Friday, September 14, 2012

Kotor - Life Inside the Walls

When Travis suggested adding Montenegro to our itinerary I quickly agreed, knowing it would count as time outside the Schengen Zone and allow us to extend our trip; however, I didn't know much about the country. As we were slotting it in between Greece and Croatia, I assumed it was along the Adriatic Coast but couldn't pin-point it on a map. Once we started telling friends and family about our trip I could tell I wasn't the only one unsure about this part of the world. Since visiting here's what I've learned:

Montenegro is bordered by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania. In Ancient times and the Middle Ages the area was passed around by the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians, and everyone in between. In more recent history, Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia before becoming Serbia and Montenegro in 2003. The region struggled through the 1990s during the Bosnian War, Croatian War, and later the Kosovo War. Fortunately, a decade later, it appears as though tourism is once again picking up as visitors recognize all that this area has to offer. Montenegro is currently an independent democracy, member of the UN, and official candidate for membership in the European Union and NATO.


We decided to focus our visit around the Bay of Kotor, with the Old Town of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, serving as our base. As a fortress during the Middle Ages, stone walls have surrounded the city for over a thousand years, seven times longer than Canada has been a country. These stone fortifications make for a unique visit, transporting you back in time and creating a castle-like atmosphere. 

Entrance to the old town is through one of three main archway - the only break in the fortifications which stand 20 meters high, are between 2 and 16 meters thick at times, and even stretch 4.5 kilometers above the city to the castle of San Giovanni. The ancient buildings within the walls run together, standing three or four stories tall to make up for the lack of space. The narrow cobblestone streets are a maze, winding between buildings and opening into grand church-lined squares; a bit crowded at times with Cruise Ship tour groups, a common theme we are encountering.

Everywhere you look and everything you touch in Kotor is soaked in history. The Guardic Gate, closest to our apartment, boarders a moat and maintains fixtures that would have supported a drawbridge many years ago. In the main square, the double bell towers of St. Tryphon's Cathedral (1166 AD) stand tall as the best known landmark in Kotor. The crumbled remains of the Monastery of St. Francis, constructed in the 17th century, are just outside our bedroom window (if you crane your neck you can make out the bell tower and a circular opening where stained glass may have sat).

Unfortunately the fortified city of Kotor was conquered many times and possession changed hands many times during the Middle Ages. Additionally, it was rocked by Earthquakes in 1563, 1667, and 1979. These periods of turmoil severely damaged many of the buildings, and as a result, some have been rebuilt and repaired many times, as money allowed, while others have fallen into disrepair. However, instead of being an eye sore, these crumbled buildings add to the charm of Kotor, and give a wonderful glimpse at how quickly mother nature can reclaim the land.

As the town is so compact cars cannot enter, adding to the appeal of life inside the walls. Taxis drop passengers off on the main road, a single lane each direction between the marina and the city walls, and from this point on you are on your own to roam the city in search of your accommodations.

By Calli D with No comments


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Hey there!

Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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