Kotor, a jewel hidden in the fjord-like bay of Kotor
Although I covered Kotor in another article of mine “Roadtrip to Montenegro. Day 3“, I decided that since Kotor was named by the Lonely Planet as nr.1 on Top cities to travel in 2016 I should write a more detailed article about this fascinating place I loved the first moment I laid my eyes on it. I thought about how should I begin my article about this magnificent place and then it hit me…
Dear Traveller, I am writing this because somewhere in the stone folds of the mountains of Montenegro and bathed by the salty waters of the Adriatic Sea a mirific town lies waiting for you to be discovered. The good news is that despite its nominations by the Lonely Planet, you still have the chance to see this city unspoilt and untouched by the massive herds of tourists. So I am telling you to hurry up and experience its beauty yourself.
It was one summer morning when I came from Budva looking for Kotor. I thought that I have seen everything there is to see in Montenegro and I was expecting to see just another Stari Grad ( Old City ). To be able to reach Kotor I had to take a detour from the Adriatic Motorway and cross Vrmac Tunnel which took me right at the gates of Kotor city. I have seen pictures of the city and the surroundings but the moment I was out of the tunnel I realised that those pictures are not able to reveal the true dimension of Bay of Kotor.
To me, it seemed like the tunnel I was passing through took me to another world. I entered valley surrounded by mountains in which the waters of Adriatic Sea submerged the river canyon and were playing hide-and-seek in. There in that valley, some zigzagged rampart going uphill on St John Mountain caught my eye immediately and it felt like I was entering the middle-earth being in one of “ The Lord of the Rings“ movie scene. I could never imagine that here, in the Western part of Balkans lies such a fascinating world.
If at the beginning my eyes were caught by the unexpected beauty of the surroundings, the sight of the zigzagging ramparts leads my footsteps towards some impressive bastions. Entered the big gate thinking that probably I will see a big courtyard and some ruins. But no. What I was about to see was far from being just a courtyard and some deserted ruins.
It was instead a very lively town with clear evidence of the influence of the Italian architectural style. It was s o charming and welcoming, with shops and restaurants on every street. Flavours floating on the narrow streets so enticingly reminding me that it is that time of the day when I should stop and have a bite.
I was so hungry and I could feel it in every cell of my body but I could not stop from walking those streets. I was fascinated by this world I found behind the thick bastion that I wanted to see more of it.
I thought I could resist my urges but in the end, I had to succumb to it and take something to eat. I could have chosen one of the many restaurants but instead, I choose to take some street food, which by the way was delicious and continued my exploration. Although it might have seemed that I was walking aimlessly I did had a purpose. I wanted to find the starting point for the ramparts walk and go up to see the ruins and panorama over the entire bay.
Of course, in order to do that, I had to ask for directions and use map, but I will never admit it, though. The walk on the ramparts costs 3 euros and it was a bit more challenging than I was expecting, not because of the length, is not that long although it takes 45 minutes to do it, but because of the heat and humidity which made the heat even more intense. I was so excited about this walk that I forgot soon about the heat and just enjoyed the view because let me tell you dear traveler..,you have some stunning views for up there.
Being up on Saint John mountain represented the pinnacle of my journey to Kotor and one of the most exciting moments of my travelling through Montenegro. Definitely, Kotor and Bay of Kotor is one of the reasons I would return one day to Montenegro. I haven`t seen yet any other place like this although since then I have visited Cinque Terre too.
I promised myself that I will not deepen too much into the history of this place, but I have to mention that the strategic location of the castle on Mont Saint John was first used in the antiquity by the Ilirians. The name Ilirian was given by Greeks to their northern neighbours and till now there are no well-established theories about their origins. There are no mentions about Kotor till Roman times when the city became more fortified meant to be an inexpugnable fortress. It faced the Ostroghots and Saracens only to know the great glory under the Venetian rule. The Venetian touch can be sensed the moment one enters the gates of the city.The course of the history does not stop to Venetians because the waves of the history brought other invasions too. But the tumultuous past of this part of the world is not the subject here, although that past is very much part of everything you will see there so you should keep these in your mind too.
It would be an injustice to speak only about Kotor without placing it in the wonderful surroundings of Bay of Kotor.
Some will call Bay of Kotor fjord and some will call it a ria, a submerged river canyon, I will call it an intricate way in which the Adriatic Sea is finding its way to the core of the mountain. To see it and experience it you dear traveller have to do the way I did go along the shoreline and discover every little village and everything it has to offer. Dine by the bay and enjoy your delicious fish while watching the sunlight playing on the surface of the shimmering lake.
Bay of Kotor can be reached from Dubrovnik, Croatia more precisely following D2 route to Montenegro border and then E65, The distance is 93 km and it can take almost 2 hours. The road is going along the coastline and be sure that you are in for a treat and is not a bad idea to stop for a coffee in Herzeg Novi on your way to Kotor.
Bay of Kotor has a lot to offer and Kotor is just one of the jewels you will unexpectedly find there. Lustica Peninsula though with its rough edges and wild appearance and rocky beaches enticed me as well. Personally, I think that you my dear traveller should allow yourself some time and sail around the shores of the bay of Kotor. Sadly there aren`t such trips but you might take the boat from Mirista, Lustica and visit Blue cave and Mamula Island the place of Mamula infamous prison, or to sail from Kotor to Perast. Either way, those places are absolutely stunning.
There are lots of things to be said about Kotor, but it make no sense to write more. After all. it is up to you the traveller to fill in the blank pages about Kotor in your travelling journal. Remember, though, that Kotor is not only a city caught by the grip of the Mountain and washed by the sea it is also a city where the meanders of times are entwined with everything you are about to witness…