Montenegro – Adriatic’s Secret Jewel
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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 country was accepted into the United Nations. Finally, on Oct. 22, 2007 it was officially named Republic of Montenegro.
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, the country 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.