Montenegro – Kotor

Our Costa cruise allowed us half a day to explore Kotor, Montenegro in early November. While we really wanted to visit nearby Perast’s Our Lady of the Rocks island, with limited time we decided to focus all our efforts on Kotor. The cruise into the Bay of Kotor in the early morning was quite pretty, and despite the morning chill, we huddled up on deck to take some photos of the beautiful scenery. We were allowed to disembark at a very reasonable 9 am, and were one of the first passengers off the ship. Lucky us! We had all of Kotor to enjoy by ourselves for the first hour on shore while the big tour groups were still trying to get organized. It was great being able to take photos of the Old Town without having to contend with our fellow passengers. We were able to take a ton of photos of the medieval town’s sights such as the Clock Tower, Sveti Tripun Cathedral, Sveti Luka Church, Church of Sveta Marija, Church of Lady of Health, Napoleon’s Theater, and palaces galore to include Bizanti, Buca, Pima, and Grgurin. We really enjoyed that first hour of bliss, because once the rest of the cruise ship passengers entered town at 10am, things started to get crowded!

Kotor's Old Town is considered to be the best-preserved medieval walled town in the entire Mediterranean St George's Church, an abandoned church that can be found on the back side of St John's Hill Becky climbing through a rampart window to get from the free mule path over to the paid trail leading up to Kotor's Fortress Ruins of St John's Castle A close up view of the fortifications of Kotor Phenomenal views over the Bay of Kotor from the top of St John's Castle Sea Gate of Old Town Checkerboard stonework at Saint Lucas Square Panoramic view of Kotor's medieval walls, complete with a moat! Breathtaking views on the hike up to Kotor's fortifications Early morning view during our cruise to the Bay of Kotor Waterfront church on the outskirts of Kotor Welcome to Montenegro signpost at the port Archway view of the Tower Clock Gothic portal of Palace of Beskuca Family Despite the early morning hour, bars in Kotor were ready and willing to serve beer! Getting lost in the cobblestoned streets of Old Kotor Rear view of Saint Luke (Sveti Luka) Church Detail of St Nicholas Church Painting inside St Nicholas Church A nun gives a beggar some money; Old Kotor We had to laugh at this! A cat museum is stunning Kotor? There are so many other things we want to be spending our time doing here instead Bastion Bembo (1540) on the Shkurda River St Nicholas Church Blessed Ozana Church (St Mary) Robby standing in one of the gates leading to the Old City of Kotor Well worn cobblestoned street; Kotor St Anna's Church dating from the 12th century One of the many bastions built as part of Kotor's medieval fortifications A look at the wall fortifications incorporating the natural surroundings of Kotor Angel relief on the Palace of Pima Montenegro license plate The wide mule path we climbed up to reach St John's Fortress View of Kotor's fortifications from the old mule path Robby soaking up the moment at the top of St John's Fortress Flag of Montenegro The UNESCO world heritage site of Kotor's medieval fortifications includes its bastions, ramparts, towers, citadels, gates, forts, cisterns and a castle. A sample of all of them appears here St. Tryphon Cathedral as seen from St John's Fortress Detail of a window in Kotor's Old Town Grgurina Palace (Maritime Museum) Souvenir bag for sale Built on the hillside overlooking Kotor in 1518, the Church of Our Lady of Health can only be reached by a short hike During World War II Kotor was occupied by the Axis forces and liberated on November 21, 1944. This date is commemorated over the Sea Gate View of UNESCO World Heritage site Perast, a sleepy town with 16 Baroque Palaces and 17 Catholic Churches Another waterfront view of Perast Our Lady of the Rocks (a manmade islet) and Sveti Dorde Island; off the coast of Perast Panoramic view of Saint Lucas Square Smiling after completing our hike up to St John's Fortress Becky admiring the amazing view from the top of St John's Fortress It is so  much easier going down than up! Here is a view of the steeper, narrower main trail to St John's Fortress The Bay of Kotor with our cruise ship, Costa Mediterranea, in port for the day Our old mule path is visible from the ramparts of St John's Fortress Panoramic view of St John's Fortress Church of Our Lady of Health overlooking the Bay of Kotor Cathedral Sveti Tripun (St. Tryphon's Cathedral), built in the early 1100s and dedicated to the town’s protector Arms Square (Trg od oruzja), the main town square Pima Palace Built in 1909 in the Serbian-Byzantine style; St Nicholas Church Saint Luke (Sveti Luka) Church The northern city walls of Kotor A hidden square tucked away in Old Town Detail of the rear side of St. Tryphon Cathedral purchase photo gallery softwareby v6.1

To escape the Old Town for a bit, we decided to hike up to the Sveti Ivan (St John) Fortress. Even in November, ticket booths were set up around town to collect the 3 Euro fee to hike up to the fortress. Becky had heard about an alternate path up to the Fortress via the “ladder of Cattarno” or the old mule track. Apparently, the path started at the base of the water pumping station and in addition to being free, it was supposed to be an easier hike up the mountain (wider, zigzag path, less steep, better terrain, with the drawbacks of being somewhat longer, less scenic and far less people). Needless to say, we opted for the less traveled path, and it was great! The hike up was easy, we ran into several locals coming down the mountain, but met no one else hiking uphill. It was pretty obvious when we had to leave the mule path to join the main trail, because we could see other hikers lingering nearby an abandoned church. We cut across towards them, and viola, 6 Euros saved in Kotor! We joined the main path by hiking up and crawling through a rampart window. The view overlooking the bay was simply astounding. Well worth the effort of hiking up the hill and definitely Kotor’s #1 must do activity!!! Since we were so close to the top, we hiked the rest of the way up to the fortress to take in the phenomenal vista. We were truly lucky to have such spectacular weather in early November, and couldn’t help but take dozens of photos from this vantage point. The Bay of Kotor is such a beautiful sight…we sat on top of the fortress ruins mesmerized by the scenery (fjords, mountains, green vegetation and blue skies). Eventually, we tore ourselves away from the fortress and made our way back down the hill. Boy did we count our blessings to have chosen the donkey path up to the fortress! The pay trail was way steeper and the tourists climbing up it were huffing and puffing each step of the way. In addition to being much steeper, the main trail was also much narrower (room for 2 people side by side), so we would move aside to let those struggling up the hill have right of way…poor things!

Back in town, we decided to circle back to our favorite Kotor sights. Despite the afternoon crowds, we found the Old City to be quite charming and alluring. Apparently, Kotor is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the Mediterranean, with 1000 year old walls that stretch up 20 meters high. We certainly were impressed by the state of the walls! Since it was nearing lunch time, we decided to board the Costa Mediterranea for some food. We were so glad that we decided to spend our limited time in Montenegro in Kotor, rather than try to dash off to Perast because we definitely wouldn’t have had time to do both. Kotor is a gem and we would love to return to Montenegro to see more of this beautiful country.

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