45 minutes-bus ride and here I am in Kotor, the ancient maritime city, built in a historically strategic position to dominate the Mouths of Kotor, the only natural fjord in the Mediterranean sea (28 km-long). Kotor was founded by Rome, to ask for protection against the Turks who freely submitted in 1420 to the Venetians, who gave the city area its current architectural and urban footprint, granting it the title of Unesco Heritage (this is one of the 4 UNESCO sites in Montenegro). For centuries it has been used as military base, both by Turks and Venetians, but its history is much more ancient: in the next village of Perast, in fact, even pre-historical findings have been discovered.
The center of Kotor is a maze of medieval streets full of jewels, surrounded by walls: the St. Tryphon Cathedral, Square of Arms with its clock tower, the churches (almost 30!) and the elegant Baroque palaces. A mystery related to the churches of the city is the presence of the Templars, recently relaunched on an Italian blog because of a patent cross photographed on the architrave of the St. Mary’s Church. The mystery, however, is part of the beauty of Kotor, mostly when the night falls down and a fascinating atmosphere with lights and shades spreads everywhere.
Walking through the streets of Kotor also means meeting dozens of cats, the symbol of the city: here there is also a nice Cats Museum, with an exhibition in two rooms of postcards, stamps, documents and newspaper articles from all over the world. I found really fun to get into the heart of Montenegro to find an illustrated article of “Domenica del Corriere”, a popular Italian weekly newspaper published between 1899 and 1989, which tells the story of a dog saving an old deaf cat, who was in danger of being hit by a car in Valcuvia! (the small valley where I come from in the Northern of Italy)
Climbing the path to the St. Ivan Fortress is demanding but impossible to miss, 1.350 steps to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the fjord (you can walk on top in about 2 hours); halfway, the suggestive Church of Our Lady of Health, according to the legend built by the survivors of one of the plagues. Definitely one of my best spots during the trip: sea, green mountains, churches and fortresses, all at a glance.
Unfortunately I have to give up the boat trip on the fjord (they only do it in summer), so I take the bus back to Podgorica, where I will stay in a room of the Feels like home guesthouse: comfortable, low cost, close to the bus station, but somewhat cold.
Sunday night the city is sleepy, closed places and little or nothing to do: with the good Zarko, known on Couchsurfing, we drink a local beer and go around the city, also taking a look at Karver, an alternative bookshop café on the river. Zarko also reveals to me the mystery of the spring bad weather: it is said that when the Orthodox Easter falls on the same day as the Catholic one, it will rain “cat and dogs”!
- In summer do not miss the boat tours on Boka Kotorska
- If you have time, go to the small village of Perast (reachable by bus or car, it’s less than 15 km from Kotor). Baroque architecture and the monastery on an island are waiting for you
- For some cents you can subscribe your cat at Kotor’s Musuem and receive a nice digital postcard