At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the beauty of Montenegro far exceeded my expectations. Kotor was no exception to this. After having a lot of fun going on two boats, I wasn’t really that bothered about visiting another medieval city. Especially since visiting Dubrovnik because it’s crowds had really put me off. Anyway, Gulliver Travels had already shown me some beautiful places in Montenegro, so I was happy enough to go along with the rest of their itinerary. 30 minutes after I had left Perast, the windy road through the “fjords” brought me to the outside of the walled city of Kotor.
Hidden in a quiet corner of the Boka Bay lies a piece of living history. There are two parts of Kotor, a more modern side which spans out around the waters edge and a central walled old town are wedged between brooding mountains and deep blue waters. The Stari Grad is so picturesque it almost doesn’t seem real. The guide took me to the sea gate and provided me with a map of the town for the walking tour; led by a guide named Christina who was very knowledgeable about Kotor and it’s history. I’m glad I went on a walking tour because Kotor is a medieval maze of churches, piazzas and Venetian palaces. Kotor has a very long history, first mentioned in 168 bc by the Romans! After a period of wars and being conquered by the Bosnians, Serbians and Bulgarians, the Venetians took charge in 1420. The architecture is very similar to Venice, giving Kotor UNESCO world heritage site status. It was only in 1945 Kotor reunited with Montenegro after a period of annexation of Italy and Russian rule.
Stark contrasts of historical periods are visible everywhere, yet Kotor is perfectly at one with it’s self. It’s hard not to fall in love with this delightful town where past and present coexist beautifully. I love how centuries old buildings encase modern and unique shops. I wandered around a few of the quaint back alleys but preferred the ambience of the numerous squares.
I had nearly 4 hours to explore this town so wasn’t really bothered about getting unapologetically lost in the centuries old streets, instead I chose to enjoy the atmosphere in the squares. I love how the names of the squares are based on what they were historically used for. The first square you see is the Trg od Oružja (Square of arms) after entering through the Sea gate. It was used as an arms storage area in Venetian times. That may have gone but the clock tower is still there, along with the pillar of shame right in front (don’t worry it’s no longer used to punish naughty humans).
Trg od brasna (square of brass) is home to the beautiful Venetian palace, Pima. It was built in 1667 and the balcony railings were made by a family of blacksmiths from Kotor. It is an area which looks as though it was inhabited by lots of wealthy people in the past. Whereas it was actually where all of the flour was stored There is also a bakery in this square which smelt divine! I love anywhere which allows you to watch the bread baking in the oven.
Hungry (once again) from the smell of the bakery, I headed through a small cobbled back alley. This lead to the Trg Svetog Tripuna (Square of St Tryphon). I decided on this square for lunch as my experience has taught me one thing, central locations are more expensive (not in Eastern Europe). I had a beautiful view of the cathedral, Kotor’s old buildings and a prime location for human watching. The Sara Cafe was very nice and reasonably priced, and rather vegan friendly. I think my salad was freshly picked out of the garden just for me! A rather large lunch and delicious cappuccino gave me change from €15.
Feeling slightly more adventurous after lunch, I chose to lose myself in some of the smaller back lanes. I found that I couldn’t get lost since all of the paths seemed to lead back to a bigger square. I found myself in Pjaca od cirkula which I didn’t find very exciting.
I was then lead into a bigger and more interesting square, the Square of St Luke. There are two very famous orthodox churches here, alongside a cat museum. I will admit as a dinosaur, I don’t follow human religion at all. Although I did enjoy seeing the beautiful frescoes on the alters in Црква Светог Луке (St Luke’s church), which has been in Kotor since around the 12th century. It looks across the square to a bigger, grander and more modern church, St Nicholas but I didn’t go in because there was a service in progress.
Squeezed between St Nicholas Church, St Claire Church and the Wall hides a small bazaar in the long-abandoned cloister of a Dominican monastery. The stuff is quite religious but it’s so exciting to be in an area where nature has reclaimed the roof and the inside has been reused without losing any of the ancient charm.
Exploring in the sunshine had once again made me hungry (big surprise). Luckily on the corner of the square, right below the Lombardic Palace is Scorpio. Scorpio is a cafe and restaurant which serves vegan ice cream! My wishes had been answered (YAY!) I happily ate blood orange ice cream whilst wandering around the chessboard like square. My favourite part of my visit to Kotor was seeing all of the friendly kitties roaming about. Legend has it, they are descendants of seafaring cats. Nowadays they prefer to loll in the shade of the marble lanes. Unlike many places with cats, they are all really friendly and well looked after. I even found my spirit animal here, enjoying a snooze in the afternoon sunshine (in the middle of a busy square).
Leaving old Kotor behind, I decided to have a quick wander along the waterside to wave at the newer part of Kotor. It’s boat watching paradise here, I could have sat for hours! Walking back along the outside of the walled city, you can see how the water once came all of the way up to the sea gate. Outside of the walled town provides beautiful views of a walled town below the imposing mountains.
Sadly, my time in Montenegro had come to an end. It was time for the long drive back to Croatia, or so I thought. The driver took us a different way, through the mountains, to Lepetane. At this point the bus left the road … and joined a ferry. Three boat rides in one day, I often forget how lucky I am. It took around 10 minutes to go across the millpond water to Kamenari but it was the perfect view to reflect upon my visit. Just over an hour later I was back in my hotel.
Kotor is undoubtedly one of my favourite cities in the world and I am definitely looking to return for a few days to explore this place even more. Kotor is a very accessible town, inside the walls there are several squares and zero stairs to climb. It is the first place I have visited which is compact and totally flat (if you ignore the climb up to Kotor Fortress). Adventursaurus’ with any walking difficulties, wheelchairs or walking aides will find this town a great place to visit in Eastern Europe as it is a lot flatter than neighbouring Croatia. It is also a popular stop for cruise liners, making it a great day trip option too!
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