Montenegro – the Adriatic’s Secret Jewel

Montenegro – Adriatic’s Secret Jewel

“Discovering” Montenegro

City of Kotor
Montenegro: City of Kotor

One of the biggest surprises in visiting the countries near the Adriatic Sea is “discovering” Montenegro!  Whether you arrive by land or sea, you will be filled with awe and wonder at the spectacular beauty.

Because of this, a seasoned traveler might even compare some of the sites to Alaska’s fjords.  Montenegro means”black mountain.”  The mountains around this beautiful little city look black; thus, the early sailors named it Montenegro.

A day in the port of Kotor:

Montenegro’s port city of Kotor recently gained popularity with cruisers.  Each of my three visits here have been absolutely delightful   Kotor, its ancient walls, and the fortification above the city are all UNESCO sites.  Consequently, here are at least three things I recommend for your visit in Kotor:

1.  A city tour:

Kotor City Square
Montenero: Kotor, City Square

Each cruise line will provide a walking city tour; depending on the cruise line, some are complimentary and some are for a fee.  Kotor itself is a walled city, surrounded by a moat.  In the center of the main square is the Tryphon Cathedral.  Kotor’s cathedral is unique in that only one of its towers was

Montenegro: Kotor city moat
Montenegro: Kotor city moat

completed after a severe earthquake in 1979.  The local guides are quite good in giving a brief overview of their city.  The walk is low impact with few stairs.  I highly recommend a city tour for your first visit to Kotor.  There are numerous shops, cafes, and coffee shops in which you may enjoy the ambiance of Kotor.

2.  Our Lady of the Rocks:

Village of Perast
Montenegro: Village of Perast near Kotor

According to legend, this islet was made over the centuries by Croat seamen.  On July 22, 1452 an icon of the Madonna and Child was discovered on a rock in the sea.  As the legend goes, at that time they made an oath that each seagoing vessel would toss a rock toward the rock near the Madonna with the belief that this would bring a successful voyage.

Our Lady of the Rocks
Montenegro: Our Lady of the Rocks, Kotor

After centuries, these many rocks formed a small islet large enough to build a chapel to the Madonna.  Upon returning from a successful voyage, seaman brought  a tribute to the Madonna.  This islet is a treat to visit.  The interior chapel walls are banked with 100s of silver & gold icons given to the Madonna after a successful voyage.

Silver gifts for Madonna
Montenegro: Silver gifts for the Madonna

To visit the islet, you will either travel around the Adriatic coast by bus or boat to the small village of Perast.  From Perast you will take a brief boat ride across the water to the little islet.  On the islet you should receive a guided tour of the chapel dedicated to the Madonna and Child.  If you travel to Perast by bus, you will return by boat and vice versa.  This excursion is a memorable treat.

3.  The Kotor hike to the fortification above the city:

Fortification Hike
Montenegro: Fortification Hike above Kotor

Kotor sets at the foot of Mt. Saint John.  On the top of this mountain is an ancient fortification built by different groups dating back to the 1400s.  Its history is tangled and convoluted.  If you want to know more about this fortification, click here.  For the sake of your short visit, though, you can still climb to the top on an unguided tour.  As you walk though Kotor, veer to the right; eventually, you will come to the beginning of the hike. There is a small fee of just a few Euros.

View of Kotor from Mountain
Montenegro: View of Kotor, from Mountain

The hike to the top is over 1,500 steps.  The steps are wide, steep, curved, and uneven.  Each step is equivalent to two, so a hike to the top and back to the city below is approximately 5,000 steps.  If you are adventuresome and in good health, I highly recommend this!  There is a small chapel about half way to the top that is a good turn around spot.  And, remember to take water.  I’d probably avoid the hike on a rainy day because of the uneven and steep steps. The views of Kotor, the sea below, and the general area from this hike are priceless.

Location and a “little” Montenegro history:

Kotor Salin
Montenegro Sali-in, City of Kotor

Montenegro’s Southwest coast is  the Adriatic Sea.  It received its name because early seaman thought the mountains looked black.  The country is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast,  Kosovo to the east, and Albania to the southeast.  Its capital and largest city is Podgorica.  The coastal town of Kotor is absolutely a delightful way to enter Montenegro.

In 1042 a revolt resulted in the independence of Duklja from the Byzantine Empire and a new dynasty formed.  In the following centuries, this area was controlled by several different regional powers and the Ottoman Empire.  In 1918 Montenegro became a part of the of Yugoslavia.  At the end of WW II, it became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia led by Tito.

After the death of Tito, circumstances changed in the Slavic regions.  When Yugoslavia broke up in 1992 with a series of revolts and revolutions, Serbia and Montenegro established the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The other former republics opposed this.  Later, it renamed itself Serbia and Montenegro.  On May 21, 2006 they held an independence referendum.  Then on June 3, 2006 they declared an independent Montenegro.  Three weeks later on June 28, 2006 the United Nations accepted Montenegro.  Finally, on Oct. 22, 2007 it was officially named Republic of Montenegro.

Montenegro Today:

Today, the country enjoys a time of peace.  Its economy is based on international trade and tourism.  In addition to the booming cruise ship traffic, Montenegro also offers several world class ski areas. The Euro is the standard of change, and by European standards, their tax rate is low at a flat 9%.

If you have enjoyed this blog (and I trust you have!), you might also love my blog about Dubrovnik, Montenegro’s Croatian neighbor.

City View from the Gondola
City View of Dubrovni from the Gondola
I experienced both Dubrovnik and Montenegro on a Viking Cruise.  I have cruised a lot and love Princess, but Viking is unbelievable.  If you like to cruise, you will love Viking.

Dubrovnik – The Pearl of the Adriatic!!

Dubrovnik – The Adriatic Pearl!

Lord Byron once called Dubrovnik, Croatia “the Pearl of the Adriatic.”  Once you

City View from the Gondola
City View from the Gondola

visit this historic sea coast town, you will surely agree.  Its history is colorful, tragic, and heroic!  My husband and I have visited the city several times and LOVE it.  It’s our favorite Dalmatian Coast city.

Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th Century. For 700 years it was an independent merchant city trading with countries as far away as India and areas of Africa.  For centuries Dubrovnik lived in harmony with other countries and merchant cities.  Despite all this, the city has been devastated three different times.

Walking around the historic walled city is easy and impossible to get lost.  There

City Walls of Dubrovnik
City Walls

is an open gate (with a drawbridge) at each end of the placa.  On the placa you walk from gate to gate in just a few minutes.  But take some time and wander around the narrow streets; enjoy the many shops; and visit a few of Dubrovnik’s 13 unique churches, each with her own set of bells!

Views from City Walls
Views from City Walls

If you have free time in Dubrovnik and want an adventure of a lifetime, “walk the wall!”  At either entry gate you can pay just a few Euros (less than 10) and literally walk completely around the small city.  On your walk you will enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Adriatic and excellent views of the city below.

And.. if you’re even more adventurous, exit the city by the Pile Gate and climb to the top of the adjacent ancient fort.  From the fort you will get even better view of the old City of Dubrovnik!  You can purchase a combined ticket, or buy tickets separately.  The cost of the fort ticket is 50 Kunas.  Note:  The ticket booth is half way up the climb, so buy your ticket BEFORE you begin.  That is a note from experience!

The Tragic Earthquake of 1667:

1667 Earthquake
1667 Earthquake -Artist’s rendering

Dubrovnik’s tranquility was shattered by a catastrophic Earthquake in 1667.  Over 5,000 citizens were killed and a large portion of its priceless Renaissance art and architecture were completely destroyed.   Only two buildings survived this catastrophe.   The city that we see today still reflects the reconstructed baroque style that occurred after the earthquake.

The Arrival of Napoleon in 1806: 

The glory days of the historic merchant city were already declining when Napoleon arrived in Dubrovnik in 1806.  When Napoleon’s generals reached the city after they conquest of Venice, the city officials capitulated and handed the the keys to the city.  By 1815, like most of the eastern Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik became part of the Hapsburg Empire, where it remained until 1918.

Yugoslavia and Croatia

Following World War II Dubrovnik became a part of the new country of Yugoslovia led by General Tito.   General Tito led Yugoslavia was from 1945 until his death in 1980.  Tito loved Dubrovnik and often visited his favorite villa their. His rule was a combination of absolute allegiance to Marxism combined with a rather independent and combative relationship with the Soviet Union.  Tito was the last of the World War II Communist leaders. He was responsible for amalgamating the six different areas of Yugoslavia into a country, but with his death the country began to fragment.

The Siege of Dubrovnik: 1991 – 1992

Following the death of Tito and his dictatorial leadership, Yugoslavia’s six distinctive areas each began to seek independence. Dubrovnik was the city in Croatia that experienced the most devastation and continual bombardment.  The Croatian forces gallantly defended their city against Yugoslav’s Peoples Army  for 238 consecutive days.  During these days 194 of the Croatian army were killed along with 88 civilians.

Replaced Tile Roofs
Replaced Tile Roofs

This bombardment provoked international condemnation of the Serbs.  It became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to diplomatic and economic isolation, for them both.  Croatia officially declared its independence on June 25, 1991.  During this 20th Century Siege of Dubrovnik, 11,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed; in fact, in present day Dubrovnik over 70% of the tile roofs are new!

Tourism is now the Number One industry in Dubrovnik, and visiting the city today you will see little evidence of a war that occurred less than 30 years ago.  Dubrovnik’s proud and tenacious citizens have nearly completely rebuilt their beautiful and historic city!  Split and Sibenik are also interesting Croatian Dalmatian Coast cities that are great to visit, but Dubrovnik remains my favorite. You will LOVE your visit here; I promise!!!

I experienced Dubrovnic, Montenegro, and the Yangtze River on Viking Cruises. I have traveled on over 175 cruises and absolutely LOVE Princess.  But, Viking stole my heart as well.  If you like to cruise, you might want to try Viking!

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