookout behind the old town.

 Fortifications and churches were very much in evidence!
 The entrance to the old city of Kotor

 Our first glimpses of old Kotor

Wandering through the old town, we decided that perhaps we should first climb to the lookout. Heading up the track, we soon realised that to go the whole distance to the top, maybe too much. Instead, we were happy to walk as far as the chapel of St John, about 40 percent up. It was quite steep track with variable surfaces and quite tiring and hard the knees. It confirmed that going just to the chapel was a wise decision.

 Our objective - the chapel of St John.
But first to find our way up. This looks encouraging!
Are we too old for this? No way!
 I needed a bit of a tow every now and then. All part of the fun!
Looking back, we could see the track we walked! 
  Wonder what this was? Another story.
Fellow travelers above also enjoyed the sights, as we did!
 Our destination - for the moment. But where are Jan's specs?

The views were outstanding and we took photographs from many positions. We were so engrossed on walking safely and taking photos, that in the process, Jan lost her specs! Oh, oh! We checked with fellow climbers in the hope that one of them may have seen it somewhere, but without success. After getting our breath back, we walked slowly down the mountain with eyes glued to the ground hoping we would find the missing treasure. And we did! Praise God! Relieved, we returned to the town by another way.
The views are truly spectacular!

We thoroughly enjoyed walking through the old city, admiring the way people lived, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
Cathedral of St Tryphon. Old!
Kotor life style

 Everything so neat and tidy!

Being such a nice day, I really wanted to go on the tourist bus that would take 45 minutes along the shore to another town. Jan chose to stay and check the markets. My bus trip was very scenic. Just missed sharing it with Jan.
A perfect day for this short tour!
The weather, the autumn colour and scenery were breath-taking!

Having see the Lady of the Rock and St Georges Island as we sailed up the Bay of Kotor at dawn, I really wanted to see these establishments in day light. Would love to have visited both islands and the shrines on them, but alas, there was no time to do that. I just had to be satisfied (and was) by seeing them close from the shore. Enjoy these with me! 
  The Lady of the Rock.
    St Georges Island.
Made me feel at home. Just like some of our fish farms in Tasmania.

Towards the end of our bus tour, we arrived at the small town of Risan where we were shown Roman mosaics dating back to 1st and 2nd Centuries. These were indeed worthy of a visit. Amazing what one finds in the most isolated parts of the world.

Just a few pics taken of this site:

Returning to Kotor, Jan was waiting for me at the bus stop from where she took me to the open market place to buy different cheeses and some cold meats.

 The market place open for business with a great range of fresh produce 
and other goodies!

With lunch in the bag, we found a quiet corner where Jan had earlier made friends with lots of stray cats. Alas, the cats had found greener pastures and missed out on the scraps we were happy to feed them. (Found some of them after we finished lunch) We just continued our exploration of Kotor Old Town, taking in as much as we could.

The mountains are like cathedrals and truly majestic!
Serbian Orthodox church.

The Old Town with fortifications of early settlements, behind on the hill.
Church of St Luke -  old and going back to the 12th century!
The priest, ever available to assist.
Beautiful and reverent!

There are places to relax, have a drink and enjoy the company of others.

Finally, we found ourselves at a restaurant named Gallion, which was right on the waterfront, near the Marina. It served the most decadent desert that was not possible to resist and which left us pretty happy.

 A decadent desert, indeed! And we didn't feel guilty!

Time to sail! What an extraordinary journey! Kotor, you did yourself proud. Love to come and explore it again. Thanks for your hospitality!