Tuesday, July 8, 2014


A tiny part of the Medieval Venetian walled city of Kotor
 As always, click on any image for larger view.
In the pass heading into easternmost bay to Kotor
Looking back at the pass where we entered Kotor Bay

Finally we dragged ourselves away from the perfect anchorage on the eastern side of Stradioti Island in the center bay of the Gulf of Kotor.  It was time to move on to Kotor, the old walled Venetian town situated at the southern tip of the easternmost bay.

The old and the new.  
But, first, we had to motor by the two tiny islands off the town known as Perast.  These two islands are called Otok Gospa Od Skrp Jela (northern one) and Otok SV.Djordje (southern one).  Try saying those names three times fast!  The Serbian language is so very strange to our ears and eyes!  Many words and especially names of places and towns contain no vowels.  Pronunciation is completely beyond our grasp.  Information on these two islands is taken from our sailing guidebook,  the Adriatic Pilot published by Imray.

Looking down from mountain at the 2 islands off Perast.  The pass to enter the easternmost bay of Kotor is to the right hand side of photo.  In that background is a tiny portion of the center bay where
we were anchored a couple of weeks.
northern island off Perast
The island of Gospa od Skrpjela is artificial (and now they have already confused me with the difference of joining words in some places of our guide book and separating in other places).   This tiny island was created by the people of nearby Perast on the mainland.  They created the island by dropping stones on a reef.  Some sources claim that the people of Perast captured pirate ships which had stones as ballast.  By sinking these pirate ships in the same place over an existing reef, over time an island was formed.  Legend is that people started dropping stones onto the sunken ships and reef after the discovery on a rock of an icon of the Virgin Mary in 1452 A.D.  The finding of the icon is commemorated every year on 22 July by the people of Perast going out to the island and dropping a stone on the reef.  That tradition is continued today.  Construction of the church on the island began in 1630.  The interior of the church is richly decorated with paintings and silver...a lot of silver if the photo in our guidebook is accurate.  The plaques and paintings in the adjacent museum depict ships and seafaring scenes.

southern island off Perast
The nearby island of Sveti Djordje (see...they changed the name again) was the site of a Benedictine abbey, which was the most important abbey in the area and owned land at the towns of Morinj, Risan, Perast and Prcanj.  This abbey was twice sacked and destroyed by the Turks...remember, the Ottoman Empire controlled most but not all of this area for over 500 years.  The abbey also has been damaged by earthquakes.  Today Sv. Djordje is surrounded by a high wall which encloses a church, cemetery and cypress trees.   We have noticed that cypress trees do not appear to be indigenous to this area of Montenegro but that people plant numerous cypress trees around nicer or more important buildings.

Looking back towards the 2 islands off Perast.

It is not possible to anchor off these two islands.  There are tour boats that will take visitors to the island of  Gospa od Skrpjela; I did not see any tour boats visiting the island where the abbey is located.  But, being the frugal folks that we are, we opted not to pay 15 Euro each for the four of us to visit the church.  A few days later we took a small bus day tour to Tara River canyon and Durmitor National Park.  On the drive back to Kotor we stopped high on a nearby mountain for an aerial view of these two islands.  Very picturesque.

Kotor is way, way, way down there somewhere.

Back to the subject of this posting -- Kotor.

Kotor is nicer than we had expected. 

Probably should have come here sooner but then the kids would not have been able to swim and kayak.  Small private yachts like ours are berthed in the small inner harbor, where the water is not so clean and pristine, typical of all docks and harbors.  Larger yachts and mega-yachts are docked stern-to in the outer harbor.  Cruise ships visit Kotor almost daily.  It can be impossible to see the inner harbor when a cruise ship is docked but it is easy to find once past the cruise ships and mega-yachts.  Supposedly boats also can anchor across the small bay from the inner harbor docks, but a local guy advised us that sometimes the port authorities make those anchored boats leave the area.
No idea name of this town.  I liked the old church up on
the mountain compared to the 3 new churches in town.
There are not real marina facilities here; it is more of a town dock or town marina.  No shower or toilet facilities ashore and no swimming pool.  There are a couple of floating concrete docks which are very wide and equipped with a few shore power pedestals, not enough for every boat to plug in.  There were few boats docked when we arrived here 10:00 on a Saturday morning so we were able to plug in to shore power; boats that arrived late in the afternoon were not so fortunate.  Electricity and water is included in the berthing rate.  Cost for our 16-meter boat is 55 Euro daily ($75)!  That is a very good price for this part of the world. The marina 'office' has recently relocated to a new building some distance from the docks.  It is a two or three story building with all glass exterior, situated on the 'water' side of the main road; sign in front states Luka Kotor AD.  Does seem strange for the 'marina office' to be located so far from the docks.

Can you make out this section of the wall
around Old Town Kotor?  It starts at bottom
and goes up to the castle at top left.

Again taking information from our sailing guidebook:  It is not known exactly how long people have lived here in Kotor.  There was a settlement here in the third century B.C., and it is believed that settlement probably was Greek.  Like all of the Dalmatian coast, this town changed hands many times -- being ruled by Illyrians, Romans and then under the Byzantium Empire.  For varying periods it was ruled by the kings of Serbia, Hungary and Bosnia until 1391 when Kotor became an independent republic.  The threat posed by the Turks made the town council decide in 1420 that it was better to throw in their hand with the powerful Venetian Republic.  Venetian control lasted until 1797.  Many of the fortifications, churches and other buildings in Kotor date from this period.  After 1797 the rulers of Kotor included the French, Austrians, Russians briefly, and then the Austrians again.  Kotor became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes after WWI.  

Another section of the wall leading up to the castle
on left side of the small mountain.
Main gate entrance.
There are 3 gates in wall.
This area of the world is prone to earthquakes.  The last truly devastating earthquake was in 1979.  Much of Kotor was damaged during that earthquake, as well as others during previous centuries.  Given that, it is surprising that the Venetian Old Town and the walls are still standing completely around the old city.

Inside the main entrance.  Thick walls!
And what a city this must have been back when Venetians ruled this part of the world!  Those walls go almost sheer vertically up the steep mountainside!  The actual city portion is located down at the seaside and the battlements or fortress or castle section is located at the top of the adjacent 'small' mountain, with a high wall surrounding all of it.  It is really pretty at night when the walls are lit up all the way around.  The city portion is filled with ultra-narrow streets that are more like alleyways, squares, nice buildings and churches.  Today those nice buildings house basic hostels, swank hotels, trendy restaurants, bars and chic clothing and souvenir shops.  The small mountain is dwarfed by the high mountains behind the town, providing dramatic backdrop.  Another beautiful place.

This intrigued me.  It was on the right hand
side inside the main entrance.  What do you
think that slot in the stone was for?

Directly across the street from the marina dock is a daily market outside the old city walls.  Bill and I so miss the fabulous produce grown and sold in Turkey.  This market cannot compare to a Turkish market but it was the best we have seen since leaving Turkey.  There were even a few seafood and meat vendors inside the permanent structure behind the temporary produce stalls.  A block or so down to the right from the marina docks sits a large supermarket.  Across the street are some ruins that appeared to be Roman; but after reading the guide book I suppose these ruins were Greek.  Not very extensive; must have been a very small community, whoever they were.  Or maybe the Venetian city was built on top of the ancient ruins.  Doubt that possibility will ever be explored by archaeologists because this walled city is not going to be demolished unless by a major earthquake.

Just inside wall at main entrance is a large
plaza area.  Leading to the narrow streets.

I had searched online for a tour to the Tara River Canyon since we did not wait around in Bar for a wasted 5 days to do the tour from there.  All the tours I found online were for white water rafting on the Tara River.  Nope; not interested in doing that.  Finally I found a day tour via small bus that included the Tara River canyon and the Durmitor National Park.  This tour was offered by the Montenegro Hostel which is located inside the Old Town in Kotor.  While Bill tested our boat batteries, the kids and I walked through the Old Town.  We easily located the hostel and booked the tour for the following day.  Then we toured the Maritime Museum which was located just a few feet away from the hostel.  

Ornate old guns
Ornate long old pistols
Cannot say I learned much from this tiny museum.  Did see well-made models of a xebec and a felluca and a few other older type vessels.  We were more impressed with the elaborate metal working and ornamentation work on the old guns and swords.  Wow!  What craftsmanship!

This old pistol was different.  If the
shooter did not hit his target he
could have used this to hit the
person on the head.  Why the
spikey things?

Some old large wooden blocks.
Zachary's foot shown for size
comparison.   He wears a man's
 10 1/2 USA size.

View from one of the museum windows

Another view from museum window
It was getting quite warm so we then opted to return to the lovely air-conditioned comfort of BeBe.  

All four of us could become real marina rats here.  Would be very easy to do.  

Deciphering my notes on how to
find the hostel

Narrow streets of the old town

Stay inside the boat during the heat of the afternoons.  Then the city comes alive after 8 pm when temps cool off.  

The wall goes up the mountain.  Hard to see in photos.
More of the old Venetian walled city

One can walk all the way around on the walls of the old city.  This would take a physically fit person about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  It would take me days.  That little mountain is so steep that I honestly do not think I could ever make it to the top.  Walking down would be easy.  I'll just have to take the guidebook author's word for his opinion that the view from up there is worth the effort.  

Not even the kids are willing to do that strenuous walk.

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