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Clare
Clare

Day 9: Kotor

It seemed to have rained overnight but it looked like the weather was set to improve for the rest of the day when we got up around 8am this morning. After a breakfast of delicious meat burek on our terrace, we set off for the short walk into the old town. We wanted to see a bit of the town before the cruise ship hordes descended and also complete the steep climb up to the fortifications before it got too sunny.

The city walls in Kotor are completely different to those in Dubrovnik because they don't just surround the town itself. The ramparts continue up on the mountain beind Kotor, culminating in the fortress of St John high above the town. In the photo below, you can see the normal town walls in the foreground and then hopefully just make out the ramparts zigzagging up the hillside. The Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which I tried to convince myself was halfway up when we got to it, is a bit under halfway really, the highest point being past the top of the trees.

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The more we looked up at the fortress the more daunting it seemed, so we decided to stroll around the old town first for a bit of a warm up. We went through the main gate in the walls...

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...and into the main square with its clock tower.

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The old town is full of beautiful little streets and it's possible to wander around for ages.

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There are lots of attractive little churches too..

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...although the one which towers above the town is the Serbian Orthodox church.

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The way up to the fortress starts from the far end of the town.

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It costs €3 each, though before you pay you need to know what you're letting yourself in for; a series of rocky staircases in the mountainside with approximately 1,400 steps before you get to the top. The scenary is amazing though and almost as soon as you start off you get a view over the red roofs of the town.

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Within approximately three minutes we already felt out of breath, and the possibly halfway point of the church was still a long way off!

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The higher we climbed, the better the view we got of the Serbian Orthodox church though.

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We could also see the Catholic cathedral, which we had taken a photo of from the town yesterday evening.

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Kotor began to fade further into the distance...

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...and eventually we had made it to the church!

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The church was built in 1518, at which time Kotor was part of the Venetian empire. The fortifications in their current form were built during this period too, although there had been some sort of fortification on the mountain since the sixth century. The intention of the Venetians was to deter attacks by the Ottomans, although the Ottomans did have two successful sieges and occupations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At the end of the seventeenth century, Kotor transferred to the Austro-Hungarian empire and the fortress was last used for military purposes by the Austrian up until 1918.

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The path continued steeply uphill from behind the church. The path is essentially like this the whole way up; on one side there are steps and on the other side a rocky track. Some people seemed to prefer the rocks, but we found the steps much easier and only stepped onto the rocks when we needed to let other people pass.

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Now we were definitely halfway...

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...although there was still a fair way to go.

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By this stage we had some brilliant views around the Bay of Kotor, though they would have been even better if it had been a clearer day.

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Eventually we seemed to be getting nearer to the highest part of the ramparts.

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There was just a bit further to go...

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...and a bit further (the flag is the top).

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It really is a tough climb and we were glad to see other tourists struggling as much as we were, even though the sun wasn't as strong as it could have been. It was slightly less encouraging though when we were passed by an enterprising local who was jogging up in his flip-flops with a large cool box on his shoulder, full of cold drinks to sell to the tourists!

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Just when we thought we couldn't take another step, we got to the top :)

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The views of the bay were breathtaking.

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Even the large cruise ship in the port looked tiny from up here :)

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The distinctive Montenegrin flag was flying high above everything.

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There isn't a lot to see of the fortress itself once you get to the top, as no real maintenance has been done since the Austrians pulled out in 1918. There was also a strong earthquake in Kotor in 1979, so in places you can see some serious holes and cracks.

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Once we'd finished admiring the views, it was time to set off back down to Kotor.

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The good news is that it is a lot easier going down than up!

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Though another reason why it's good to go up earlier in the day is that there are fewer people. On the way down we had a lot of stepping on and off the rocks to enable people to pass us. Some nationalities were more helpful with this than others!

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Soon we were back down at a level where we could appreciate the true size of the cruise ship!

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All in all I think the trip took us about two and a half hours, with over an hour to get to the top.

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When we got back down to the town we were amused to see a map on the wall which we had missed before we went up. It may be difficult to make our here, but the blue path up as far as the church at number 14 is described as "relatively safe walking path" while the pathways above there are described as "zone of increased risk" (yellow) and "high risk zone" (red), by which I'm guessing they mean there aren't any safety railings and it's your own problem if you fall off. They also comment that "You are advised to use caution on the trail and consider your physical condition" which seemed like sound advice :D

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Actually I don't think the path is particularly dangerous; it wasn't slippery even thoug it had rained overnight, and all the stone steps are quite solid and don't move when you step on them. The thing I was most worried about were snakes, as Montenegro is home to some nasty biting varieties and I had read that they like to sleep in cracks in the stones. We didn't encounter any at all in the end though, which was a relief :)

Once we had recovered from the morning's exertions, we had another stroll around the town. There were fewer clouds now and so we were able to get a nice photo of the Orthodox church with a blue sky behind.

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All of the restaurants in the old town are quite expensive by Montenegro standards, though still reasonably priced by Western European standards. We sat in a restaurant in the main square and had a beautiful late lunch/early dinner of "punjena piletina" (stuffed chicken). It was a chicken breast, somehow rolled up and stuffed with ham and cheese; absolutely beautiful :)

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Finally it was time to return to our apartment to relax and read on the terrace. After a while we were ambushed by the friendly landlady who brought us a cup of strong Turkish coffee plus a plate of delicious cherry cake, while she gave me some tips on where to go tomorrow, as well as some hilarious anecdotes about her neighbour (who we mustn't say hello to, because they're having a building dispute!) and who apparently doesn't understand a word of English, so the guests who stay in her apartments have to try and communicate with her by writing things down and drawing pictures.

It was great practice for my Croatian and overall a really great day, albeit quite a tiring one!




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