Saturday, 23 September 2017

Fortress of St John in Kotor

If you thought that we are fully done with Kotor and its bay then I have a surprise for you. Here comes the third time lucky post from the region. And we have a very good reason for devoting a separate post to the Fortress of Saint John in Kotor, since it is part of yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed on the list in 2017 only - the Venetian Works of Defence


As you have seen in the last post, the Kotor fortress is located high up the mountain. So say goodbye to the sea level ...


 ... and prepare to climb up 1,350 steps!


As we conquer the steps, the magnificent panorama opens to us. You can admire both the city of Kotor, with its many churches ...


... and the entry to the Kotor Bay. Unfortunately some trees still hinder the full picture.


Somewhere in the middle of our way to the upper fortress you will find the church of Our Lady of Health, where the troops could attend their Sunday service.


It is only from the upper side of the walls that we can fully acknowledge the amazing construction of the city walls of Kotor, with the very unique triangular harbour.


And it is also only from the top of the hill that we can truely appreciate the entrance to the Kotor Bay. No trees this time.


And here it comes, the Fortress of Saint John which once upon the time protected the sea routes and ports of Venice in the Adriatic Sea.


Today Venice is just a small town in Italy. So the lion of Saint Marc does not roar anymore in Kotor. The Montenegrin eagle spreads his wings wide on top of the fortress.

Source: https://meanderbug.com/

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Kotor city

In the last post we discovered the amazing Bay of Kotor. Those of you who have looked at the link to the UNESCO website recognised, that the site covers the whole region, including the city of Kotor. So it is time to discover the place that gave the bay its name. Let's leave our boat in the marina and move along.


The Old Town of Kotor is guarded by a solid wall.



The location of Kotor is very safe, with the sea in front and a mountain behind. Very feng shui.


Though to be honest, the pragmatic architects of Kotor made sure that the wall climbs up the hill as well.


I propose that we enter by one of the gates on the right. There are two reasons why I chose it. First it has a very cute guardian with long red hair.


And second, amoung the flags you can quickly spot the UNESCO emblem.


As we pass the moat, you can notice the barred window that allowed defenders to take a close look at whoever would like to approach the town from the sea.


If you want to find out more about the maritime heritage of Kotor, I strongly encourage you to visit the Maritime Museum.


Kotor was a Venetian city and then it belonged to the Empire of Austria and Hungary. As we walk through it, you can feel a certain mixture of styles. The palace of the Prima family was build in the seventeenth century and looks quite Italian.


The Town Hall which used to be the Austrohungarian general staff house was built in the nineteenth century.


Next to the Town Hall you will notice the cathedral of Kotor, devoted to Saint Tryphon (do not worry, I have never heard of him before either). It was built in the twelfth century, when Byzantium was still powerful.


Inside, the cathedral is pretty modest.


Look up to those little windows. They bring light but they do not go to the external world, they link the church to an internal gallery that runs on the upper floor and which houses the museum of the cathedral.


You can admire there some religious artefacts as well as paintings.


To reach the gallery you need to use the staircase, made entirely from Italian marble.


On the picture showing the facade of the cathedral you might have noticed that between the towers there is a balcony. It looks a lot like the one in the cathedral of Saint Marc in Venice which we have visited last year. And like with the other, you can admire there the market square from bird eye perspective.


As you may have guessed, the cathedral is not the only church in town. Because of the mixed cultural background of the inhabitants, there has to be also an orthodox church. Or better two. The large Saint Nicolas church ...


... and just next to it a smaller one, dedicated to Saint Luke.


The streets of Kotor are narrow and shadowy so it is not easy to take good pictures. So I strongly encourage you to take a look at one of the many panoramic pictures available on a special website. Alternatively, we may also try to look at the city from the top by climbing up to the Fortress of Saint John. Ready? Then take a short break and we will climb up next week.




Saturday, 9 September 2017

Bay of Kotor

As we move along the shores of Montenegro, we have to come to the Bay of Kotor, one of the most amazing places in the Balkans.
 

It looks like a fjord, but fjords are created by glacier erosion and can only be found in Northern Europe and America. And we are in the Balkans. Sunny and warm Balkans. Still, just take a look at this view.


The sea enters sharply in between the mountains, being the Dinaric Alps. But what you actually see is the remaining of an old river that does not exist since ages. It used to flow from the mountains to the sea. Now all that is left is the bay, spotted with small villages.


As we go down, you will immediately recognise that for sure we are not in Norway or Alaska.


This nice city is called Perast. It is an important point on the shoreline because of its ferry service.


The ferry can take you to the islands of Our Lady of the Rocks and St. George.
 

The Island Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) was made as an artificial island from more than a hundred shipwrecks filled with stones. According to a legend, two seamen from Perast have found an icon of the Holy Mother of God with the Christ on a sea rock in 1452 and they vowed to build a church for that icon. They had no land to build it on, so they start building the isle first. Finally, the church was built in 1630. As the island had to be maintained, the seaman continued to bring the stones and rocks, and that tradition is alive even today. This event is called Fašinada and it is held on every 22nd of July. It’s now accompanied by a two-day yachting regatta, the Fašinada Cup, with participants racing to Tivat and back.


The other, darker island, is the Island of St George (Sveti Đorđe). That island is natural and it used to be a cemetery for all nobility from Perast. Now there is an Orthodox Church. As you may imagine, both churches are hugely popular as wedding destinations for catholic and orthodox couples respectively. 


The unique and universal value of the Kotor Bay was recognised by UNESCO who inscribed it on the World Heritage List already in 1979. I hope that after this post  you will not be surprised.

(C) IP Studio Strugar (postcard)

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Budva

As you all know, there are two things that I like best. This is visiting warm and sunny places and visiting new countries. If I can bring both together then it is truly paradise. Today is one of these days, when I will be able to take you to a new, warm and sunny country. Let's discover together Montenegro!


We will start our trip to the Balkans in the nice town of Budva.


Budva lies on the Adriatic Sea side and is a very popular summer resort. Unfortunately beaches tend to be rocky so be careful when walking.


The modern part of Budva looks like any other seaside town, with bars and beaches. But what makes Budva interesting it is its old town, surrounded by solid walls, remembering the times when Venetians rules the place.


Next to the walls, you will see a huge bell, which could be the Mother of Voices form the film The Long Ships which was shot in and around Budva.


Obviously you will no longer spot Vikings in Budva, but there are some pretty long ships in the marina.


Let's take one of the narrow streets and walk into the center of the old town. Feels very Italian, doesn't it?


The city center surrounds the most important buildings in town. First, the Cathedral of John the Baptist.


Next to it, the small church of Santa Marija in Punta, built in 840 by the Benedictine order.


It does not have a belfry, the bells hang over the main porch.


On the right hand side, you will immediately notice another tall wall.


This is the citadel. It used to defend the city from attacks from the sea. Today, it is turned into a museum.


Let's go inside.


The inner courtyard is not large. But as a matter of fact, the citadel burned down several time during its history and it is not easy to guess what it looked like when it was still on duty.


Let's climb a bit up to check the view.


On one hand side, you can admire the Adriatic Sea, with the island of Saint Nicolas right in the middle. It has a long sandy beach that is referred to by locals as Hawaii.


But I propose that we turn our backs to the sea and take a look at Budva itself. What a picturesque Mediterranean town. Looks like a postcard, doesn't it?